Ebb & Flow for Beginners - Part 2

Understanding Ebb & Flow? Part 2 - Easiest Plants to Grow Hydroponically


Now that you’ve put together the tray, stand, reservoir, pump, tubing, and fittings, it’s time to decide what to grow. Here are some suggestions for what plants to put in your ebb and flow hydroponic system. 


    • Annual Herbs (easiest plants to grow hydroponically): Basil, dill. parsley, cilantro, or stevia
    • Vegetables (intermediate): Cucumber, tomato, pepper, okra, bush beans, strawberries
    • Flowers: Any annual flower, orchids are also very popular.  


Things I wouldn’t grow in this system include lettuce, spinach, arugula, anything on a vine that climbs (pole beans), and root vegetables. You absolutely can grow these things in an ebb and flow hydroponic system but there are better ways, such as a system made with channels for leafy greens, or a drip system for root vegetables. Climbing plants could be grown in an ebb and flow but you’d really have to engineer a way to string up the vines. 


When choosing what hydroponic vegetables to grow, stick with similar plants. For example, you can grow a few different kinds of herbs in the same system but I wouldn’t put tomatoes in with them. This is because fruiting/flowering plants have different nutritional needs than plants that you grow for their leaves. For best results, try to put plants together that have similar growing or fruiting habits. 


Each plant in your tray is going to need its own basket, also called a mesh pot. All seedlings start out tiny, but be sure you know how big your plant will get. One of the most important things when growing plants hydroponically is to give them plenty of space. With the right conditions, your hydroponic plants will leaf out and get huge, often bigger than soil plants. Crowding them is a mistake. 


Besides the size, you can choose round or square baskets. I personally like the squares because I like the way they fit in the square tray, but you can fill in any empty spots with round baskets if you want. It’s no problem to put different size and shaped baskets in the same tray. It is possible but not ideal to use regular plastic gardening pots in your ebb and flow hydroponic system, but it forces the roots to find their way out of the tiny holes instead of spreading out like they do in a mesh pot. 


And finally, you will need a few bags of  hydroponic clay pebbles, also known as hydroton. These are what you fill the baskets with. This is the ballast so your plants don’t tip over, plus they give the plants’ roots something to hold onto. The clay pebbles also stay slightly moist with the nutrient solution, but they drain well enough that your plant is not sitting in water. The way hydroponic clay pebbles are made causes them to be heavy enough to hold the basket down even when the tray is filled with water, but light enough that they don’t crush the roots. 


Easiest Plants to Grow Hydroponically - Clay Balls


One more thing an ebb and flow hydroponic system is good for is starting seedlings. Slabs of rockwool, oasis hydrocubes, or coco coir, trays of soilless mix, and even clones do great in this kind of system. Again, I wouldn’t put seedlings in with adult plants because of their different nutritional needs, but you can dedicate one tray to starting seedlings.


For more great content check out the Proponics YouTube channel below!


Proponics on YouTube



Meredith Bio Pic
By Meredith Martin
Meredith Martin started a small hydroponic farm in 2004. Within a few years, it was supplying basil to more than 20 supermarkets. She has since sold the farm and now spends most of her time skiing, windsurfing and travelling. 

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