With food prices skyrocketing and fear of food shortages looming, my family decided to plant a cinderblock, raised bed garden this spring. Honestly, we waited a little too late to plant and are already being hit really hard by the brutal Texas summer, but this cinderblock garden has been the easiest, and most beautiful garden we have ever planted. I love how easy it is to reach the plants, and how little weeding we have had to do with this raised garden bed.
Benefits of Raised Garden Beds
I love my raised garden beds for so many reasons. They are incredibly beautiful but have many other wonderful benefits as well.
- There is not as much weeding (I have pulled maybe two tiny weeds all summer)
- There is no need for difficult tilling or digging
- It’s comfortable bending over to reach plants
- I am not so afraid of snakes since I feel like I can see much better
- The rabbits do not seem to be feasting like they normally would.
I just love that I can reach and see everything in my raised beds without pulling a bunch of weeds and tilling up a bunch of soil.
Benefits of Cinderblock
It was actually my husband who thought of using cinderblocks to create the walls for our garden beds. At first, I thought they would be hideous, but I actually love the way our garden looks. The cinderblock was a great idea.
First, the cinderblocks will last forever. Unlike raised beds built with wood, we won’t ever have to worry about replacing rotten boards.
Next, we can move the cinderblocks if we decide to move our garden. As long as we don’t use concrete or mortar on our blocks, we can use the same blocks if we choose to move the garden. You could also paint the bricks any color you choose or leave them plain like we did.
We stacked the bricks in a one-off brick-like pattern that has been plenty sturdy for the garden without using any mortar or concrete. This pattern is explained further in Step 2.
The only drawback I have found to the cinderblock raised garden bed is the heat. They do get very hot in our Texas heat. One squash that was resting on one of the concrete blocks turned mushy before I picked it, and the only reason I could think of was that it got way too hot on that block. However, I haven’t seen any other signs that are garden is getting overheated any more than a normal Texas garden.
As long as you set up a good irrigation system, the heat shouldn’t be a problem.
Where to get Cinderblocks for a Vegetable Garden
The blocks we refer to as cinderblocks are now quite different from when they originated. A century ago, cinderblocks were made from the cinders leftover from burning coal in factories. Hence, the name cinderblocks. These blocks are not as durable as today’s blocks and could be toxic.
Today the concrete blocks that we still refer to as cinderblocks are made from cement and sand and are perfectly safe to use in your vegetable garden.
So, make sure the concrete blocks you are using have been made in the last 50 years are so, and you will be completely safe. We purchased ours from Lowes for about two dollars each.
How to Build a Cinderblock Raised Garden Bed
Step 1-Pick a Spot and Plan Your Garden
When picking the spot for your raised bed garden, you first need to pick a spot that is pretty level. The flatter the area you choose the easier the rest of the project will be.
Once you pick a flat area, you need to decide what size to make your raised bed garden.
Our raised beds ended up being 3 foot 11 inches by 11 foot 9 inches from inside to inside. That is 10 blocks by 3 blocks. Blocks are 16 inches long plus a tiny amount of room between each block. I don’t recommend making your garden more than three blocks wide. This is the widest that you can easily reach the plants in the middle.
We built our raised beds 3 bricks high, and this ended up being the perfect height for reaching.
Each of our garden beds used 78 concrete blocks or cinderblocks.
Step 2- Level Perimeter with Concrete Blocks
Next, you need to get the perimeter around your garden set up. This is when you’ll make a one-block high rectangle all the way around the perimeter of the garden. This is the hardest part. My husband leveled the perimeter of the garden the best he could with a flat shovel and a pickaxe. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the closer you can get it to level, the better.
It might take a few tries to get the edges of your perimeter to work out. Chris worked extra hard leveling the outer edge of our garden and making sure everything was square. Even after being extra careful, he had to go back and move bricks a little to make sure they met up perfectly.
Don’t start stacking until you have your one-block perimeter all the way around your raised bed.
Step 2-Stack Cinderblocks around Perimeter of Raised Bed
The hard part is done! Now you just stack the blocks of your cinderblock raised bed garden. Start from one corner and stagger the blocks. Do not stack the blocks directly above each other. Staggering the blocks creates a stronger wall for your garden.
Filling the holes of the cinderblocks with soil will also help to sturdy up the walls. Packing the dirt down with a shovel handle in each hole will make it even sturdier. If your soil is prone to shifting you can even put a few inches of concrete in the bottom of each hole to create an even stronger foundation. Our raised beds just used dirt in each hole, however.
Step 3-Fill with Quality Soil
Before we put soil in our raised bed, we put a thick layer of branches, sticks, and leaves that had fallen in a storm the weekend before. This creates a good layer for compost and takes up some of the space so we don’t need as much expensive soil.
We filled our concrete block garden beds with fertile topsoil that we bought from a local company that sells to landscapers. It was much cheaper to buy the soil this way than to buy the bags from the garden center.
We bought 7 yards of “mushroom dirt” for about $250 thinking it would be enough for two beds. It was much more dirt than we expected! You should have seen us trying to haul all that dirt home on our tiny trailer going 20 mph. There was plenty of dirt for both our raised beds, a dozen grow bags, a small bathtub, and we still have probably two yards leftover.
It was well worth the price. However, if you have fertile dirt around your home, you can always use that to save some money. The main problem would be the grass seeds. If you use dirt from your yard with grass seeds in it, you will have way more weeding to do.
Step 4- Plant Favorite Fruits and Vegetables
Finally, we get to the fun part, planting all those wonderful plants you’ve been dreaming about. We planted cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, and a huge variety of peppers.
Next, we even planted in the holes of the cinderblocks. In the cinderblock holes, we alternated between planting marigolds, petunias, and herbs. Marigolds and petunias are known to keep pests away, and the small holes ended up being perfect for herbs like oregano, sage, and chives.
Make sure to check back next week and find out all about the simple hose irrigation system we used for our raised beds.