Concrete Raised Garden Beds (Easy to build, and fairly cheap)

comments (17) April 5th, 2010

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Troy_R Troy_R, member
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Here is the bed after stacking the blocks.
Here are all 3 built and ready for veggies
Bed with pvc hoops
Covered with construction plastic
All 3 beds planted and covered.  The small bed is only 2 blocks high for pole beans. I used a wire mesh for the cover on it which was later removed after last frost.
Here is the bed after stacking the blocks.Click To Enlarge

Here is the bed after stacking the blocks.

After years of having a regular garden, and with my wife not wanting to give up more yard I decided to build my first raised beds.

But out of what...I wanted a bed high enough so that I could pick veggies without back strain, and it had to be affordable.  In an effort to save money growing your own food, you dont want to spend a $1000. building a bed.  After making build lists and pricing materials making it out of treated lumber, brick, composite decking, etc. I settled on concrete block.  The blocks are 8"x 8"x 16" , and each large bed has 90 blocks with 30 caps. Locally the cost me 1.24 each and stacked 3 high gives me 24" plus an additional 2" cap gives me 26" to top.  A nice sitting height.  So now I could even sit on the side walls if I desired to pick veggies.  I made the 3 beds last season, you can see the tilled ground that used to be my regular garden.  Now I have walking space, and room for much more veggies than I had with my regular garden rows. Some other benefits are that they dont have to be weeded, rabbits cannot chew up my leafy greens, and my dog cannot try to relieve himself on my veggies


I did not mortar the joints in case I wanted to move them in future.  I filled each with compost purchased from our local waste station for $13.00 a pickup load.  The larger two beds cost appox. $175.00 each to build. 

For the hoops I used 3/4" white pvc.  They were 36 cents each for 10' lengths.  I just bent them over and tucked them into the bed.  I strung nylon rope across the outsides for support, and covered all with construction plastic (like you would use for doing concrete work). The roll was 50' x 12' enough for the beds with some left over. The cost of the plastic roll was $36.00

I did not use any formal base product (stone, gravel, etc.), just filled them up with compost.  The compost never really compacts so when you are done with a given veggie you can easily pull it up roots and all.  At any time you can go out to the beds and shove your hand all the way into the bed up to your elbow if you desired.  They worked great, and this year for the first time ever, my wife volunteered up some extra yard space so I can make a 4th bed.  This one is gonna be even bigger.....




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Comments (17)

rickaida writes: This thread is rather old so hopefully someone will see it. I'm in the process of building some raised beds. I'm dry stacking 2 blocks high. These beds will be part of an ongoing landscape project so they need to look really good and professional. I'll be skim coating the exterior so it looks like a poured wall. I've never drystacked block before and have run into a dimension issue using half blocks to stagger the seams. The half blocks cause that row to be 3/8" shorter than the base row below it. I've searched the web and can't even find this issue mentioned, much less how to deal with it. Has anybody run across this and how did you address it? I would accept the overhang if it weren't for the required aesthetics.
Posted: 5:07 pm on February 27th
JoeHunt13 writes: Two quick questions/comments. Did you have to level your beds? It looks like your yard was already flat. Virtually impossible to find in Southern Missouri and Arkansas. We get gaps and cracks between blocks due to unlevel ground. Also I see you did not use any liner so I assume you water OFTEN and LIBERALLY as cement blocks draw off water. BTW how much is the average annual rainfall where you are? We get 42" on average and I still use automatic watering systems for my raised beds.
Posted: 7:47 pm on May 28th
ivoryjax writes: Hi,

I am wondering how you water your beds. I'm thinking about using pvc and drilling holes in them for a drip system...but I wanted to see what your thoughts were first. I'm in Utah, where it gets pretty hot...and I have pressurized irrigation as well.
Posted: 5:50 pm on May 23rd
idcp writes: What measures do you take to ensure adequate drainage of water?
Posted: 1:38 am on April 1st
tlspiz writes: Hi,
very new to gardening here! My husband and I just built our raised bed today but with only one row of blocks. I plan for it to be a vegetable garden, tomatoes lettuce, zucchini, peppers, etc. After reading this article...Is this going to be deep enough? or should we add a second row? It cost us $175 already for the blocks, organic soil and peat moss, (its 12'x4') so we were trying to keep the cost down.

Thanks a lot!
~ tlspiz
Posted: 11:23 am on May 4th
grannygardener writes: I just found this site and was very pleased with the concrete beds. I've did a raised concrete herb garden several years ago. I thought it would be the easiest way to build a raised garden. I planted herbs in the block holds instead of putting a cap in it. Works great.
This year I'm doing three beds for vegetables. I'm only making it two blocks high. Instead of removing the grass/weeds I am laying landscaping netting down then blocks the soil.
As I am a widow once this gets done planting and caring for garden won't be too much for just one person to maintain.
I'm new at growing veggies so any input would be appreciated.
Posted: 5:19 pm on March 20th
Troy_R writes: Thank you everyone for the kind words. To answer some of the other questions still open.

