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An Introduction to Flood and Drain Hydroponics Systems

For those making their first steps into the world of hydroponics, the myriad of different systems, set-ups and options can feel like an off putting prospect.

Palivec chilli plants

But while there are a wide selection of growing systems suitable for growers of all experience, the chances are that ‘Flood and Drain’ is likely to be the one you’re most familiar with – and as one of the most versatile and easy to use set-ups, it’s just perfect for the budding hydroponics grower.

In this short guide, we’ll seek to take you through a Flood and Drain crash course: explaining how they work, the pros and cons and the amount of money you’ll likely need to part with in order for it to fit your desired requirements.

Understanding Flood and Drain

Flood and Drain systems (also known as ‘Ebb and Flow’) do, to quote a well done wood stain brand, ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. Plants sit in a tray above a reservoir tank containing a rich nutrient solution, which is intermittently pumped into and subsequently drained back away from the plants’ root zone in the above tray.

The continued cycle of flooding and draining your plants with the nutrient solution ensures that fresh air is rapidly drawn into the root zone at a regular basis – an aeration process that helps catalyse rapid growing cycles and fantastic yields.

Within the top tray, growers have a range of options available in the way they wish to cultivate their plants. Although the principle of rapidly flooding and drawing away nutrient solution to the root zone of your plant remains with all mediums, you can choose to aid your plants by using coco, clay pebbles or even soil in individual pots should you desire.

A system made for ease of use

Simple in theory, Flood and Drain systems are just as simple in application. Although it’s important for growers to stay proactive in regards to maintaining the pH level of the nutrient and solution and the general condition of the system, Flood and Drain systems are generally very easy to use.

With little moving parts, it’s a system with a good level of reliability and the low-level nature of Flood and Drain ensures they don’t require acres of space – that’s unless the size of your yields force you to reconsider!

Managing the flood cycle

As with all hydroponics systems however, while Flood and Drain offers growers a low-maintenance method of cultivating their plants, there’s no guaranteed formula for success – in other words, you’ll still need to be willing to experiment with your set-up and try different.

The amount of times you need to flood your plants is determined by the media you’re using, the volume of water that media tends to hold and the rate at which your plants use the water. As a small guide, below we’ve put down some general guidelines for you to follow when watering younger plants:

  • When using Clay Pebbles look to flood once every three hours
  • When using Coco, look to flood once every four hours
  • When using Rockwool, look to flood once every four
  • If/when your plants become a lot larger, consider subtracting an hour from the flood intervals you were initially using
  • As a rule of thumb, never flood or drain your plants during the dark phase (when your lights are turned off)

Finding the right system for you

From fledgling chilli growers to experienced hydroponics veterans growing a number of plants, the customisability of Flood and Drain systems ensure that they’re perfect for growers of all levels of experience.

All in one kits– including a reservoir, top tray, irrigation fittings and pump – can usually be purchased for around £200, offering beginners the perfect platform for their Flood and Drain journey. Alongside a range of more complex systems, the internet is also awash with a range of walk-through DIY guides for the more creatively inclined among us!

Low maintenance, easy-to-use and capable of producing outstanding yields, Flood and Drain systems offer the perfect option to grow great plants all year round. As with most hydroponics set-ups, Flood and Drain still requires a proactive approach in order to really reap the benefits. But the fantastic yields that this system is capable of producing are just about as easy to attain then with any other hydroponics set-up!

This article was provided by Growell, the UK’s premier hydroponics shop.

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