Hydroponic Systems Explained Part 1 - Flood & Drain

Dec 19 10:01 2012 sarah pick Print This Article

You can find a range of diverse hydroponic systems in the marketplace and it may be challenging to know which one to use. The major types of methods that are typically chosen are:

 • Flood & Drain / Ebb & Flow

• NFT (Nutrient Film Technique)

• Deep Water Culture

• Drip System


You can find a range of diverse hydroponic systems in the marketplace and it may be challenging to know which one to use. The major types of methods that are typically chosen are:


• Flood & Drain / Ebb & Flow

• NFT (Nutrient Film Technique)

• Deep Water Culture

• Drip System


This post will provide a summary of each system and describe how it operates and what are the most beneficial types of fruit and veggies to grow in them.


We will start off with a popular technique and the first on the list – Flood & Drain


Flood & Drain

These systems use pumps to flood the crops and their roots with water at specific periods and for a certain amount of time. This method is totally automated. Timers are used to toggle the pumps on and off at given times and the water utilised in the flood has dissolved nutrients within it. This allows the seedlings to get all the food it requires straight at the roots. The times of the flood and drain will vary depending on what kind of plant you are producing and the sort of medium you are growing in. For instance,Guest Posting clay balls drain very quickly and consequently will require more floods per day, however a different medium such as rockwool will take longer to drain and as a consequence require less flooding per day to keep the roots saturated. When the flooding has completed and the pump turns off, the water empties back into the central reservoir. 


The plants can be grown using this method on specific elevated tray platforms or in an individual pot system. Trays are perfect for growing vegetables that reach around a metre in height. For crops growing bigger than this a flood and drain pot system is a good idea.


Tray Platform

Employing a tray platform allows gravity to be used throughout the drain. At the moment we are growing strawberries in our display tent of flood and drain. The tray platform system is perfect for these plants as they will not grow too high and obstruct the light. A grow tent is ideal to position this systems in since it contains all the clutter of wires and grow mediums and features a highly reflective covering on the interior.


The trays are available in numerous sizes; however we are using a 1m square tray for the strawberries. The tray is placed on a stand and the water tank (including nutrients) is beneath - this results in a nice, tidy package. There are two spouts contained in the middle of the tray, one which is attached to a pump which pumps water out of the tank below into the tray, and the second nozzle drains the water away using gravity.


Timers enable you to set how many times the systems floods and drains on a daily basis - and that is practically it. Flood and Drain trays are simple pieces of kit to use and put together. As we are employing a tent the grow lamp is mounted to one of the rails over the strawberries and currently we are simply waiting to harvest.


Pot System

The pot system differs from the tray as you can have many pots provided that you make sure that you've got the right size of reservoir. In a pot system the water reservoir will generally be in the form of a water butt instead of a large tray. The pots that are used are composed of an internal and outer pot. The plant stands in the inner pot within a medium such as rockwool or clay balls and this sits in the outer pot. There will be a slight area in between the internal and outer pot to enable water to flood the roots successfully. There are a few differences from the tray technique.


1. The inclusion of a brain pot.

2. The use of gravity and water pumps.


Brain Pot and Flood Cycle

This is a separate pot to the primary water tank and it manages the circulation and drains of water, hence the term “brain”.


The timer is connected to the brain pot and the main electricity source. The periods you want the flood to occur are programmed into the timer and this systematically starts the flood and drain periods. Water is either pumped or moves by gravity in to the brain pot from the reservoir when a flood cycle starts.  The brain pot is plugged into the single pots by flexible pipe and as water travels and floods the brain pot it likewise fills up the pots. As soon as the pots are completely flooded a stop flow control in the brain pot switches the stream of water from the reservoir off hence the pots do not overflow. This makes it possible for the roots of the crops to bathe in the nutrient abundant water. After a period of time the timer will tell the brain to begin forcing the water from the brain pot back into the reservoir and consequently draining the water from the pots. As well as getting rid of the water from the pots this process permits fresh oxygen to be drawn into the pots serving the roots. 


These are clever systems and are available in a selection of sizes ranging from a 4-pot system to a 48-pot system. The systems do not include the lights and if you take a look at my profile you can see the publications I have written on the different lighting used in hydroponics.


Pointers for using flood and drain

• Keep an eye on your system as bits of medium can congest the pump mechanism if they get in the water.

• Always keep the water tank filled and provided with a beneficial nutrient to keep your plants healthy and balanced.

• Usually flooding only needs to be done when the lights are on.

• Look out for root blockage in the flexible pipe connecting the pot to the brain pot. As roots establish this may be a problem.


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About Article Author

sarah pick
sarah pick

Sarah has been using hydroponics to grow her own vegetables and fruit for numerous years. She has diversified out from this hobby into creating her own business and shop. She has displays of the various systems in her store and is currently growing different kinds of strawberry by using a flood and drain system. For further advice on this system take a look at Intelligent Hydroponics or iHydro

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