Thursday, August 16

Cinderblock Garden: Assembly and Planting

Hi, friends! If you're reading this post and would like to see an update from my Summer 2013 garden, click here!

Also, learn about this project in the planning stages in this post.

Once I planned my garden and gathered my materials things started moving quickly!

Assembling the Garden

One of the great things about gardening in raised beds is the lack of weeding, tilling, and soil testing typically necessary before getting started. The hardest part of constructing this garden was lugging all the materials from the car to the back yard, and Michael did most of that.

Since I wanted a 4'x16' space on the middle I used 32 cinder blocks and arranged them like so:

These blocks are heavier than they look! We started by just laying them out in what looked like a perfect rectangle, but our lines were way too far apart at the end. I would recommend using a tape measure as a guide while you lay out your blocks because adjusting them after you've placed them is quite a workout for the back.

With the blocks in place, I laid newspaper in the center to prevent grass from growing up through the dirt. I wish I had made this layer a bit thicker than the 2-3 pages I used since I've found a few blades of grass poking up two weeks later.

Then, we filled the bed with a mixture of topsoil, peat moss, and cow manure. I found a fantastic website with a calculator to determine how much of each component I needed to fill my bed. Unfortunately I lost the link, but the basic guideline is to use 60% topsoil, 30% compost or manure, and 10% peat moss or vermiculite.

I didn't fill up the cinderblocks until a few days after I'd planted the veggies since I was waiting for my herb seeds to come in the mail and I was running low on dirt ingredients. I actually used potting soil for this rather than buying extra dirt mix. This cost me some extra money, but saved me an extra trip to Lowes.

Overall, this project took about a week since I could only bring the materials home one carload at a time. If we'd had a truck we probably could have finished it in an afternoon.


Most people who use square foot gardening techniques use some type of grid to mark off the squares. When I was using my old kiddie pool garden Michael used fishing line to make a grid for me. But my new cinderblocks are too hard to easily affix anything to the sides. For that reason, we just used a tape measure to figure out the boundaries of our squares while planting. Now that my seeds are in the ground, I can't tell the exact perimeter of the squares, but I did mark the end of each row with a large popsicle stick displaying the name of its contents.

These came from the craft store
They've faded a bit, but they were dirt cheap!

In my last post I talked about planning which veggies to plant in each square. With my plan in front of me and Michael helping me line everything up, planting the seeds was a breeze. Even though the spacing information won't be consistent with SFG, be sure to check the seed packs for planting depth.

With my veggies planted in the center of the bed, I put herb and flower seeds in the holes of the cinderblocks. I still can't believe what a great deal I got on my assortment of herb seeds from Amazon!

Once my seeds were in the ground, I watered them well and waited for them to sprout.

Here's the grand tally of what I've planted
Heirloom Brandywine tomatoes: 2
Roma tomatoes : 4
Winter squash (variety pack): 4
Yellow squash: 7
Zucchini: 1
Roma bush beans (snap beans): 72
Collard greens: 16
Spinach: 36 (more to come)
Carrots: 48 (more to come)

Italian parsley

Garlic chives

Nasturtiums - not the right time to plant, but I had the seeds so I decided to try them and replace them with marigolds if they don't work

Two and a half weeks later, here it is!

Baby beans

As you can see, the beans sprouted quickly. I've already planted my third and fourth rows of beans, so soon I'll have even more little green shoots.

Yellow squash and zucchini

Winter squash

The squash is growing fast, too. One of my zucchini and two of my winter squash didn't sprout, but that's alright - I've planted new seeds that won't be far behind the others.

Tiny tomato

All six of my tomato plants sprouted! Tomatoes are the prize of most gardens, even if they take a long time to grow and require special care. Since I'm getting started late in the season for tomatoes I was excited that they all came up on the first try!

I'm still waiting to see any growth from my collards, spinach, carrots, and herbs. These are typically slower starting crops that do well in cooler weather, so I'm not in a hurry to see them grow. I've got a few tiny sprouts from my basil and sage, but the perimeter of my garden is looking pretty sparse. Hopefully it'll fill out soon.

So, that's it! I'll be sure to give some updates as the season progresses!

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