Flood & Drain systems are suited to growing medium to large plants or longer term plants. Nutrient strength and Phare more stable than in NFT and feeding is a little more controlled.
Ebb and Flow or Flood and Drain is a form of hydroponics that is known for its simplicity, reliability of operation, and low initial investment, while providing the advantages of hydroponics. Also called 'E&F', it is a system of arranging pots filled with inert media which do not function like soil, contributing nutrition to the plants; rather, the medium anchors the roots and functions as a temporary reserve of water and solvent mineral nutrients as the hydroponic solution is alternately flooded and allowed to ebb. The fundamental principle of hydroponics relies on fertilized & aerated water which provides both nutrition and oxygen to a plant's root zone, often involving relatively sophisticated mechanization which can be daunting to casual hobbyists. Nutrient solutions must usually be below the temperature at which pathogen growth can begin; yet not so cool that root activity is suppressed; active aeration of the fertilizer solution is common, since root systems themselves remove oxygen, creating conditions which also can promote pathogenic bacteria and water borne molds. E&F utilizes the fact that the solution is not left in constant contact with the roots of plants to avoid the need for oxygenating or chilling of the solution; instead relying on characteristics of root function to provide passive oxygenation at a high level; which tends to suppress pathogen growth. Simplicity is maintained through usage of a single, bidirectional path for the solution : water flows in, and out, the same tube: when the pump has raised water into the tray briefly submerging the roots, the pump is rendered inactive using a switch - typically a timer; and the water flows back down the same tube it was pumped up in; eliminating the need for more than one sealed fitting and reducing overall complexity of the system. Ebb and Flood systems come on according to the water holding capacity of the medium the roots sit in; highly water retentive media can require watering only once a day; while others require twice to as many as six; with each "Flood" stage only lasting a few minutes. The time it takes to flood the roots is not a critical parameter; therefore pumps are often moderate in capacity, and can be small for systems sustaining indoor garden plants; making the method popular with amateur and urban gardeners. Gravity itself acts as drain pump; and aeration is accomplished, through thin-filming and positive displacement of air as it is forced out of the root zone by water. Aeration of an Ebb and Flood system is an important aspect of its operation; automatic displacement eliminates air which has been de-oxygenated by the roots as the water rises to its highest flood stage; when the pump turns back off, gravity pulling the water back downward re-exposes the space around the roots to atmospheric pressure, which re-fills the voids in the medium. The film of water left around the roots during Ebb has a high surface to mass ratio which means that even as the roots absorb oxygen, its high surface area facilitates re-oxygenation which can sustain the roots as long as their surfaces remain damp; the high oxygen content of water filmed this way suppresses most harmful lifeforms keeping the root zones disease free; a function that must be performed by cooling the solution in other types of hydroponics, to protect it from pythium, a form of water mold responsible for a condition called 'root rot