Introduction: My $100 Vertical Self Watering Herb Garden
This is our Vertical Herb Planter Wall.
If you just love a simple Black Frame and Copper Pipe rod look, you can build this for only about $50. You'll just need the wood for the frame, a few pieces of copper pipe, some pipe straps, screws, sandpaper and black paint. Done. 4 hours (includes 2 hours of paint drying).
... or you can go overkill as in my example, for about $100.
So, in this I will give you the run down on my current set up (using my size about 6.6' x 4 ')
This will pump water through the pipes and drip through holes and into the plants and back into the basin at the bottom. Simple, clean, works well. A little overkill but it looks good.
Find a wall / Fence that you might want to put this, and get an idea of about what size frame will fit and adjust as needed for the frame / wood to buy. So for example if a 4x2 foot frame would work better, great.
In the example i will reference my build size.
Quick List of things you'll need:
2= 2x"x6"x10' Pressure treated wood (gave me 2= 5.5ft pieces & 2= 4ft) (*Home Depot will cut this to size for you! Just measure your overall space, decide the size of your frame and ask them to cut to size.)
2= 2"x2"x8' Pressure treated for the back side and to connect the frame together
1-3= 1/2" Dia x10ft Copper pipe. Depending on your size frame, you can return unused items.
20-30= 1/2 inch 90 degree elbows copper.
2= 1/2 inch 45 degree elbow copper (for the s pipe thing in the front)
2= 10 pack of 1/2" Tube straps (also used a few for the stitch "X's" in the corners of the frame)
1/2" Barb x 1/2" NPT Male Pipe , 1/2 sleeve, NIBCO 1/2-in x 1/2-in Copper Threaded Adapter Fitting (Where the fountain pump plumbs into. (This is what I used) Last 3 photos.
20-40= 5/8-3/4 inch screws for Tube straps
10-20= 2" Screws for 2x2 piece to attach to back
150 sand paper
Fountain pump, ours came with tubing. I used a pump from amazon $19, that will pump water up to 13' high, I feel this pump is way too strong. I could of tried a few weaker pumps at Home Depot and would have got great results.
2 bags of concrete for planter at bottom (I had some plywood for the forms, I probably won't go into detail for this, check youtube (i did.. )
Black Exterior Paint (i did satin) 1 quart and some primer
3/4 wood drill bit, 1/2 inch wood drill bit
L Bracket (for top to attach to wall and Top of Frame so it can not tip)
Tools I used: Miter Saw, Drill, Screw gun, Solder setup w/torch, palm sander, paint brushes. Also biscuit joiner and a pocket screw jig that either one is not necessary, I had so I used.
I also already had Paint, screws, soldering set up, sandpaper, so you might add on another $40-$60 if you don't have some of this stuff.
Step 1: Frame and Copper: So Find Your Wall and Decide on What Size Your Going to Build..
So we had this wall outside of our screened room. We decided that 6.6 x 4' was a good size.. once you have a general idea of size you can figure out the size of the frame and wood to get.
In my example we bought 2= 2"x6"x10' and cut them to make the total frame. The long sides we cut to 5.5 feet and the 2 top pieces to 4' FT.
Simply lay the face of the frame pieces down on a flat surface, (check each piece for blemishes and put them face up),on the two long sides, put a pencil line down the middle of the wood.
Now layout the shape of the frame(Pic 2). Check for square (Pic 3) Measure corner to opposite "X" corner and then the other side, numbers should be the same. If one side is longer, tap it in till the measurements are matching.
At this point I used wood glue, a biscuit joiner and a Kreg pocket screw jig to join the corners to hold the frame together while I ran the copper pipe. If you don't have you can skip right to the 2x2 back attachment:
Then take your 2x2x8 wood and cut to to the OVERALL LENGTH of the entire frame. So my example my TOTAL overall length or Height is 6.6 ft. Subtract 1 inch and cut to new size. So mine would be 6'.5". Attach the 2x2 on the long sides, flush with the outside edge and the top. SO the 1 inch you cut off is at the bottom (so the 2x2 is 1 inch short from being flush with the bottom. See Pic 4 - Ignore the pipe, but your attaching that 2x2 long wise flush to the outside edge. Reason for the -1 inch being that once its standing and leaning back, the 2x2 will not be in the way when its leaning.
While everything is square and facing down on a flat surface, attach the 2x2. Use wood glue on the frame corner ends, and on the 2x2. I used multiple screws in the header and footer areas, and every 6 inches down either length. Attaching the 2x2 will help lock the whole frame together.
