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About My Garden and hydroponics

Ebb & Flow System plans
my homemade easy-to-make 6plant wick method system
Cucumber and Tomato crop schedules
Introduction to Hydroponics
Hand Watered bucket system plans
Water culture system plans
Ebb & Flow System plans


original plans

free2.gif (9187 bytes) EBB & FLOW SYSTEM

This system uses two 5 gallon buckets (or equivalent), one filled with growing medium and the other holds the nutrient solution.

The plants are watered by lifting the bucket containing the nutrient solution, this allows the nutrient solution flows into the bucket containing the growing medium and Plant(s). To drain, simply lower the nutrient bucket and gravity drains the nutrient solution back into the reservoir (see drawing on left).

Materials Required:

2 - 5 GALLON BUCKETS (or equivalent water tight plastic container). Make sure that the buckets don't have any leaks.

GROWING MEDIUM - The Professor favors straight Perlite or a Perlite / Vermiculite mix for this system, however there is a vast variety of growing mediums that will work well. For more information about growing medium CLICK HERE.

FLEXIBLE VINYL TUBING - You need a length of flexible tubing long enough for the buckets to be moved as in the drawing above (3 or 4 feet is usually enough).

FIBERGLASS WINDOW SCREEN - You will need a small amount of fiberglass window screen (12" x 12").

You will need a small amount of fiberglass window screen (12" x 12").

GRAVEL - You will need enough gravel to cover the bottom of your growing container approximately 2 or 3 inches. Use a fairly coarse gravel ( 3/4 to 1 inch diameter). NOTE: A 5 gallon bucket needs about a gallon of gravel to reach this level.

HYDROPONIC FERTILIZER * - A good quality hydroponic fertilizer is required, regular "dirt" fertilizers do not contain essential "micro-nutrients". For more information about the differences in hydroponic and "dirt" fertilizers CLICK HERE.

pH TEST KIT *- You will need some way of checking and adjusting the pH of your nutrient solution.

*Note: Simply Hydroponics and Organics has an inexpensive "Starter kit" that consists of quality hydroponic fertilizer, a liquid pH test kit (good for hundreds of tests) two bottles of liquid pH adjuster (1 pint pH up, 1 pint pH down) and Instructions. CLICK HERE for additional information.


  1. Drill holes in the CLEAN plastic buckets on the side approximately 1/2" above the bottom of the bucket. NOTE: The size of the holes will depend on the size of the tubing that you use. We suggest that you use 1/2 " i.d. tubing,for this you will need to drill a 1/2" hole.

  2. Insert tubing into the holes of both buckets approximately 2". Test the assembly for leaks by placing the buckets side by side and filling with water. (NOTE: The tubing should fit tightly so that their are no leaks, if you do have a leak from where the tubing connects to the bucket you can seal it from the inside of the bucket with some R.T.V. "Silicone" sealant, if you use silicon follow the directions on the packaging and allow the sealant cure overnight before proceeding to step #3).

  3. Empty the water out of the assembly and place the gravel into the bottom of one of the buckets. This will be the Planter, the other bucket will be the reservoir.

  4. Place the window screen over the top of the gravel. Fold the excess over or you can trim the screen with a pair of scissors. The screen acts as a filter to keep the growing medium in place. So try to fit the screen as close to the sides of the bucket as you can. You don't have to have a perfect fit, but the better the screen fits the less growing medium will get washed into the reservoir when you drain the system during the "Ebb" cycle. In fact if too much growing medium gets through the screen it can actually clog the fill/drain tube.

  5. Add the growing medium to the bucket. (NOTE: you will need to wash and / or pre-soak the growing medium before adding to the system, depending on the type of growing medium that you are using. For more information about Growing Mediums CLICK HERE).

  6. Plant your seedling, rooted cutting or seed in the growing medium. NOTE: The Professor recommends starting your seeds separately and then adding the seedling(s) to the system.


  1. Put the planter on the platform* and leave the reservoir in the "lowered" position.

* TIP: If you don't have a platform there is an easy way to make one: Stand two standard masonry blocks on end and place a board big enough to hold both buckets on top.

  1. Fill your reservoir with water and mix the nutrient solution as per the instructions on the fertilizer package. Check pH of the nutrient solution and adjust accordingly (NOTE: The required pH value will vary depending on the requirements of the plant and the kind of growing medium. For more information on pH, CLICK HERE). Cover the reservoir with a loose fitting lid to keep out debris. It is a good idea to aerate the nutrient solution with an air pump and air stone to keep it from stagnating.

  2. To feed and water your plant(s) simply lift the reservoir bucket and set it on the platform next to the planter bucket. Wait a few minutes and then lower the reservoir back down. CAUTION: a full 5 gallon bucket weighs about 40 pounds, if you can't lift that much make smaller amounts of nutrient solution.

  3. Repeat step #9 periodically, how often you need to do a watering cycle depends on several variables, size and type of plants, type of growing medium, weather conditions, etc., making watering cycles a bit of a guessing game, however with this type of system it is hard to over water so when in doubt...DO IT.

  4. Check the pH of the nutrient solution every couple of days and adjust if needed.

  5. When the plants have used up about half of the nutrient solution you can add WATER ONLY to bring the level back up (do not add fertilizer or you could cause a nutrient build up that could harm the plants). Recheck pH and adjust if necessary.

  6. When the plants have used half of the nutrient solution for the second time you need to change out the nutrient solution by draining the reservoir and then mix a fresh batch (as per step #8 above). Use the old nutrient solution on house plants or other vegetation.

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