10 tips to build the perfect Waterboxx Pyramid

Many people would love to try raised bed gardening but don’t have a traditional yard with sufficient space.  Or, perhaps they want to create a beautiful terraced garden, similar to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Regardless, if you have found your way to this page, you may be interested in building the (half) waterboxx pyramid shown below, designed by Dew Harvest (official distibutor of Groasis in the USA).  This planting structure holds 9 Waterboxxes, and up to around 20 standard garden plants.   It has a maximum dimension of 9 feet (at back), and its total footprint is only 23.5 square feet.  This waterboxx  pyramid can be built with minimal carpentry skills and the few materials and tools noted below.  Depending on the cost of cedar wood in your area and the total height you choose, this project can cost between 150-400 dollars, not including the Waterboxxes.  Cedar should last at least 10 years under most conditions.

waterboxx pyramid finished

MATERIALS AND TOOLS NEEDED FOR THE WATERBOXX PYRAMID

  • 6 quantity 10 foot long 2×12 inch cedar boards  (can use 2×6, 2×8 or 2×10 inch boards if you want a shorter, less expensive pyramid)
    • Make sure to get cedar for decay resistance (don’t usse treated lumber) as this can poison the soil
    • If you cannot find 10 foot long boards you can use 8 foot long boards with supplemental directions below in Step 1
  • ~150 2.5 to 3 inch coated deck screws
  • Chop saw with ability to cut at least 12 inch boards (can rent this if needed)
  • Corded or cordless drill with 2.5 inch long drill bit for pilot holes
  • A flat surface to assemble the pyramid
  • Tape measure
  • A carpenter’s triangle
  • Marking pencil
  • A 6 inch level
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles

STEP 1: CHOOSING THE LUMBER

The quality of the lumber will be the biggest determinant in how well your Waterboxx Pyramid functions.   Search online for lumber yards with 10 foot long cedar boards.  Indoor lumber yards are more likely to have straight boards.  Take a blue colored pencil with you to the store to mark the pieces you buy (especially if you are having them delivered).  Wearing gloves, look for wood with as few circular knots as possible.  Look down the length of the wood to make sure it is straight as possible in both length and height.  If it curves at all, choose another board.  Also, make sure there are no interior cracks along the wood that will later split.  You want this pyramid to last for at least a decade, so quality wood is a must.   Pay for the wood, and initial it with your blue pencil if having it delivered (to make sure the chosen boards are brought).

If you cannot find 10 foot long lumber boards, or if the 10 foot long boards are significantly more expensive than 8 foot boards, the Waterboxx Planting (Half) Pyramid can be built with 8 quantity 8 foot long boards, with some slight modifications.  The board cuts are shown here with the blueprints here and a video showing the overlap here.

STEP 2: GETTING STARTED

If you have already purchased Waterboxxes, we recommend you assemble at least one before starting to make sure it fits as intended in each space of the planting pyramid.

For the first two boards, ensure that they are 120 inches in length.  Take two boards, and measure 103.25 inches off on both of these boards.  The remaining piece (the end) should be 16.75 inches.  Measure again to ensure the mark is 103.25 inches from one end and 16.75 inches from the other end.  Since we are dealing with very expensive wood, measure three or four times, cut once.  Mark the whole height (either 6, 8, or 12 inches) with a straight line using the carpenter’s triangle.  Using safety goggles and proper safety technique, cut both of these boards along this 103.25/16.75 inch line using the chop saw.  You now have the pieces of the back, lowest level of the pyramid.  On a flat surface, make a rectangle out of these boards, with the 16.75 inch pieces inside the 103.25 inch pieces.