At this point with the Frame still on the ground, you can start to lay out your copper runs and mark the holes to be drilled on the long sides.
Frame still laying face down, start at the end that will be the top, pic a side that will get the water line inlet, and measure down about 10 inches from the very top of the frame down. Mark the x on the center line down 10 inches and on the opposite side (the other end of the copper hanging rod), measure down 10.25 inches, add the extra .25 down so the water will easily roll down hill, keep the lines empty, so on. Now on the downhill end you just marked, now measure straight down your center line 12 inches and mark it with an X. So you have put an X on the first starting side (10 inches down) on the opposite side measured down 10.25 (for the downhill) and 12 inches straight down, same side, on centerline marked with an X, for the front vertical pieces.
Now just measure between the marks on the centerlines for your copper pipe rod part. If its example 40" inches, double check that measurement in a few places from top to bottom to make sure they come close to your first centerline mark. So now you can cut your Horizontal pieces. Cut one piece to length, put an 90 elbow on each end and mock up to ensure the 90 elbow align on the center line, and adjust if necessary. Might have to play around with the first one, but one you get that one right, you just copy the length. Cut the number of Horizontals that you need.
*Also that first run (Horizontal) that you run, one end is where the plumbing attaches from the pump and the other end goes downhill. The start end, the 90 elbow, instead of being turned into the frame, it is aiming down so the hose parts can attach. See Last PICTURE
Now cut vertical front pieces. Use your mock up with the first down vertical piece and mock it up, and cut the length you want ( i did about 12 inch vertical pieces), mocking up with the elbows, and marking the bottom of the vertical (with elbow) on the centerline of the long side. And now simply keep zig zagging down.
In my example, I cut 6 copper pipe horizontals and 5 vertical front pieces.
On the side we are working on (the backside, facing up) where all the 90 elbows land your going to drill into the frame and make 3/4 inch holes. I only went half way through, so the elbow on the backside would be flush to the frame (example pic 8)so i can reinforce it with the pipe 1/2 inch straps (pic 11).
Originally, on the final run, I was going to simply have a drain go down and into my planter But I had some extra 90 elbows and 2 45 elbows and decided to make an s pipe. I just mocked it up and played with the design (see last photos) , but it does work and you get the idea on how its mounted, if you have made it this far,.
So now all your copper is cut and mocked up, you have 3/4 inch holes drilled out half way through the back side, how your going to label your pieces(use blue tape or whatever), just easier that way. Starting at the beginning, that first horizontal run is #1, the handle down is #2 and so on.
Now you will take apart your mock up of copper. Put it to the side for now, and stand up the piece, lean against a wall, backside still facing out. Now you're going to drill all the holes all the way through. Now you only need a 1/2 drill bit to go through. You might want to wiggle around the bit once through, so its not such a tight fit. Take a scrap piece of copper and make sure it will pass through without to much trouble.
So now your frame is got the holes through the frame, larger dia 3/4 on the back, 1/2 through to the front, you want to give everything a light sanding, I even rolled up a piece of sand paper and worked the holes just a bit.
Once its all sanded, you can give it a coat of primer, give a light sanding again, and 2 coats of black. Frame is done.
Step 2: Attach Copper and Solder
Once your frame is dry, you can now start putting your frame back together.
I did a full mock up at this point. Just lean against a wall and some blue tape hold stuff in place. Run your first horizontal, and when you get to the back hole side, you're going to cut the copper pipe the part that goes through the frame. On the back cut a piece at 2.75" and insert into elbow pass through to the front side. With that pass through piece, before you insert it into the front side elbow for the vertical, I soldered the backside of the joint, then pushed the soldered joint with pass through piece flush, so the other side sticks out the front side(PIC6). Use a 1/2 pipe strap to hold the pipe from the backside, it will keep the front part from moving around.
When I soldered, I started at the top and went down hill. I would solder the backsides of the vertical front pieces first, then push through and align the front and put on the vertical and solder. (PIC7)So on.
I am assuming if your going this route, you probably have a good idea on how to solder. If you dont, watch a few videos online, aim the flame away from the wood as much as you can, you'll be fine. If your unsure how to, find someone how can. Dont start any fires.
You'll see its a bit tight to solder the pass through part, but doing the backside first then pushing it all through will make it possible.
When I got down to the last part I was going to put on an elbow and run a pipe out and over the planter, to serve as the drain back into the water. At that last part I mocked up a s pipe with some extra elbows and attached it like the previous handle pieces. Made the "S" pipe and ran it back behind and drain into the planter.
