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Question

Jessica Still
Are there any organic gardeners experienced with raised beds edged with cinder blocks? I wonder if c-blocks would leach excess
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This is the question I want to ask > "Are there any organic gardeners experienced with raised beds edged with cinder blocks? I wonder if c-blocks would leach excess alkaline into the soil, being cement-ey? Online I see photos & videos of newly-made raised beds but none so far of "long time flourishing" raised beds edged with cinder blocks."
Hola Jessica. Years ago I experimented with cinder blocks as borders for raised beds.  I did away with them after a couple of years, because of the cement leaching into my already alkaline soil, they took up too much valuable space, and the plants didn't grow as well as in other locations.  Perhaps after more years they would work better.  My garden area was much larger in those days so I favored mounded raised beds without borders and heavily mulched pathways.  The whole area was fenced to discourage my four legged companions from harvesting the produce too early.  Today, for my small kitchen garden, I prefer wood, composites, or even metal for borders to keep lawn grasses at bay.  A long answer for a simple question, but you know how I like to share experiences. ( talk, rant, pontificate) Stay natural, David
Thank you, David - This speaks to my existing observations & thoughts. Someone near & dear to me is moving into a charming cottage in Washington State & is considering raised garden beds in a small back yard, perhaps even on an existing concrete patio. My advice so far has been that you can't go wrong by figuring out what you really want to do - and with that for a start, necessary & practical considerations are usually helpful or benign - or temporary.  :-) My own favorite "look" for edged raised beds is wood faced with wattle - like Medieval gardens. Thus the wood can be scrap wood ... i sent over half-a-dozen photos, including an old wood-cut that I jokingly labeled, "Early how-to diagram." Then, looking at it, I realized it was telling me something I never knew about wattle before ! And that is, the top two branch-strands of wattle - willow or dogwood maybe - are "woven" into the panel by crossing over each other in alternate directions every time they go around a spacing-stick or post. I will post it here when I have time. Now I can't wait to try this! I'm sure criss-crossing contributes to the sturdiness and/or design of the wattle panel. We have local farmers who cut a lot of willow away from their creek-sides in the spring ...
I would prefer to use stones for a 6" to 1-foot deep bed, and hay bales for a deeper bed.
Thanks, Brother Joseph - I think these garden beds may be the deeper sort, since they may be constructed at first on the concrete patio. I thought > hay bales! YAY! since I love hay bale seating & I think seating in family/social gardens is very important. But the location is Seattle area - so there is a lot of rain to consider. Of course, hay bales can be cycled along ...
My parents have used cinder blocks for several years with no problems. You need to add some new compost / soil every year to rebuild the soil with nutrients, but you would need to do that with any raised bed. They have wonderful crops, my mother plants Marigolds and herbs in the cinder block openings.
Thank you so much, Leona - This is encouraging. Now I am wondering what part of the country your parents garden in - whether the soil & rain would tend toward acid or alkaline? This cinder block question is located in Washington State ...
I've used cinder blocks for my organic garden for over 50 years... absolutely no problems. There is a good book about growing in cinder blocks available at cinderblockgardens.com I've tried over the years many ways of growing my veggies: strawbales, cinder blocks, railroad ties, in tires, etc. The most successful out of all has been the cinder blocks. The nice thing about growing in them is that they never deteriorate; you can stack as many of them up to make the garden as deep as you want/need; if you ever move, you can take you garden with you; they drain very well and you can plant other things in the little pockets in the blocks. I usually plant marigolds to deter the bugs. In a few pocket I also plant garlic chives (a great plant if you never tried it).
<p> Thank you for this VERY definitive testimonial of your good experience  gardening with cinder blocks - for over fifty years! <em>I really appreciate your input! </em>This may be the perfect solution for building on a concrete patio - with hay bale flakes on the bottom for some organic drainage-cushion, as Brother Joseph suggested. Hay bale sides might get too soggy for seating in rainy Seattle.</p><p> I love the thought of Marigolds as a pocket plant. They are so adventurously fragrant & diverse in color-design for a small child to discover & they are a great plant for earliest seed-harvesting experience! With that fragrance, I suspect the petals have some tonic property to harvest for - besides color to include in herb tea mixes. <em>Do you have any info about marigold's edible or medicinal properties?</em></p><p> <em>And have you ever turned any of the side-wall cinder blocks sideways for vertical pocket plants?</em></p><p> Garlic chives is a fine suggestion - this gardener is a super fresh-food chef - sometimes but not always vegan. Edge-pockets would feature white-flowered Garlic Chives beautifully. I like to have lots of Chives of all kinds. The abundant flowers are such a good early bee plant. For our first spring salads, I like to clip lots of peppery, lavender-colored Chive petals into mostly Lamb's Quarter & volunteer, self-seeded lettuce. My favorite dressing on this combination is a Teriaki viniagrette with plenty of garlic, sweetened with chunky Apricot jam. </p><p> Sweet Marjoram, or Sweet Balsam, is one of my favorite fragrant herbs ever, magical for a small child to discover & would cascade beautifully over edges with it's tiny leaves & flowers. Recently I found that dried Balsam makes a surprisingly powerfull floral, Balsamy tea - both fragrant & very tasty.</p><p> Another edible, viney plant to spread, cascade & soften edges is New Zealand Spinach. The Spinach flavor is excellent, it is emerald green in color & with tip pinching or harvesting, it side-branches nicely. Plus it grows long & well in sun or light shade - good for a northwest climate.</p><p> <em>Anyone who doesn't know what a certain plant looks like can find many beautiful examples by searching on Google Images.  :-)</em></p>
We have used 4 in. cinder blocks as a base with solid retaining wall blocks for the upper 2 or 3 tiers. In Missouri we have a lot of clay and have found that the cinder blocks laid flat with the holes horizontal offers good drainage, putting the small opening towards the bed to minimize erosion. Our soil and compost are both slightly acidic and any leaching will help neutralize the soil which is beneficial to most plants.
Thanks - I like your consideration of slightly acidic soil & compost!  :-)
I use cinderblocks along the front edge of my veggie bed and have found them to be quite useful.  I have aloe vera and garlic chives growing in the opening quite happily.  I will test the soil closest to the bricks and see if there is any difference. 
Thanks! A comparative test from you would be SO interesting! Please let us know what product or method you use for testing. These raised beds will have a soil-base acquired in the region. The garden-builder knows good soil in general ... sources can vary ...
Yes, the haybales become part of your eventual 5-foot deep raised bed! Just make a box of any conveinient dimension, fill with aged compost, and plant! Concrete patio? Make the bed with the sides two bales high, and bales forming the "floor."
That's an interesting thought! I have been wondering what would be best on the bottom! Do you think the floor would be just as good if it were made of hay "flakes" from a bale - 4" to 6" thick? There will be a small boy in this garden before long - born on Valentine's Day, so lower sides make sense for sitting & also exploring ...   :-) 
In fact, the bed I made had "flakes" about 6" thick for a bottom. Underneath was 1/4" wire mesh to deter gophers. then I guess about 10" of compost on top.  It was one of the fastest growing and productive gardens I ever made (even though the sides were wood). The plan was to keep adding compost every year, but this was at a friends house, and they let it languish.  i'll post something soon showing the drastic measures I have to resort to in order to make a garden in a land where no one even knows the words "compost' or "recycling." 
Thank you! good to know the hay flakes made a positive bio-floor for you ... I look forward to reading about your "drastic measures" in pioneering composting!  The new version of KGI website should be up soon - your shared experience will make worthy content!  :-)

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