Sustainable Herb Garden From Inside/ Outide
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Abstract[edit | edit source]

This project's objective is to obtain a steady, sustainable, fresh supply of herbs or produce during this COVID 2019-2020 pandemic. The focus of this project is the water catchment element, because the garden element is so customizable. This project is divided into five main parts. First, is the Catchment surface (piece of gutter). Second, is the catchment mounting frame(wood). Third, is the conveyance(PVC piping). Fourth, is the the garden. Lastly, is the finishing touch elements. My system collects 8 gallons of water for my garden given the monthly average rainfall in Arcata, CA, US for 2019 ( This system was designed to be easy to build and install and to be easy on your budget. These were my main considerations. My objective was achieved quickly and under 250 dollars. This could easy be implemented in areas where small personalized rainwater catchments are needed. For gardens, or cleaning for example.

Background[edit | edit source]

This was originally designed as project for my engineering class at Cal Poly Humboldt. The goal was to create a water catchment system with a group. However, tides changed. COVID shut down our project. We adapted quickly and chose to work separately. My project was born out of necessity. I am a cook and fresh herbs and produce is important in my lifestyle. Having safe food is where this idea stemmed from. The last thing you want to worry about is that, that comforts you most. Especially in these times. This project took place in Arcata, CA (US) as prior mentioned. PACIFIC NORTHWEST. All of my materials were sourced from Ace Hardware, within 1 mile of my project work site(my home).

Problem statement[edit | edit source]

The objective of this project was to create a small personalized garden-water catchment system that can be applied rapidly in times of shelter in place like environmental conditions. This system is supposed to be durable and easy to use. These were the challenges that led the design iterations down the path and finally to its completion.

Criteria[edit | edit source]

Below are the my specific criteria that led and shaped the project into what it became today. This criteria synthesizes my idea of the core values of appropriate technology and sustainability.

Criteria Constraints Weight
Durability Must withstand weathering and wear from storms and high winds 10
Safety & Placement Must have an easy to mount design. Must Be out of the way and sturdy. 10
Reproducible Needs to be reproducible given similar resource availability, and adaptive for whatever resources you do have. 5
Usability Easy to use and low maintenance. 9
Cost Must not exceed budget of 300 dollars. 7
Functionality Successfully captures and stores rainwater and successfully keeps water out of my room. 10

Literature Review[edit | edit source]

This is a review of the necessary literature required when considering: building catchment surfaces, safe materials and rain water measurements. Beyond these necessary pieces of literature, the rest of the experience was honed through basic application of ENGR 305 appropriate technology.

Catchment surface Basics[edit | edit source]

1) - Catchment surface rule of thumb: (X ft^2) * (AREA ") * (1'/12") * (7.482Gallons/1ft^3)= desired quantity of rain water(Gallons)
			 - So my Area was 5.0125 and I desired 8 gallons of water. Therefore my catchment surface necessary is:
				 (X ft^2) * (5.0125 ") * (1'/12") * (7.482 Gallons/1ft^3)= 8(Gallons)
					 xft^2= 1.59 ft^2

("To Catch Rain",Grafman,pg: 62-63)

Safe Materials Basics[edit | edit source]

1) - Gave several examples of PVC being used and PVC being a choice material for rain water catchment conveyance. PVC was the more expensive choice of pipe, but compared to the other options and close availability I went with PVC, because of the high safety rating indicated in "To Catch Rain".

("To Catch Rain",Grafman,pg: 16, 62-63)

Rain Water Table For ARCATA, CA (US)[edit | edit source]

1) - It is required to know your precipitation charts before building your system, otherwise you may over or under produce in terms of water catchment. This will also indicate whether or not rain water catchment at this scale is possible. I live in an area that gets a decent amount of rain.



Prototyping[edit | edit source]

Given the time frame, prototyping took place in two stages. First, is an internal design process, initiated through observing possible installation sites. This lead me to begin to wonder about where the best spot was. Then what kind of materials I possibly have available. The next process was putting my ideas on paper in the most parsimonious manner, just to give this project some form. As you can see, my project is different in appearance from start to finish. But the main components remain the same. I found that allowing this creative iterative approach, lent a more appropriate design.

Jamespic-3ENGR305 (1).png

Construction[edit | edit source]