On inline part of the copper line I used a 90 turned down and as you can see from the final pic I put in a nipple copper end. Cant recall the name, but here is the pic.
So at this point it will pump water through the pipes, now it needs a water source. Since it was going to lean I wanted something that could capture the water and hold enough to be a viable water source. So i needed a planter.
Step 3: The Planter
Im going to keep this as simple. Hadn't planned on breaking this down, but you'll get the idea. I did seem to have a bunch of pics though.
Basically I wanted some kind of planter at the bottom. Something that was wide enough that it would catch water from any weep hole drilled along any horizontal bar and also deep enough to the wall that it would catch water from the highest copper pipe, being its the closest to the wall.
So i leaned the frame against the wall and took the widest measurement in the inside at the bottom, and the wall to the back of the frame.
It came to about 34" wide x 10" tall X 12 " Deep.
I had some 1/2" plywood so I made a basic planter shape of off those dimensions. Then subtracted 2 inches and built an interior box, out of much thinner material. 1/8 inch stuff i think. I put Duct tape around the large box outside edges and caulking on the inside to avoid any leaks.
I had bought a few bags of concrete, but ended up using about half a bag of the stuff I bought and half a bag of fiber reinforced concrete i had and it was enough to make the whole planter. Basically you can get concrete with fiberglass mixed in to add to the strength. Not totally necessary, but I had it and I used it.
So I built the outside box, mixed concrete, put about 2 inches worth in the bottom of the main box, then inserted my thinner, smaller box and filled the side cavity with concrete. As i poured the concrete on the side, I would shovel dirt /rock into the inner smaller box to help hold its shape. Then i topped off the concrete, smoothed it out. Tapped with a hammer on the sides to work out the air bubbles and let it cure for 1 day.
Then I removed the dirt, interior form, exterior form and gave all the rough edges with a diamond sanding pad 100 grit. Then i used a paint on and wipe concrete countertop sealer.
Ta-da a planter.
Step 4: Prepping the Area for the Herb Wall
So the wall we wanted to use needed to be repainted. So i broke out the power washer and used it to remove all the old loose paint. Smoothed out the wall and repainted it.
Now the wall looked so nice, we decided to replace some structure and re-deck a small deck that the planter / wall would sit on. So we spent the weekend power spraying, painting and ripping out and replacing a deck.
Looks much better.... back to the project.
Step 5: Final Setup and Touches.
So now the final push.
We put the planter on the ground, and placed the water wall into position. We did the final plumbing of the walll...
Run the fountain pump hose up to the beginning of your copper run, I tucked the hose in behind the 2x2 running along the edge
Also, At this point I had not run the final piece of copper that would drain the water back into the planter. SO I took a quick measurement, and soldered that final piece over the planter.
Also the copper "stitches" in the corner are 1/2 copper pipe straps that have hammered flat and used like stitches in the corners of the frame.
I put some basic gravel into the planter, filled with water, put in a few water plants, put the fountain pump in the corner of the planter and plugged it in. I feel the pump I got is to powerful and overkill. I think a smaller one would have worked, but I am using this one from amazon that can pump water up to 13' high. Overkill. I ended up putting an inline valve / knob to slow the flow down. There is a pic above of what I used. I added that later, just pulled off the rubber hose, and cut out a small piece and put in the valve, it works fine to slow the pressure down into more of a drip than a fine line of water blasting out.
No Leaks! So at this point, I started to hang planters where I would want them. I then took a 1/16 metal drill bit and on each horizontal run of copper pipe, I drilled 2-3 holes per run.
This Herb Garden would work just fine as a stand alone plater wall, that is just hosed down everyday to water. If you want to really impress people or have something really unique, go for it.
After living with this for a few weeks, manually watering would not be that big of a deal, really you're only watering your plants for a few minutes per day, so running this all the time would not help the plants. I positioned some planters out of the way of the dripping water so you get a nice water feature sound when it is running. Putting on a timer or using an outdoor Alexa enabled outdoor plug $20 on amazon is a nice feature as well, so you can turn on when you want, use a timer feature... so on.
In case your wondering, I have cleaned the copper twice. It tarnishes pretty quickly as you can imagine. I saw something online that you can polish it and then apply a clear coat. Some artists treat copper that way. If you try, let me know how it turns out.
I might try to turn this into more of a AQUAPONIC setup. You can google it if your interested in maybe going that route. We will see.
So at this point, I hope you have really created something cool with this build, unique to your space, and a real conversation piece. Enjoy.
Participated in the