The Owner-Builder Network

DIY Cinder Block Raised Garden Bed: 10 Practical Steps

Cinder Block Garden Bed

There’s nothing more peaceful than knowing your kids are well-fed and healthy. But expenses can go crazy high with vegetable prices at the supermarket, especially if you plan to go full-on salad recipe and smoothie snacks for the whole week. Thankfully, you can save money with various DIY projects, including a cinder block raised garden bed.

A raised bed, by definition, is a garden bed that is built up into a position that solves a wide range of gardening challenges.

Garden boxes are often thought of as being the same as raised beds because they both use a retaining wall or some type of material to keep the integrity of the bed over time. However, raised beds can be used for a much wider variety of purposes than garden boxes.

There are many benefits to raised garden beds. They are easy on your back and will give your plants good drainage and generally better soil quality. By growing your own produce in a raised garden bed, you can worry less about weeds and pests.

Additionally, raised garden beds can help you to better control the amount of water and fertilizer your plants receive, which can lead to healthier plants. And healthier plants will mean healthier produce.

Finally, raised garden beds can add interest and beauty to your yard or garden.

A very sturdy way of building a raised garden bed is by using cinder blocks. Cinder blocks want one main thing to do well, provide a strong foundation for a structure.

Cinder blocks are filled with cordierite (a form of sand), cement, and additives that make them more durable than untreated timbers: they’re less likely to rot, decay, or warp and last longer. It is also a good insulator so it will help retain heat or cold.

Concrete is stable and inert.  There is no risk of chemicals leaching from them into your vegetable. And, of course, being so durable, you don’t have to worry about time-consuming or costly repairs from time to time.

Overall, cinder blocks make for a very practical and economical choice for building raised garden beds.

DIY Cinder Block Raised Garden Bed - Lay the block

Laying the blocks takes some effort, but you are rewarded with long-term benefits. In fact, the work will be quickly forgotten when you harvest your first crop!

You will be able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables that you grew yourself, and the satisfaction that comes with it. The benefits of a raised garden bed are many, so don’t hesitate to get started on yours today!

Why not invite some friends and family members to help you with this project to make it less difficult? Chances are they’ll be very happy to get some of your excess bounties 🙂

DIY Cinder Block Raised Garden Bed Guide

What sort of produce will you be growing in your cinder block raised garden bed?


  • Cinder Blocks (32 pieces for each layer)
  • Stakes
  • Hardware Cloth
  • Landscape Fabric


  • Shovel
  • Trowel
  • Hand Tamper

Click on any image to start the lightbox display. Use your Esc key to close the lightbox. You can also view the images as a slideshow if you prefer 😎

Thanks to Retro Ranch Revamp for this great project. You can get step-by-step instructions here

Here’s a quick video tutorial…

Choosing the Right Location

Finding the right spot is key to a successful cinder block raised garden bed. The location influences how well your plants grow. Here are factors to consider when choosing the perfect location.

Sunlight Exposure

Sunlight is vital for the growth of most garden plants. Vegetables and flowers generally need full sunlight to flourish. This means they require direct, unfiltered sunlight for at least six hours daily. The intensity and duration of sunlight directly impact plants’ health, flowering, and fruiting in your cinder block raised garden bed.

Assessing Your Garden’s Sunlight

To find the ideal location, observe your yard’s sunlight patterns. Do this over several days to get an accurate understanding. Notice how the sun moves across the space. Remember, the sun’s path changes slightly with the seasons, so consider this in your planning.

Morning vs. Afternoon Sun

The quality of sunlight varies throughout the day. Morning sunlight is generally cooler and less intense, while afternoon sun can be harsh, especially in summer. A spot receiving morning sun and afternoon shade can be ideal for plants sensitive to intense heat. Conversely, plants that thrive in heat and light will do best in areas that receive prolonged afternoon sunlight.

Utilizing Sunlight Maps

If you find it challenging to track the sunlight manually, consider using online sunlight calculator tools or apps. These can help you map the sun’s path over your property and identify the best spot for your cinder block raised garden bed.

Adjusting for Limited Sunlight

If your yard lacks areas with full sun, don’t worry. Many plants can grow in partial sun (about three to six hours of direct sun) or partial shade (dappled sunlight all day). You can choose plant varieties that are less demanding in their sunlight needs.

Soil and Drainage

Effective drainage is essential for the health of plants in a cinder block raised garden bed. Waterlogged soil can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. Choosing a location where water does not pool after rain ensures good drainage.

