Cooperation Humboldt Home Lawn to Community Garden Conversion

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Engr305 Appropriate Technology page in progress
This page is a project in progress by students in Engr305 Appropriate Technology. Please do not make edits unless you are a member of the team working on this page, but feel free to make comments on the discussion page. Check back for the finished version on May 15, 2018.


Students from Engineering 305: Appropriate Technology Spring 2018 semester will being working on a front yard garden in Eureka, California with the Cooperation Humboldt group.

“Cooperation Humboldt exists to help develop a solidarity economy across the North Coast. We identify, support and nurture cooperative economic efforts that help people meet their needs without exploiting or oppressing anyone, without being exploited or oppressed by anyone, and without destroying Mother Earth.”

Problem statement[edit]

The objective of this project is to provide the surrounding community with access to local, freshly grown food. The goal is to provide access to fresh food by making a front lawn into a food garden for all to enjoy

Project Evaluation Criteria[edit]

The following criteria will be used when considering the best possible design for the project. This criteria was developed by the students working with Cooperation Humboldt. The weight scale (1-10) represents the importance level of meeting the constraint of each listed criteria.

Criteria Constraints Weight
Usability Must sufficiently produce edible plants for the community. 10
Maintainability Must be easy to maintain, water, and harvest plants. 9
Educational Must provide educational value to the community about the benefits of planting edibles and the benefits of having such available resources. 9
Aesthetics Must look pleasing to the eye. 8
Cost Must be economically friendly and not exceed budget. 7
Sustainability Must have native pollinators to keep the plants healthy and its own source of water. 7

Literature Review[edit]

The following is a review of the available literature pertinent to the components of implementing a community garden and a rainwater catchment system for it.

Native Plants[edit]

When doing agriculture to any extent, from a large farm to an apartment window garden, it's a good idea to remember the plants (and their associated pollinators)that have evolved to live in your area. These native flowering plants can attract native pollinators, which is a method we and Cooperation Humboldt want to use to improve the yield of the garden. (2015)[1] Per our criteria, we want to prioritize low maintenance perennials where we can. To that end, some California natives that could suit our uses:

Achillea millefolium[edit]

Yarrow is a low-maintenance, drought tolerant flowering plant that is good for borders and flowers from late spring to early summer. Fully grown it is 1 to 2 feet tall, spreading 2 to 3 feet, and likes sunny conditions and is adaptable to many soils. (Schmidt 2012[2]).

Fragaria vesca[edit]

Woodland Strawberry is a native to California that doesn't produce as large fruit as the varieties commonly used by industrial agriculture circa 2012, but is a native groundcover. It prefers full sun to partial shade and does well placed between shrubs. It is adaptable to many soils. Its small fruits ripen in summer. (Schmidt 2012[3]).

Oxalis oregana[edit]

Redwood Sorrel is a groundcover native to Humboldt county that prefers occasional to moderate water, is adaptable to any soil and is perennial. It doesn't flower to a great enough extent to attract pollinators. It is adaptable to any soil and grows 4 to 8 inches tall, and spreads as a groundcover. It requires shade. (Schmidt 2012[4]).

Rhododendron occidentale[edit]

Western Azalea is a tall shrub from 3 to 5 meters tall that is native to Humboldt County. It flowers in spring, and prefers shade and can tolerate acidic soils. It requires a lot of water but is easy to take care of, needing water perhaps once a week in some climates. (CNRS 2012)[5]


Filtration is important in keeping a rainwater catchment system clean. By including filtration, usually a screen, the storage will not have to be cleaned as often to get rid of larger particles that are brought down from the roof. Screens are used for preventing large debris from entering either the storage tank or conveyance which includes gutters or downspouts (Grafman 2017[6]).

Types of filtration[edit]

There are multiple types of materials, shapes, and sizes that can be used for the screen. A few are included below.

Expanded metal sheet screen[edit]

Expanded metal sheet usually comes with openings in the shape of diamonds. It is economically friendly and has a strong structure since the metal is stretched instead of having holes punched through (Adame 2013[7]). This type of metal sheet can be difficult to handle and install.

Wire Mesh screen (welded)[edit]

Made from different alloys such as steel, stainless steel, brass, and copper. This type of screen comes in all shapes and sizes allowing for versatility. This type of mesh is easy to handle and install, but can be costly (Metal Supermarkets 2016[8]).

Wire Mesh screen (woven)[edit]

Woven wire mesh screen can be made from steel, stainless steel, brass, copper. Woven wire mesh gets its name from the wire threads it has that are woven at right angles. This type of wire mesh is easy to handle and install, and durable. The woven type of wire mesh can be costly, but easy to maintain (Metal Supermarkets 2016[8]).

Perforated sheet metal screen[edit]

Perforated sheet metal comes in different shapes and sizes making it versatile. Made from sheet steel with round holes punched through. The outer area of the sheet is not surrounded with punched holes so it can retain stability. Its structure is not as strong as that of expanded metal sheet (Adame 2013[7]). Sheet metal screens with punched larger holes cost more than the ones with small holes.

Cold withstanding edible plants[edit]

A few vegetables that can withstand cold weathers include hardy vegetables, half hardy vegetables, and tender plants. Hardy vegetables are good at withstanding cold frost and can be planted in Spring. Some hardy vegetables are spinach, kale, mustard, turnips, onions and peas. Half hardy vegetables can be planted two weeks before a frost is over, and some vegetables include carrots, beets, parsnips, celery, and lettuce. Tender plants can grow in areas with cold weather if transplanted. Tender plants include cucumbers, beans, sweetcorn, pumpkin, squashes, tomatoes, and some pepper plants (Singh and Davidson 2016[9]).