Take the assembled Waterboxx, and make sure its base will fit within this rectangle – remember that 90% of this box will be filled with soil so only the bottom 2-3 inches of the Waterboxx needs to fit.  Make sure the Waterboxx fits the whole length of this rectangle – in at least 5 separate, non-overlapping spots.  Attach the pieces by first drilling pilot holes through the outside of the 103.25 inch board into the 16.75 inch board, and then screwing in 5 deck screws per corner.  If you are happy with using 5 Waterboxxes and want a planting box rather than a pyramid, you can stop here.  Find a permanent location for the planting box, fill it with soil, and plant using 5 Waterboxxes. If you would prefer the whole (half) pyramid, continue as below.
You should now have 4 full length boards remaining.  Next, choose 2 more boards.  Measure the following segments off on each – 62.25 inches, 20.25 inches, 16.5 inches, 16.5 inches.  Remember, measure three to four times – cut once.  You should have about 4 inches remaining at the end of the board. Mark these pieces off using the triangle, cut them carefully wearing goggles and gloves, and save them all, including the 4 inch “scraps” for later.

STEP 3: FINISHING THE CUTS

Next, take the fifth full length board. Measure and mark every 20 inches on this board – you should have six segments total.  It is more important that each segment be of equal size rather than all exactly 20 inches.  Save these 20 inch pieces off to the side.

Next, take the sixth full length board.  Measure 62.25 inches, 20.25 inches, and 20.25 inches.  You will have a 17.25 inch piece remaining – save this for a back up in case it is needed.  Measure three times, cut once as above.  You now have all the woods pieces needed – mark the size with pencil to keep them straight.  You can see all the cuts in chart form below (or download the chart here.

 STEP 4: FINISHING THE BASE OR BOTTOM TIER

Now you can begin assembling the rest of the Waterboxx pyramid.  Take one of the 62.25 inch pieces and two 20 inch pieces.  Attach the two twenty inch pieces to the inside of the 62.25 inch piece, using 5 pilot holes and screws at each corner.  The easiest way to do this is to make a “bench” that is 62.25 inches long with two “legs” that are 20 inches tall.  Make sure the inside corners of this are square (at 90 degree angles) before fastening.

waterboxx pyramid base

Measure 20.375 (20 and 3/8) inches in from the ends of the long (103.25 inch) back piece and mark this.  Place one 20 inch piece of wood perpendicular to the 103.25 inch piece (front of the original 9 foot box), just inside the 20 inch mark from the edge.  The other 20 inch piece (the other “leg” of the bench, now turned on its side), should be lined up just inside the other 20.375 inch marking. Working from the side of your largest rectangle, drill 5 holes into the 20 inch “legs”, through the 103.25 inch pieces.  You can see how these are attached in the above picture. Next, mark 21 inches from either end of the now front portion of the waterboxx pyramid.  Take a 20.25 inch piece for a “seat” and attach two 20 inch “legs” to it, making a bench as described above.  Next, attach the bottoms of the two “legs” to the 62.25 inch board in the same fashion as above.  The first (bottom) tier is now complete.

STEP 5: CONSTRUCTING THE MIDDLE TIER (MIDDLE LEVEL)

The middle tier consists of two boxes, and is similar, but not identical to, the front 2/3 of the base.  Take one of the remaining two 62.25 inch boards.  Attach 16.5 inch boards inside of it – using the bench construction method above.  Remember – always use the longer board on the outside.  Next, flip the bench upside down and add the final 62.25 inch board to the bottom of the 16.5 inch bench “legs”.  This will make a rectangle that is 62.25 inches long and about 20.5 inches wide.  Lay this rectangle flat so all four sides are touching your flat surface.  Next, get another 20.25 inch board, and attach two 20 inch boards as “legs” to it, using the bench method.  Attach this in the center of the 62.5 inch box you just made.  You can then place this on top of your first tier or level of the pyramid.

STEP 6:  CONSTRUCTING THE TOP TIER (TOP LEVEL)

This is the easiest step.  Take the remaining pieces – you should have two 20.25 inch pieces and two 16.5 inch pieces.  Assemble these in a square, using the bench method above to start, with the 16.5 inch pieces on the inside of the 20.25 inch pieces.  Make sure the corners are perpendicular, using the carpenter’s square.  This is the top level, and can be placed (but not yet secured) onto the back center of the second tier.  You can see blueprints below or download them here.

building the waterboxx pyramid

STEP 7: CHOOSING A SITE

You will want to move the Waterboxx Pyramid to its final location, but before you do, we would suggest putting weed cloth fabric (not plastic) at the base of the pyramid.  Weed cloth is porous to water but not generally penetrated by roots. This can be secured with tacks or staples.  If you are placing the pyramid on weed free dirt, this is not absolutely necessary.  If you are placing the pyramid on cement, we would recommend two layers of weed cloth secured tightly to the bottom of the pyramid base.  This will allow the water to drain but will (generally) keep the soil inside the pyramid.