Assessing Your Yard’s Drainage

Before setting up your cinder block raised garden bed, observe how water behaves in your potential garden area. Look for signs of pooling or slow-draining soil, especially after heavy rainfall. Areas where water accumulates are not suitable for placing a raised garden bed.

Enhancing Drainage with Elevation

Consider elevating your cinder block raised garden bed if your yard has generally poor drainage. Raising the bed’s height with additional cinder blocks can significantly improve drainage. This elevation ensures that excess water drains away from plant roots quickly.

Utilizing a Slope to Your Advantage

A slight slope can be beneficial for a cinder block raised garden bed. Position the bed to enhance water runoff if your yard has a natural slope. Ensure the slope is gentle enough to prevent soil erosion within the bed.

Creating an Ideal Soil Mix

Apart from the physical location, the soil mix in your cinder block raised garden bed plays a vital role in drainage. Use a well-draining soil mix that retains enough moisture for plant roots but allows excess water to drain away efficiently.

Installing Drainage Systems

In extreme cases, where drainage is a significant issue, consider installing a drainage system beneath your cinder block raised garden bed. This can involve laying gravel or perforated pipes at the base of the bed to facilitate better water movement.

Wind Protection

Protecting your cinder block raised garden bed from strong winds is crucial, especially for delicate plants. Winds can dry the soil, damage plant structures, and even uproot young seedlings. Finding a sheltered spot or creating windbreaks can shield your garden from these harsh elements.

Selecting a Sheltered Location

When planning the placement of your cinder block raised garden bed, look for areas in your yard that are naturally protected from wind. This could be near a building, fence, or natural landforms. A location that blocks or slows down the wind will create a more stable environment for your plants.

Using Fences as Windbreaks

Fences are effective windbreaks for a cinder block raised garden bed. They can significantly reduce wind speed and its impact on plants. If you’re installing a new fence, consider its height and permeability for optimal protection.

Planting Wind-Resistant Barriers

Tall, sturdy plants can serve as natural windbreaks for your cinder block raised garden bed. Trees and shrubs with dense foliage can absorb wind force and act as a buffer. Arrange these plants strategically around your garden bed to minimize wind exposure.

Building Structural Windbreaks

For additional protection, consider building structural windbreaks. This can include trellises, lattice panels, or temporary wind shields. These structures can be placed on the windward side of your cinder block raised garden bed to deflect strong gusts.

Considering the Direction of Prevailing Winds

Understand the direction of prevailing winds in your area. Position your cinder block raised garden bed perpendicular to these winds for maximum protection. This orientation helps to reduce the wind’s impact on the entire garden.

Balancing Sunlight and Wind Protection

While protecting your cinder block raised garden bed from the wind, ensure it still receives adequate sunlight. The balance between wind protection and sunlight exposure is key for the health and growth of your plants.

By considering these factors, you can ensure your cinder block raised garden bed has the best conditions for growing healthy plants.

Planting Strategies for Raised Garden Beds

Proper planting strategies are crucial for the success of a cinder block raised garden bed. These strategies ensure optimal plant growth and yield. Here are key considerations and methods to follow.

Cinder Block Garden Bed

Choosing the Right Plants

Selecting the appropriate plants for your cinder block raised garden bed is a key first step. Assess the specific conditions of your garden area, including the local climate, the amount of sunlight the bed receives, and the type of soil you will use. 

In a cinder block raised garden bed, various vegetables, herbs, and certain flowers can thrive due to improved drainage and soil quality. Research plants well-suited to your area’s growing conditions and personal gardening goals. For instance, if you live in a cooler climate, opt for vegetables like leafy greens and root vegetables, while warmer areas might be more suitable for tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

Plant Spacing and Arrangement

Proper spacing is crucial in a cinder block raised garden bed to ensure each plant has enough room to grow without competing for nutrients and sunlight. While the improved soil quality of a raised bed often allows for closer spacing than traditional garden beds, it’s important to adhere to the recommended spacing guidelines for each specific plant. 

This spacing ensures adequate air circulation, which helps prevent fungal diseases and pest infestations. The arrangement is also key; place taller plants where they won’t shade smaller ones, and consider each plant’s growth habits and spread to avoid overcrowding.

Layering and Companion Planting

Effective layering and companion planting can maximize the productivity of your cinder block raised garden bed. When layering plants, organize them based on their height, ensuring each plant receives adequate sunlight. Place taller plants at the back or center of the bed, depending on the direction of sunlight, with shorter plants in front. 