The PVC hoops and construction plastic is what I use each spring to protect younger plants while there is still the danger of a frost. Once the plants get a little size and threat of frost is past I open the garden up and store the plastic and PVC till the following year.

I do not use mortar at all. And with as many times Ive moved these for redesigns Im so glad I dont. This past season (2013), I consolidated all blacks into one major bed and made a trellis entrance. Post will follow shortly.

Bed height- entirely up to your comfort and needs. I prefer to be high enough to make maintaining the beds easy on the joints (Im not getting any younger,haha).

As to freezing temps. Im in upstate NY and currently my bed is under about a foot of snow. After years of doing this and moving beds around yard, my blocks are as good as when I bought them.

Posted: 8:45 pm on December 17th
herbie43 writes: Can you actually use all compost for the beds or do you have to add some top soil?? I thought the roots need to grip onto something. Do you have a favorite type of compost such as mushroom.

I am building my cinder block bed next season


Posted: 4:05 pm on August 18th
jtrellim writes: I have problems with gophers and moles so I put galvanized wire lath on the bottom of the raised planters so none of those little buggers can get in. It works well.
Posted: 9:40 am on April 8th
lsn833 writes: You can save a few dollars by skipping the caps. The holes make great planting areas for lots of things! I grew a bush bean in each hole, lettuces, nasturtiums, a large marigold, parsley, mint. That saves quite a lot of money off the soil cost too.
Also, few vegetable are deep rooted enough to need 3 blocks depth. 2 are enough for even tomatoes.
You can often find them used on Craigslist (I got 100 big ones with one nice side for 50 cents each (I just had to haul them up a hill!), or builder's supply stores have seconds that work just as well.

Posted: 10:15 pm on November 15th
ygbd writes: Troy_R-
I'm relatively new to gardening, but admire how you merged a raised garden and a greenhouse all in one. Or at least that what it looks like to me. Is that the intent with the PVC arches and plastic?

If so, is there an issue with plant management during the early cold season and losing heat/moisture when lifting the construction plastic?
Posted: 7:30 am on May 22nd
2stategardener writes: How well do the cement blocks hold in freezing winters?
Posted: 9:22 pm on January 16th
growalot writes: I love the idea of using concret blocks. Here is a way to save even more money. Compost here is expensive. I plant in this manner and have great success. First layer (on the ground) 1/4 inch of newspaper. It's great for the worms. Next layer is alfapha, as is comes off the bales. Usually about 4-6 inches thick. Now sprinkle blood meal and bone meal. Next layer is straw. About 4-6 inches. Then more blood meal and bone meal. Now the compost. 3-4 inches thick. As this mixture breaks down it feeds the plants. The following year just add a little more alfapha, straw and compost. (plus blood meal and bone meal) Then subsequint years just more compost and organic food. I have had great success with the very poor soil we have around here.
Posted: 11:36 am on February 14th
Troy_R writes: skocher, sorry I did not get back to you sooner. Havent been on here past couple weeks. Lots of gardening going on.
To answer your question, no, I did not have to mortar them. I havent made my big bed yet, the measurements though will be about 25' long. But my wife and I like theses beds so much I built one on my back concrete deck off my house for flowers (its about 12' long and not as wide). I really like the 26" height (8"blocks x 3 plus 2"cap block). My youngest kid likes sitting on the sides and looking at the small flowers growing. Though I do not mortar them I do fill in some (not all) of the holes after it is all stacked up with stones from the yard or small sections of old 4x4 lumber fits tightly into the joints from top down and kind of locks them in a bit. I just do this on the corners though. Im going to be posting some pics of my newest flower bed so you could maybe take a peak at it if you would like. Have a good day
Posted: 2:34 pm on May 21st
Stephen_TX writes: I noticed a local nursery here had done this and thought it was a great idea. Haven't tried it yet, but I am using the blocks to build a good sturdy Compost bin the same way.

Posted: 9:55 am on April 25th
skocher writes: So Troy, do you really not have to mortar them?

And do you think that 2 blocks high might be enough? That's what I am planning--18" tall.

I am so discouraged at finding out how expensive it seems to be to build beds out of cedar or other long lasting wood, and the plastic ones are either more expensive or look flimsy and too low.

Pure compost eh? Sounds great!
Posted: 11:08 pm on April 23rd
momamia writes: Thanks for posting your raised beds. They are awesome. Having my husband look into doing this in our yard.
Posted: 8:26 am on April 12th
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