Cut lumber into three measured pieces (specific to the dimensions of roof cross member). Then drill two screws on either side staggered as to not hit another screw. And then one nail in the center of the 4 screws to make extra durable.	
Use Catchment sizing method found in literature review, to determine correct surface area needed for desired amount of water catchment. Then use hacksaw to saw catchment surface to desired dimensions.
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First cut wooden stud to desired length, giving yourself at least double your PVC diameter on either side of your catchment surface.
This will be for your PVC adapter later, so you can attach fittings to catchment surface. Then determine how many screws you need and mark places before screwing. Place a dab of 100% silicone over each marking, about a 1/2 bead. Then drill screws through bead of silicone, through the plastic catchment surface and into the wood stud underneath. The silicone assures no water loss and tight seal between screw and plastic.(it takes 24 hours for the silicone to fully cure, be mindful)
First determine where you want your PVC joining with your catchment surface. Keep in mind the placement of PVC from roof to wall. Then use hole saw drill bit(desired diameter) to make a hole for your PVC adapter. apply 1/4" bead of 100% silicone and screw in the adapter to your catchment surface. Apply 1/4 bead of 100% silicone to top and bottom of conjoining surfaces of the adapter once screwed in. (it takes 24 hours for the silicone to fully cure, be mindful)
Determine where you wish to connect your mount to your catchment surface. Again, Keep in mind the placement of PVC from roof to wall.Keep in mind that there needs to be a slight downhill slope on your catchment surface; thoughtful placement can solve this consideration. Use wood screws and screw at least 4 screws into equally distant places between the wood stud on your catchment surface and your wood mount. The more the better. (this is assuming similar sized system; do not make too heavy or risk serious injury; if larger please use more screws to secure these pieces together or risk serious harm from falling objects)	
Begin sanding (with sanding block) with the lower grit sandpaper, in this case 100 grit. Smooth out corners and rough spots until there are no corners and no loose splinters. Next, sand with the higher grit, in this case 180 grit. Your surfaces become shiny and very smooth to the touch. Your corners are now totally smooth. (this is not a necessary step, it assures long lasting paint job, however) Now you are ready to paint.
Clean station with broom or vacuum and clean as much dust as possible. Allow dust in room to settle for a few hours before starting. Then either with a tac cloth or slightly moist paper towel(very slightly, you do not want to get anything wet) dab your new water catchment system until all dust is clear. Also tac cloth wherever you are going to rest your system after painting, to avoid dust in your paint job. Then tape the desired section that you don't want white (make sure this is done cleanly). Then prep your paint and start painting. Long strokes with the grain of the wood or parallel to the grain, leads to sharp and crisp lines. Let dry for recommended time, check back of can. then come back and do a second coat make sure you evenly spread both coats. Wait 24 hours and do second color.	
Clean station with broom or vacuum and clean as much dust as possible. Allow dust in room to settle for a few hours before starting. Then either with a tac cloth or slightly moist paper towel(very slightly, you do not want to get anything wet) dab your new water catchment system until all dust is clear. Also tac cloth wherever you are going to rest your system after painting, to avoid dust in your paint job. Then remove tape from prior paint job, use a box cutter to help to avoid tearing your paint off. Then tape the desired section that you don't want (your house color),make sure this is done cleanly. I matched my house color by taking a sample into to my local ACE hardware. Then prep your paint and start painting. Long strokes with the grain of the wood or parallel to the grain, leads to sharp and crisp lines. Let dry for recommended time, check back of can. then come back and do a second coat make sure you even spread both coats. Wait 24 hours and remove tape.
I cut the screen using tin snips, and then used small wood screws to secure the screen over the hole where the water will flow. This is important to keep debris out and keep a clean flowing system.
To mount your catchment system to your roof cross member use at least 2 -4 deck screws equidistant on both sides. Make sure you mount your catchment system so it is tilting toward the flow of water. This prevent mosquitoes, contamination and build up in your system. Please USE EXTREME CAUTION when mounting, even a 10ft fall could cause serious injury or death. have a buddy with you or someone holding your ladder. Once you have your catchment at a slight tilt toward the flow of water you are ready to begin cutting your PVC. You need PVC cutters, a saw is a pain in the butt. Start from the top and work your way down. This is iterative and takes some patience. I needed 2x T PVC,1x 90deg angle PVC joints, 3x 45deg angle PVC joints, 2x Ball PVC joints, and about 13 ft of PVC for my system. make sure you are only using 45 deg for the slope of your water flow. Do not use 90 deg joints, the will cause problems. I used a 90 deg joint as a 45 deg joint when it enters my room. I never had more than a 45 deg angle anywhere on the run. I used two PVC pipe fasteners to secure my pipe on my wall outside and on my wall inside. Then once its all sized, you apply PVC glue after roughing up the edges of PVC w/ sand paper, and put it all back together. Now you have your water catchment set up. Finally use what ever container that is drink safe (I used 8 gallon water jug), and feed pipe into jug top.		
Finally your new plumbing into your room will make for a cold room when you go to close the window and cant. Seal your window with window seal tape. Just layer tape to desired thickness per your window specs. Consider pipe size when first starting project. I went with 1" pipe size. This way you limit how much modification to closing your window there is. My rule of thumb is if its easy to use you will use it. Don't be lazy while your building, so you can be lazy while your using. And specifically when your eating a delicious home spiced meal that is sustainable and COVID free.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

Below is my timeline of this project and it is broken down into a semi descriptive table. When analyzing this timeline, you can see that the most time consuming areas involve designing and purchasing. This was due to uncertainty in funds because of loss of employment in result to pandemic requirements. Therefore total time is an overestimate, for the next build.

