If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen posts in my mini series “Hydroponics 101”. In the most recent post in this series, I started the explanation of the various of hydroponics systems available. In that post, I covered two of the systems, Drip and Water Culture. This month, I’ll explore two other systems: Ebb & Flow and Wick System.
Ebb & Flow
The ebb and flow hydroponics system is also commonly referred to as the “flood and drain system”. In this system, the flow phase represents the incoming water that “rises” within the system; the ebb phase represents the draining of the water out of the system.
Ebb & flow hydroponics systems are ideal for growing plants and crops that thrive when they experience periods of drought and/or dryness. This is because the system is comprised specific growing areas that are flooded with a nutrient solution at specifically scheduled times. The pump that floods the growing area can be hooked up a timer, so one can schedule the correct nutrient dispersion for the specific crops.
It may seem counterintuitive that there are crops that thrive when subjected to dry periods. However, there are certain crops whose root systems are forced to increase in size as they search for moisture. The increased size of the roots in turn helps the plant grow more quickly (because the roots can absorb more nutrients in a more efficient manner.)
The Wick system is probably the easiest hydroponics system to set up and maintain. They have no moving parts, which means they are easier to maintain, don’t require any additional mechanisms, and use very little power. Wick systems’ passive nature also make them cheaper to maintain than many of the other (active) hydroponics systems.
The Wick hydroponics systems are made up of four major pieces: Wick, Aeration, Grow Tray, & Nutrient Solution Reservoir.
The wick is usually made out of cotton or nylon rope. They are connected to the grow trays through holes, and they move the nutrient solution to the grow trays via capillary action. Generally speaking, only one wick is necessary per grow tray, but there may be a need for multiple wicks per tray if the plant needs a larger amount of water.
The aeration system is similar to others that we’ve discussed: an air stone and/or pump can be used. The aeration mechanism should be placed in the reservoir to guarantee that the water (and by default, the roots) are oxygenated.
The grow tray for a wick system is a bit different than the grow trays in other hydroponic systems. Due to the fact that the wick needs to be place close to the root system, there are no net pots used to hold the growing medium together. Instead the trays are filled completely with growing medium, and the seedling & wick are placed directly into the medium.
The nutrient solution reservoir is the one piece that’s similar to the reservoirs in other hydroponic systems. It is just a container(s) that is placed below the grow trays and filled with the proper solution (water & nutrients)
The nature of the wicking system doesn’t make it an ideal system for plants that require a great deal of water. It needs to be used with easier crops (like lettuce).