Companion planting is another effective strategy. This involves grouping plants that benefit each other when grown together. For example, marigolds can deter pests from nearby vegetables, and basil can improve the growth and flavor of tomatoes. Not only does this method promote healthier plant growth, but it also maximizes the use of space in your cinder block raised garden bed.

Soil Quality and Fertilization

Maintaining nutrient-rich soil in your cinder block raised garden bed is crucial for healthy plant growth. Before planting, enrich the soil by mixing in compost or well-rotted manure. These organic materials improve soil structure, enhance nutrient content, and promote beneficial microbial activity. It’s important to regularly check the soil’s nutrient levels, as the contained area of a raised bed can lead to quicker nutrient depletion. 

Depending on your plants’ needs, add organic fertilizers periodically to replenish nutrients. This can include bone meal for phosphorus, blood meal for nitrogen, or fish emulsion for overall plant health. Remember, balanced soil fertility is key to robust plant growth in your cinder block raised garden bed.

Irrigation Techniques

Efficient watering is essential in a cinder block raised garden bed, as they dry out faster than traditional garden beds. Consider installing a drip irrigation system or using soaker hoses to ensure consistent soil moisture. 

These systems deliver water directly to the plant roots, minimizing evaporation and waste. They are especially effective in a cinder block raised garden bed as they provide even, deep watering, encouraging deep root growth. 

It’s also important to mulch the soil surface to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. Regularly check the soil moisture and adjust your watering schedule based on weather conditions and plant needs.

Seasonal Adjustments

Adapting your planting strategy to the changing seasons is vital for a productive cinder block raised garden bed. Crop rotation is an effective way to maintain soil health and reduce pest and disease issues. 

After harvesting, plant a different type of crop in the same space. For example, follow a nitrogen-consuming crop like lettuce with a nitrogen-fixing one like peas. Select cold-hardy crops such as kale, spinach, or carrots in colder months. Consider using covers or cloches to protect plants from frost and extend the growing season. 

Additionally, planting cover crops like clover or vetch during the offseason can help rejuvenate the soil. These seasonal adjustments ensure continuous productivity and health of your cinder block raised garden bed.

FAQ on Cinder Block Raised Garden Bed

How deep should a cinder block raised garden bed be?

The ideal depth of a cinder block raised garden bed depends on the plants you intend to grow. Generally, 12-18 inches depth is sufficient for most vegetables and flowers. However, consider making your bed deeper to grow root vegetables or plants with deep root systems.

Can I use old cinder blocks for my raised garden bed?

You can use old cinder blocks, but ensure they are free from cracks and structural damage. Also, confirm they haven’t been exposed to harmful chemicals that could leach into your garden soil.

How do I prevent soil from leaking out of the cinder block holes?

Line the cinder block holes inside with landscape fabric or small wire mesh to prevent soil from escaping while allowing for drainage.

Do cinder block raised garden beds require a bottom layer?

No, a bottom layer is not necessary. One of the benefits of a cinder block raised garden bed is improved drainage, which is best achieved without a solid bottom.

How often should I water my cinder block raised garden bed?

Watering frequency depends on several factors, including climate, soil type, and plant needs. Generally, raised beds dry out faster than in-ground gardens, so regular monitoring is essential. Use your finger to check soil moisture and water when the top inch of soil feels dry.

Can I plant directly into the cinder block holes?

Yes, you can plant herbs or small flowers in the holes of the cinder blocks. This maximizes your planting space and can add aesthetic appeal to your garden bed.

Is it necessary to seal cinder blocks before using them in a garden bed?

Sealing is unnecessary, but it can extend the life of your cinder blocks and prevent lime leaching, which can slightly raise soil pH over time. Use a non-toxic sealant if you choose to seal them.

Can cinder block raised garden beds affect the pH of the soil?

Cinder blocks can gradually increase the soil’s pH. If you’re growing plants sensitive to pH changes, consider lining the interior of the blocks with plastic or regularly testing and adjusting your soil’s pH.

What’s the best way to arrange plants in a cinder block raised garden bed?

Arrange plants based on their height, sunlight, and water needs. Place taller plants where they won’t shade smaller ones, and group plants with similar water requirements together.

How do I prepare my cinder block raised garden bed for winter?

Remove dead plants, add a layer of compost, and cover the bed with mulch or a protective cover. You can also plant cover crops to enrich the soil over the winter.


Building and maintaining a cinder block raised garden bed offers numerous advantages for gardening enthusiasts. It’s an efficient, cost-effective way to grow various plants, from vegetables to flowers. You can enjoy a thriving garden by carefully selecting the right location, ensuring proper soil and drainage, protecting against wind, and employing effective planting strategies.

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