Proposed timeline[edit | edit source]

Dates/ time spent Objective
3/26/2020 Change trajectory - new project design begins
3/26/2020 - 4/7/2020 5-7 hours Formulate design, get re-organized, COVID prepping, purchase plants and build herb garden with extra redwood that I had
4/7/2020 - 4/18/2020 5 hours begin prototyping, make measurement for PVC, purchase 13 ft of PVC
4/18/2020 - 4/24/2020 6 hours prototype design wood mounting structure, purchase hand saw and 2 x 2 x 8 wood stud as support base, hardware, build support base
4/24/2020 - 4/25/2020 6 hours purchase hacksaw, drill components, PVC fittings, Gutter strainer, and catchment surface (4.5 x 10 ft of gutter), formulate desired catchment area, size catchment surface with saw
4/25/2020 - 5/2/2020 10 hours plus 2 days dry time sand and paint wood support mount, mount all components, make all fitting and pipe flush or at 45 degree angles, finish project.
5/2/2020 - 5/6/2020 10+ hours Final Appropedia Page, Construction completed

Costs[edit | edit source]

Item Date Purchased Cost Total
2x basil, 2x parsley, 2x thyme, 1x oregano 4/05/2020 $15.00
13ft x 1" PVC pipe, 2x PVC T, 2x PVC 45 deg elbow, 3x PVC 90 deg elbow, 1x PVC adapter pipe strap, hardware 4/07/2020 $25.95
1x 15" handsaw, 1x wood stud 2"x 2"x 8',5x hardware 4/18/2020 $28.45
1x Gutter strainer 3' Aluminum, 1x Rain Gutter Wh. 4.5" x 10' 4/24/2020 $12.78
1x 100% silicone caulking, 1x Hacksaw 10", 1x Hole Saw 1",1x Insert bit, 2x PVC ball valve 4/25/2020 $48.79
1x paint brush set, 2x painters tape roll, 1x paint tray, 1x sandpaper 100 grit, 1x sandpaper 180 grit, 1x 2.6" x 5x5 " sanding block, 1x 1qt matched to my house color paint, 2x 3/4" x 1" window sealer, 5x hardware 4/29/2020 $98.79

Operation[edit | edit source]

Operating this garden is as easy as watching rainfall. The only consideration is over flow. There are two ball valves that allow you to control the flow of water in and out of the room.

1) - If your tank is full close valve inside and open valve outside.
2) - If you want to fill your tank, close valve outside and open valve inside
3) - CAUTION: If you are leaving for a while, follow the first step, or risk overfill
Jamespic-7ENGR305 (1).png

Maintenance[edit | edit source]

1) - keep gutter clean
2) - keep components clean

Schedule[edit | edit source]

This is when to maintain what.

  • water plants
  • inspect garden
  • inspect fill level

(Could be done weekly or daily depending on rain. Check your local rain charts.)

  • clean gutter
Every 2 years
  • service (take down and apart and put back together. Not necessary!!! This is for my own curiosity)

Instructions[edit | edit source]

Here are some tips and tricks for a successful system. Clean gutters. Clean Garden Area


find any tool that extends to gutter catchment surface, and push out debris. Either from windowsill or a ladder. BE CAREFUL. PLEASE HAVE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF LADDER USE!!!.

Indoor Garden

keep pipe surfaces clean and garden area clean so they are free from mold and pests.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]


Testing results[edit | edit source]


- Have not had a chance to test yet.

Discussion[edit | edit source]


Lessons Learned[edit | edit source]

Below are three lessons learned that would have been useful for my first build.

  1. Build strong relationships with your new friends at your local hardware stores.
  2. Sizing and installing custom PVC is deceivingly hard. Rather tedious. Allocate good amount of time for this.
  3. It is difficult attempting to meld one material to another. (like trying to fit PVC to metal. It can be done with right fittings but is much more restrictive. Also more costly)

What I Would Do Differently Next Time[edit | edit source]

Below are three direct applications of lessons that would have been useful for my first build.

  1. Sourced material from more local businesses(because of COVID situation)
  2. I would allow more time for whole process for first build, if I could redo this project.
  3. Although I measured and overestimated materials on purpose because this was first build, I overestimated a little too much. I would buy less material overall.

Next steps[edit | edit source]

  • I will upgrade the catchment system perhaps, with solar water pump so I can water my garden without having to pick up a large jug of water. Or maybe a hand pump.
  • The next step will be a yearly test to see if indeed my catchment system collects the amount of water its supposed to.
  • I will most likely paint the PVC and the red handles on the the ball valves. To make it a little more aesthetically pleasing.

Troubleshooting[edit | edit source]

Here are some possible troubleshoots when building or using.

Problem Suggestion
Waters not coming down pipe Clean catchment surface. Check valves.
PVC not coming out flush with walls and corners Mount catchment before sizing PVC. Be patient matching the angled PVC connectors, and try getting a line of sight between both your angles. Start from top of roof, work your way to wall, and then into your room (top down).

AUTHOR and CREATOR/ Team[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ("To Catch Rain",Grafman)
  2. (
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Authors James Fitzgerald
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Language English (en)
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Created May 3, 2020 by James Fitzgerald
Modified June 9, 2023 by StandardWikitext bot
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