You may have some dirty water running off the pyramid depending on your natural rainfall amounts. Make sure your final Waterboxx pyramid location is as level as possible.  Move over each of the three tiers, bottom first, than middle, than top to their final location.  Stack them and line them up correctly so that each successive layer is in the middle of the one beneath it.  Get out your level to see if the pyramid is level with the ground – if it is not, try to correct this.

Our leveled, tamped down pyramid site. Next we will add two layers of weed cloth to prevent any weed growth, before placing the Waterboxx pyramid.

STEP 8: CONNECTING THE LEVELS

You are now ready to connect the levels of the Waterboxx pyramid.  To make the pyramid as aesthetically pleasing as possible, we will use connections inside the pyramid which will be hidden by soil.  Find your two left over 4 inch scraps from cutting boards 3 and 4.  These pieces will have three screws attaching them to both a lower and upper level, or six screws total.  Have a helper hold them in place, with about half of their height touching both the upper and lower level.  To keep them in place, you can have another person hold them while you drill pilot holes, or prop them up yourself with cement blocks or other wood scraps as shown below. Use at least one connection between each tier – for better results cut up the remaining 17.25 inch board into 4 inch tall connection joints and use at least 2 connection joints per level – one along the back (inside the pyramid) and one along the front (inside the pyramid).  These will keep dirt and water from escaping by minimizing space between levels.

STEP 9: FILLING WITH SOIL AND PLANTING

With your Waterboxx Planting Pyramid in place you can now fill it with soil.  As potting soil and the other additives can be expensive, you can perhaps use some simple excavated garden soil for all but the top six inches of every level (i.e. -only the top six inches of soil need to be of highest quality – just like topsoil in nature).  If you live in a wetter climate and are concerned about drainage, you can use large stones and then small pebbles on the bottom of the pyramid, with only the top 8-10 inches being high quality soil.   First, decide what soil mixture you would prefer for the top level of soil.  We use Mel’s Mix (from the book “All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew) of 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 peat moss.  If you don’t have sufficient compost yet available, you can use high quality potting soil.  Fill the pyramid up to about 1 inch from the top at all levels.  You can water the soil to compact it slightly if you would like.  Next, either plant directly or transplant any garden plants you desire that you plan to grow with the Waterboxx.  You can use the included white evaporation cover to choose spacing of plants.  You will want to have the Waterboxx assembled when planting to make sure everything fits.  Once your plant reaches about 10 inches in height (or immediately after transplanting if the plant is already 10 inches tall), place the Waterboxx gently around the plant and add about 4 gallons of water to the Waterboxx.  Do this with each planting space.

STEP 10: ENJOY THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABOR

Congratulations – your Waterboxx Pyramid is now complete!  Now is the time to sit back and enjoy your work.  Depending on your climate, number of plants per Waterboxx, and number of wicks per Waterboxx, you may not need to add any water to the plants growing in your Waterboxx PlantCocoon® Pyramid.  Check in on your plants about weekly to make sure they remain pest free and well supported, but otherwise enjoy the fruits of your labor.  The pyramid you just built can grow peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, winter squash, pumpkins, or melons, among others.

The Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon®, in combination with your newly built planting pyramid, allows you to grow a garden in a compact, beautiful setting, with minimal work during the long, hot summer months.  The Waterboxx PlantCocoon® itself dramatically cuts water usage, up to 90%.  With the Waterboxx PlantCocoon® Planting (Half) Pyramid (what a mouthful!), you can grow in a beautiful, terraced garden just like the ancient Babylonians with their hanging gardens.    Happy planting!

 


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