We finally finished building our concrete block raised beds and planting our main garden about a week ago. I originally got the ideal to use concrete blocks as a raised bed from searching on pinterest during the winter dreaming up ideas for the garden. I did a posting of my favorite ideas using concrete blocks outdoors which has gone on to be our most popular posting of all time.
Why Use Concrete Blocks?
I was originally planning on building a bunch of cedar boxes like the one I made last fall, but after trying to put the one away I made last fall, I realized what a pain in the but that would be to put away a few of them it into storage every fall. I could leave it out all winter, but was worried that having snow sitting on it all winter would rot out the wood. I loved the idea that with concrete I would not have to worry bout any of this. I also loved the idea that it's not permanent. That way if you think of a better way to use your blocks later on you still can change it. I've learned after I usually make something (this project was no exception) I usually have ideas about how I could have made it better.
What We Learned From Making Our Concrete Raised Bed
Our concrete raised bed could have turned out better, but it will do for this season. I thought I could just stagger the blocks, but I found out I had to cut some of the blocks in half. Since I assumed that cutting the bricks would involve a saw, not quite what I wanted to do so I just stacked them on top of each other. I later found out after I had filled the dirt into the box that you can cut concrete blocks with a chisel (ironically I just bought some). I also found out that concrete blocks are WAY cheaper at Menards than Home Depot (where we got ours) and they have half blocks for the 16 in. x 8 in. x 8 in size but we already bought the 16 in. x 8 in. x 6 in size. It's not extremely stable, but will do for now. I might try to use the holes in the blocks as planters and put sticks and dirt in it to help stabilize it.
I also did not plan for how much dirt was needed to fill it. We were planning on making two beds but have decided to put one on hold until next season when we will have more compost. I figured I only needed to fill 1 foot with actual soil since Mel Bartholomew (who created square foot gardening). So I started by dumping 3 bags of leaves on the bottom from last fall (on top of our black top) to fill up some of the space. I then dumped our half finished compost into it (picking out the big unfinished pieces), we used almost all of our compost pile. We then layered with a few buckets of dirt from our yard. We are currently digging some of our backyard up to make a new garden bed and plan to amend the soil with compost and peat moss, so it actually was helpful to take some soil out. We then added 12 bags of compost mixed with peat moss on top. So basically we filled it with organic material that can turn to soil, with the least finished material closer to the bottom. I would assume this would help with drainage as well as help cut down costs. We transplanted some of our strawberries and planted mustard, kale, swiss chard, and spinach. Next year we'll play with concrete blocks some more. There is so much you can do with them. Check out my post for some great concrete block ideas. Next year we plan to create on more box (when we make more compost) and sometime in the future I'd like to make a concrete block bench (pictured in this post) that would be more like a sectional couch shape that would also serve as a semi wall for our outdoor patio. If you've used concrete blocks for any outdoor project I'd love to here what you did or any ideas you have.
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