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Cement blocks for SFG

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Cement blocks for SFG

Post  countrystepping on 9/13/2014, 8:57 pm

Anyone here ever use any type of cement products instead of wooden sides? My linseed treated wooden boxes are going bad.

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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  sanderson on 9/13/2014, 9:22 pm

Oh, my, yes, cement blocks are wonderful substitutes for wood. Brainchasm (Las Vegas), Dstack (Florida) and Mazzy (California) immediately come to mind. Darn, I'm inside on a heat break or I might be able to think of others. I apologize to all of you that have block beds (I have a blocked mind). One great bonus is that the blocks won't rot!! Very Happy

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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  dk54321 on 9/13/2014, 9:38 pm

I have used 8" standard concrete blocks. At about $1 each, they are only a little more expensive than wood, and should last forever. They are okay, but not perfect. If you set the blocks with holes up, weeds grow in the holes. If you set them on their sides, weeds grow through the holes sideways, and are harder to control. Also, you're reaching across them to work in your beds. My comfortable reach is about 20 inches. Three foot squares (or three foot wide beds) are comfortable, reaching  to the middle of four foot squares / beds is a stretch. Add the width of the blocks to the width of the bed when calculating the reach required.

If you set the blocks holes up, fill the holes with Mel's Mix, and plant things in them, the holes are 6x6, while the blocks overall dimensions are 8x16. This means you can only put plants that would go 4 or more to a square in the holes. Not a huge problem, but it does complicate your planning a little. And your 6" holes will not line up with your 12" grid, because of the thickness of the concrete. Depending on how organized you like your beds, this may or may not matter to you. 

I like to put my vertical frames along the edge of a bed, so they are easy to reach though and harvest both sides. This works great for peas—I plant them in the holes in the blocks along the long edge of my beds, and plant shorter crops in front of them, so they don't shade each other. This doesn't work so well for tomatoes—if I plant something else in the holes, I'm reaching across or through other plants to harvest my tomatoes, whose vines get thick and tangled enough to be hard to harvest when they're right in front of me, not to mention the shade they cast. But I can't plant them in the holes, because they need a whole 12" square for each plant.
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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  Marc Iverson on 9/14/2014, 12:33 am

My neighbor has cinder block beds in his garden, and he is very successful. He offered to build another one in his garden with me and let me use it. We did, and the bed is working out great.

He builds his beds two blocks high and fills them with pure, high quality compost. Even his bad years are better than most of our neighbors' good years. He speculates that the thickness of the blocks helps store heat in the day and let it off slowly at night, moderating our wide day/night temperature swings here.

I really like the holes for sticking tools and my watering wand in while I work, and the width of the cinder blocks makes it easy to lay baskets, spray bottles, and other things across them. If I need to, I can step or stand on the blocks, which can come in handy when reaching in to the plants.

I don't plant in the holes. As a poster above said, it's hard enough as it is reaching deep into a bed and trying to dig through tomato vines without breaking them. And if a plant is in a hole, I can't step there to steady myself when I lean over into the bed. If I were growing short, easy to maintain plants that don't require a lot of fiddling, like root crops, then I might take advantage of the holes. They do hold square 6x6 plastic pots quite nicely.

I have some recent pictures of his beds and mine in the last two PNW (Pacific Northwest) daily update threads. If you don't see it as a link to the left, you can find it by entering the PNW regional forum. Or just go here:

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t18518-pnw-september-2014
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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  Denese on 9/14/2014, 1:39 pm

I recently built 4 new beds utilizing concrete blocks.  Look for the post "My New Garden Beds".  I have posted pictures.  Mine are up against the side of my house, so I only needed 10 blocks.  If they are stand alone, then you need 14 to make a 47" interior square bed.  I've put wood over the holes in my blocks for seating.  This gives me less of a reach, and helps to eliminate weeds growing up through the holes.
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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  boffer on 9/14/2014, 1:49 pm

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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  Denese on 9/14/2014, 3:01 pm

boffer wrote:http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t18430-my-new-garden-beds#204939

How will you be attaching the boards?
I have some heavy duty construction glue that I planned on using.  They pretty much stay in place as they are, and DH doesn't think I should glue them down, because according to him, "You're always making adjustments and changes to everything."  Unfortunately, he's probably right. Embarassed  However, I have no plans at this time to change anything. Very Happy  That is, except what I plant.  I've learned that Chinese cabbage needs 4 squares because of how wide the leaves spread. Also, I like the Red Giant Mustard better than the Southern Giant Curled, so I'll be planting only the Red Giant from now on.  Another thing, I won't be trellising anything up the side of the house again.  It's VERY difficult to get to the middle of the trellis to pick.  I think I'm going to build some more 1-2 foot wide beds in my front yard along my property line between my neighbor and myself.  That's where I'll put my beans and peas from now on.  Already planning for next year. Very Happy
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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  jimmy cee on 9/15/2014, 11:02 am

I wish I had it to do all over again..cement blocks is the way I would have gone.
I believe though, I would have placed a footer for the blocks in order to stabilize the bed/s .
Could have set some nice poles in the block holes for adding upright supports for enclosures/ trellis's etc.
Once they were done, they'd last a life time +
I had a small cement mixer that I did my drive way, however all that's gone now..
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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  AtlantaMarie on 9/15/2014, 11:25 am

Me too...  And eventually we're talking about making cement boxes that will be poured in place.  But at least we got a start!
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Re: Cement blocks for SFG

Post  sfg4uKim on 9/16/2014, 8:04 am

My brother uses cement blocks.

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