Cooperation Humboldt vertical garden

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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.


During the spring semester of 2018, students from the Engineering 305 Appropriate Technology class at Humboldt State University will implement a vertical food growing operation in Eureka, California. The project is in conjunction with Cooperation Humboldt as a directive to increase community access to local food. “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 increase community access to local, organically grown food. The implementation of our vertical garden is aimed to be constructed with 100% recycled and refurbished materials, aligning our design with the goals of Cooperation Humboldt and the community of Eureka. The vertical garden has the opportunity to reduce the pressing need for fresh produce in the area.

Project Evaluation Criteria[edit]

The following Criteria will be used to assess the success of the vertical garden located at Abuelita's Garden in Eureka, California. These criteria were selected based on the goals identified by the students and approved by the partnering organizations, Cooperation Humboldt and North Coast Community Garden Collaborative. The scale (1-10) represents the importance level of meeting the constraint of each listed criteria.

Criteria Constraints Weight
Building Materials More than 75% of the materials are upcycled or salvaged sourced
Seasonal Production More than xx pounds of produce
Maintenance Less than 2 hours per month
Environmental Justice Seeds and/or plant starters are locally sourced
Public Accessibility Accessible 24 hours a day
Distribution More than 80% of produce goes to service organizations

Literature Review[edit]


Redwood Redwood is moderately lightweight, strong, stiff and hard. “The wood is easy to work, generally straight grained, and shrinks and swells comparatively little. Heartwood from second growth trees generally has low to moderate decay resistance.” [1] Redwood has a natural resistance to insects, rot and moisture. Because it is a softwood, it is easy to work with and has a smooth appearance. [2] Cedar Lumber of Cedar is accessible and affordable. Cedar is resistant to termites and other insects as well as holding a resistance to rot and water damage. Juniper Juniper lumber is resistant to decay, and fungal and termite attacks. Due to these features, Juniper is long lasting and environmentally friendly. [3]

The Vegetable Gardener’s Book of Building Projects is a valuable resource containing designs and instructions for a variety of wooden structures to be used in a garden. Designs are provided for planters, raised beds, storage for tools and harvesting apparatus. Several of the projects would be good candidates for upcycled materials. [4]

Moisture control of wood “Moisture control is necessary to avoid moisture-related problems with building energy performance, building maintenance and durability, and human comfort and health. Moisture degradation is the largest factor limiting the useful life of buildings and can be visible or invisible. Invisible degradation includes the degradation of thermal resistance of building materials and the decrease in strength and stiffness of some materials. Visible degradation may be in the form of (a) mold and mildew, (b) decay of wood-based materials, (c) spalling caused by freeze-thaw cycles, (d) hydration of plastic materials, (e) corrosion of metals, (f) damage caused by expansion of materials from moisture, and (g) decline of visual appearance. High moisture levels can lead to mold spores in the air.” [5]

Moisture Control Strategies “Strategies to control moisture accumulation fall into two general categories: (1) minimize moisture entry into the building envelope and (2) remove moisture from the building envelope. It is not possible to prevent moisture migration completely; therefore, construction should include drainage, ventilation, and removal by capillary suction, or other provisions to carry away unwanted water.”[6]

Structure Failures “Structural failures caused by decay of wood are rare but have occured. Decay generally requires a wood moisture content equal to or greater than fiber saturation.” [7]


Nickel Silver A fairly easy to work with metal but in order to hamer and chase it it first needs to be annealed and then slowly cooled. Aluminum-copper Tough and resistant to chemical action but overall not very strong. Aluminum-silicon It is majorly aluminum and about 13% silicon. It is strong and tough with a good resistance to chemical attack. Iron It is the cheapest of all metals and most commonly used. If warmed to high temperatures it can be bent, stretched and shaped. Tin It is a silver-white metal, a little harder than lead. It is not very strong but it is ductile and pliable. It has a low melting point so it is often used as a soldering agent.


