Coming into this project, our group, comprised of Matt Britt, George Burley and Jasper Alvandi, saw the potential to create a project that would have a value to society. Our initial planning took place in a group chat on social media in which we brainstormed ideas that we could develop in the allocated 2 days for this project. Some of our ideas included creating a device to purify water, musical instruments made with bamboo sticks, a small classroom-friendly pot plant, and a garden that would be built vertically against the wall. It was this vertical garden idea that we were most intrigued by. In expanding this idea, we decided to use PVC pipes as our supporting structure, and chose to have the garden hanging as opposed to fixed in place. This would mean that it could be hung from numerous different places, be easy to store if not in use, and be more material efficient as it does not require strong support beams. On Wednesday afternoon, we all went together to Reverse Garbage to pick up the materials that we would need. We got some great ideas whilst looking at the products available at Reverse Garbage, including the idea of using a Hessian sack to line the pipes, preventing the soil from falling through the holes. Overall, our trip to Reverse Garbage was very successful, gathering all the materials that we needed to make the project.
Rationale of Vertical Garden Idea:
With an ever increasing population and increasingly small living spaces, it is becoming harder to plant crops in a space efficient manner. Thus, the idea of a vertical garden was born. Although vertical gardens exist, it is rare that they factor in water recycling, and they are often not as space efficient as they could be. As shown in this example with staggered PVC levels, water is not transferred from level and step design uses too much space. The creation of cost efficient vertical gardens will therefore save space in areas that it is sparse, save money with the food and crops produced, and create a controlled growing environment whereby food production is affected to a lesser extent by the natural environment. A major problem in conventional gardens with plant pots is that once each plant is watered, the excess water runs of onto the ground, rendering it useless. Through the use of small holes on the bottom of each PVC pipe, every five centimetres, water is transferred from one level to the other once the soil is fully saturated. Once all of the soil is saturated, the excess water trickles down into a funnel which transfers it into a detachable water bottle, which can then be used to rewater the plants. This method makes sure no water is wasted, useful in the modern day where water is scarce or in areas with a hot climate where the water would otherwise evaporate. Thus, this design would make the world a little bit better by providing food to those in need, whilst also maximising space and minimising water usage via recycling.
The majority of the materials were purchased from Reverse Garbage, a place where used goods are resold. In order to construct our vertical garden, we purchased two three metre long pipes ($10), which were extra pieces from a building project, a hessian sack which would filter the water and remove soil particles ($2), a recycled rope ($5) and pot plants ($10).
Thursday & Friday
Process of Making:
Day 1: In order to commence the project and ensure a consistent and accurate product, we began this morning by discussing the design and carefully marking out the measurements on the length of PVC pipe. We did this using a cloth tape measure, a metre ruler and a permanent marker. Although there were some minor disagreements on which measurements to use, we negotiated and found a common ground that satisfied all the group members. After all the measurements had been marked out, we walked over to the Design and Technology department to begin cutting and drilling our design. We used a hacksaw to cut the PVC pipes into the 4 different sections whilst then using a jigsaw to cut the ‘trough’ which the plants would sit in. To make holes for the water to drip down into, we used a drill, making holes every 5 cm along the bottom of the pipe. We also drilled holes for the rope at the ends of each pipe segment. We then cut the rope to the desired length before threading it through each segment of pipes. We measured and used a hot glue gun to fasten the pvc pipe to the rope so that there was 40 cm worth of rope between each layer of PVC pipe. To stick the hessian sack to the bottom of the pipe, we also used a hot glue gun. Finally, we laser cut 105mm diameter circles out of old scraps of clear acrylic that were then put in the ends of the pipe to ensure that water leaked through the holes in the bottom rather than escaping out of the side of the pipe. Overall, today we made a very substantial amount of progress on our project, and after testing it using just water, 90% of the water remained and was collected in the bottle at the bottom of the pipes.
Today, we brought in some plants that we had collected from around our gardens to plant in the vertical garden. We began by filling each pipe with potting mix, making small holes in the soil, before carefully transferring the plants and seedlings from their pots into the holes we had dug in the soil. We then filled up the space around the plants, making sure all the roots were covered with soil. We also used some plasticine to fill the gaps around the collection bottle to make sure that all water ran down into the bottle rather than pooling around the bottle or missing the bottom pipe. We then took the garden outside to test it. This testing went very well with almost all the water being either absorbed by the soil or dripping down to the lower levels of the garden.
Reflection on the process:
Overall the process was very successful and efficient. Like all projects however, there were a few problems we encountered. For example, in our testing period, we found that without covering the ends of the pipes, a significant quantity of water was leaking out of the sides. Thus, we decided as a group that the most effective way to solve this was to laser cut clear perspex pieces, which would also allow us to view the soil moisture and whilst also being watertight. Another issue was water spilling from the funnel and not entering the water bottle. The softest and most malleable material we could find was plasticine, which allowed us to seal up the gaps, creating a more effective funnel. At the beginning of the building process, we were using PVA glue, and we found it to be too weak. Thus we spoke to some technology teachers and decided hot glue would be much stronger and requires less time to set.
In conclusion, our group worked extremely efficiently and collaboratively, sharing each role so that one member didn’t have to do more than the others. Despite having a few minor disagreements regarding measurements and design, we cooperated to overcome these disputes and create a successful product.
Results and Evaluation
After the two days of building, we successfully completed our vertical garden, which worked to recycle water and provide food in a space efficient manner. Although we had minor disagreements regarding measurements and the composition of the plants, we found an equal ground to overcome this, choosing to have 80 centimetre long pipe sections, planting lettuce, mint, rosemary and a variety of succulents. Throughout our testing process, we concluded that our design was effective in meeting the brief, however there are still some problems. For example, in order for the bottom two levels of plants to receive water, the top level must be fully saturated and therefore the lower rungs of the garden receive less water. On top of this, the distance between each pipe (40 centimetres) is likely to be too much, as the water oftens splashes out of the system from the sides of the pipe, thus wasting some of the water that could have been recycled. Yet, on the other hand, if the layers were too close together, the plants below would not receive enough light (they would be in the shadow of the pipe above) and thus, would not survive as they would be unable to successfully undergo photosynthesis. We have therefore decided that a 30 centimetre gap between each pipe would be optimal, as it would minimise the water spillage and still allow all of the plants to get enough sunlight. Another problem we came across in the testing process was that the water pooled around the collection bottle, instead of draining into it. We fixed this by using plasticine, to cover up any gaps and make sure all of it is collected in the water bottle. If we were to make this project again in the future, we may want to add in some sort of pump or syphon system that would automatically transport water from the collection bottle up to the top layer of the design, therefore increasing the efficiency of the design.
Overall, our vertical garden was a success. It is able to fulfil all of our hopes for it, being effective at saving space, water and materials. This design shows that a vertical garden similar to this could be used to great effect and at little cost.