Local Soil[edit]

Soil series in the area of the Eureka, California neighborhood we are working in is quite acidic, around 5.0 to 4.5 pH, some kind of clay loam moderately well drained to poorly drained. (UC Davis | NCRS SoilWeb) [10] This should inform our choices of edible and native plants, because soil is the source of the plant. This information is very specific to the neighborhood we are working with, and others using this as a reference should utilize the same tool if the project is located in most of the United States, also referenced here[11] to get a general idea of the soil type without expensive testing.

Designing a replicable garden[edit]

Sprouting Education, a 2011 group of students from the Engr 215 course at Humboldt State University, worked with Locally Delicious to create a garden that is functional and can be easily replicated at other schools. The final design included a rainwater catchment system, kiddie pool gardens, and a pallet garden with a greenhouse top.

The pallet garden with the greenhouse top was a success in this project. Children were able to easily access the plants without having to remove the top. Sprouting Education used clamps and a wooden dowel into the design to easily roll up the top and make the plants accessible. For the rainwater catchment system, Sprouting Education used a barrel for the storage, a spigot and hose to access water, and a cut out window screen for filtering out large debris (2011[12]).


For oceanic regions on the west side of continents are that of a maritime climate. Since Eureka is a part of this climate, it has a set of temperatures it experiences throughout the year. This area also experiences a lot of humidity throughout the year. The rainy season for Eureka starts in October and goes through to April which accounts for about 90% of the annual precipitation for the area (Horstmeyer, 2011). Even during the dry season, a majority of the time there is fog or heavy cloud cover.

Easy maintenance and garden design[edit]

Edible garden design has an art behind it that includes accent, association, color, composition, structure, etc of the landscaped area (Kourik, 2004). In order for an edible garden to be as low maintenance as possible, the edibles have to be specifically chosen for the area. As well as to start the vegetable area small and in a rectangular shape. Having a low maintenance garden would also need low care ornamental plants for ground cover while the edible plants grow. Ornamental plant gardens tend to be less maintenance than edibles, so the garden should be about half and half of each plant type.


  1. Salisbury, A., Armitage, J., Bostock, H., Perry, J., Tatchell, M., and Thompson, K. (2015). “EDITORS CHOICE: Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): should we plant native or exotic species?” Journal of Applied Ecology, 52(5), 1156–1164.
  2. Schmidt, M. G., and Greenberg, K. L. (2012). Growing California native plants. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
  3. Schmidt, M. G., and Greenberg, K. L. (2012). Growing California native plants. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
  4. Schmidt, M. G., and Greenberg, K. L. (2012). Growing California native plants. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
  5. (n.d.). “Western Azalea, Rhododendron occidentale.” Calscape, CNPS, <> (Feb. 18, 2018).
  6. Grafman, L. (2017). To Catch the Rain. Humboldt State University Press, Arcata, CA.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Adame, E. (2013). “What's The Difference Between Expanded Metal And Perforated Metal? .” ADAME Expanded Metal Solutions, <> (Feb. 17, 2018).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Metal Supermarkets (2016). “Difference Between Perforated Metal, Expanded Metal and Wire Mesh.” Metal Supermarkets - Steel, Aluminum, Stainless, Hot-Rolled, Cold-Rolled, Alloy, Carbon, Galvanized, Brass, Bronze, Copper, <> (Feb. 18, 2018)
  9. Singh, D. J., and Davidson, J. (2016). Growing Vegetables in Your Garden - Tips for Planting Vegetable Crops Outside. Mendon Cottage Books.
  10. “SoilWeb.” (n.d.). SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Browser | California Soil Resource Lab, <> (Feb. 19, 2018).
  11. “SoilWeb.” (n.d.). SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Browser | California Soil Resource Lab, <> (Feb. 19, 2018).
  12. Sprouting Education. (2011). “Locally Delicious school garden.” Locally Delicious school garden - Appropedia: The sustainability wiki, <> (Feb. 16, 2018).

3. “SoilWeb.” (n.d.). SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Browser | California Soil Resource Lab, <> (Feb. 19, 2018).

4. Salisbury, A., Armitage, J., Bostock, H., Perry, J., Tatchell, M., and Thompson, K. (2015). “EDITORS CHOICE: Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): should we plant native or exotic species?” Journal of Applied Ecology, 52(5), 1156–1164.


6. Warner, M. D., Mass, C. F., and Salathé, E. P. (2012). “Wintertime Extreme Precipitation Events along the Pacific Northwest Coast: Climatology and Synoptic Evolution.” Monthly Weather Review, 140(7), 2021–2043.

7. Horstmeyer, S. L. (2011). The weather almanac: a reference guide to weather, climate, and related issues in the United States and its key cities. John Wiley & Sons Inc., Hoboken, NJ.

8. Bonine, P., and Campion, A. (2017). Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: the complete homeowners guide. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

9. Kourik, R., and Kane, M. (2004). Designing and maintaining your edible landscape naturally. Permanent Publications, East Meon, Hampshire, UK.

10. Gorgolewski, M., and Komisar, J. (2011). Carrot city. Monacelli, New York.

11. Bohn, K., and Viljoen, A. (2012). “Chapter 38 The CPUL City Toolkit: planning productive urban landscapes for European cities.” Sustainable food planning: evolving theory and practice, 479–494.