“According to the Holdridge life zones system of bioclimatic classification Eureka, California is situated in or near the cool temperate moist forest biome.” With it’s “warm mediterranean/ dry-summer subtropical climate” [9]Eureka gets an average of 3.35 inches of rain a month with most of it coming from the winter months. [10]The temperature ranges an average 51 degrees fahrenheit. Although the area gets what seems to be little to no sun it is actually sunny 48.3% of daylight hours the rest of daylight hours are either cloudy, with shade or low sun intensity. On average the midday sun over the horizon is 49.6 degrees fahrenheit. [11]

PLANTS and SOIL is a locally driven online resource for gardeners along the north coast. Providing access to weather information, webcams, and gardening information ranging from lawn care and rose maintenance to vegetable gardening. The site includes information on soil health and plant food, as well as a detailed calendar depicting how to care for different types of plants, what to expect for rainfall, and the varying sun angles for the area.[12]

Fruits of the Humboldt Bay is a locally developed guide to growing successful fruit plants in Humboldt’s unique climate. The guide is a compilation of “collective wisdom” from several contributors including local farmers, professional orchardists, and indigenous wildcrafters. The intention of this guide is to provide a collection of local ecological knowledge so that we can produce nutritious foods in abundance and experience for sharing amongst the community. [13]

Soil[14] “Soil health is the capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and promote plant and animal health. Anthropogenic reductions in soil health, and of individual components of soil quality, are a pressing ecological concern.” “Soil health is worth quantifying because soils and their biota provide ecosystems functions that benefit humans. These ecosystem services can be of considerable value[15] and include soil functions of storing and releasing water, decomposing plant and animal residues, transforming and recycling nutrients, sequestering and detoxifying organic toxicants, and promoting plant health by suppressing plant-pathogenic microbes and phytophagous fauna.”


Advantages Reduces runoff Water savings since less is evaporated Fertilizers can be injected into the irrigation Limits weed growth because of limited soil surface is wetted Low water application rates improve water penetration on problem soils

Disadvantages Wildlife can easily damage pipelines Emitter clogging- can be hard to detect before crop damage occurs. “In some areas, excess salts accumulate at the soil surface and toward fringes of the wetted soil. Rain may leach harmful amounts of surface salts into the root zone; drip irrigation should continue during the rain to prevent this problem.”

  1. Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Products Laboratory, Forest Service, 1974
  2. Choan, Sam. “Best Wood and Lumber for Building Raised Garden Beds.” Organic Lesson, 1 Feb. 2018,
  3. Id.
  4. Ayer, Kevin, and Cindy A. Littlefield. The Vegetable Gardener's Book of Building Projects: Raised Beds, Cold Frames, Compost Bins, Planters, Plant Supports, Trellises, Harvesting and Storage Aids. Storey Pub., 2010
  5. Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Products Laboratory, Forest Service, 1974
  6. Id.
  7. Id.
  8. Granström, Karl Erik. Creating with Metal. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1968
  9. "Eureka, California Climate & Temperature." Eureka, California Climate Eureka, California Temperatures Eureka, California Weather Averages.
  10. "Climate & Weather Averages in Eureka, California, USA."
  11. "Sunshine & Daylight Hours in Eureka, California, Usa." Sunshine & Daylight Hours in Eureka, California, Usa Sunlight, Cloud & Day Length.
  12. "Gardening in Coastal Northern California." Gardening in Coastal Northern California.
  13. Armstrong, Sean , ed. Fruits of the Humboldt Bay. 13th ed. Arcata, CA
  14. Doran, John W., and Michael R. Zeiss. "Soil Health and Sustainability: Managing the Biotic Component of Soil Quality." Applied Soil Ecology 15, no. 1 (08 2000): 3-11. doi:10.1016/s0929-1393(00)00067-6
  15. R. Costanza, R. d’Arge, R. de Groot, S.Farber, M. Grasso, B. Hannon, K. Limburg, S.Naeem, R.V. O’Neill, J. Paruelo, R.G. Raskin,P. Sutton, M. van den Belt. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387 (1997), pp. 253-259
  16. Design and Operation of Farm Irrigation Systems. American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 1983