I have successfully grown smaller plants like lettuce and spinach as well as larger plants like zucchini and tomatoes with this system.
To make this design easier to understand, I have drawn up a Sketchup model and uploaded it to the 3D Warehouse. Here is the link "Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System Design"
Google Sketchup is absolutely free to download and use, so no worries if you don't have it already. It's awesome, and it makes CAD (computer aided design) easy.
With the Sketchup model, you can pan around to see how thing are put together better. Also, I needed to make the model just so you can see the entire system in one picture. The real version is inside of my solar greenhouse, which is kind of small. There is just no way for me to get far enough away to take the shot.
One thing that I think is important to include when submitting hydroponic plans is pictures of the system in action. That way, the reader will know that the system works.
I'm putting mine here at the beginning where people are sure see them and get psyched about this project.
I have two cucumber plants and three tomato plants growing in these pictures. They still have a fair bit of growing to do actually. : )
If you're interested, my website is CerebralMeltdown.com. There, you can check out some of my CNC projects (a CNC is basically just a robot that will cut out designs with a wood router), Heliostat projects, (a Heliostat is a mirror that tracks the sun as it moves through the sky and reflects its light toward a single target) or just whatever else I happen to be working on.
Step 1: How does it Work?
An ebb and flow hydroponic system works by filling a container full of gravel with water and then letting it empty. (The water is, of course, mixed with nutrients.) A thin film will adhere to the gravel allowing the plant roots to gather nutrients even after the container has been drained.
Each act of filling and emptying is like a breath of fresh air for the roots. Filling the container removes the old air while emptying it draws in new air containing fresh oxygen. This is one reason why plants do so well in this type of hydroponic system, or, in fact, any system which creates a good supply of oxygen.
If you look at the first picture, you will see a pump at the bottom of the large container which stores the water between filling and draining (AKA "the reservoir"). A hose connects to this pump and splits off into the two containers which hold the gravel and the plants.
A timer turns the pump on several times throughout the day to fill the plant containers with water.
Holes are drilled into one end of the plant containers so that any overflow will drain back into the reservoir.
Note: The water must be able to drain out of these holes faster than the pump can pump it in.
A small drain hole is drilled into the bottom corner of each plant container over the reservoir. This lets the water drain out. It is important not to make this hole too large.
Note: The water must not drain out of this hole faster than the pump can pump it in.
One end of each plant container is placed higher than the other end. This ensures that the water flows toward the small drain hole.