pallets and cement blocks for garden design

Monek Marie
Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited January 2021 in Garden Design

I like repurposing. One reason is to save money and another to make our world a littler cleaner and not take everything to a landfill.

I am redoing all my gardens and setting up greenhouses.

I am using pallets to make raised beds. I make sure I get the HD pallets not chemically treated pallets and I like to know what they had used the pallet for too.

My question is about cement blocks. I know many people use them for beds. I have in the past but I was wondering what if any impact they have on the soil. I have a full wall, 70 foot long and 13 foot tall of cement blocks from my foundation and would like to find a use for them.


  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    I have three raised beds of cement blocks that I built in 2008--two blocks high, approximately 4 ft by 8 ft. It's been years since I tested the soil in them, so I can't really speak to long-term impact on soil. I feed the soil every year with compost, straw, shredded leaves and such, and vegetables continue to grow well in the beds. Having the beds two blocks high is convenient--you can sit on the blocks while tending the beds or harvesting.

    The one problem I have consistently noticed is that the cinder block beds dry out faster than my raised beds made with other materials. They also warm up earlier and get hotter in the sun, a good or bad thing depending on the season. So I generally plant a quick crop of early greens in them under cover in March (zone 6b), then heat-loving, drought-tolerant things like okra after that, and plants good at making their own shade, like sweet potatoes.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I see many people use cinder blocks so the effects must not be that bad. They are also used for beds in the greenhouse tutorial on TGN.

    I agree @MaryRowe , higher raided beds are nice. I lke sitting on the edges for comfort. A higher bed also discourages a few backyard pests - at least for a bit.

    I also feed my beds with the same routine you do

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    @Denise Grant There seems to be a difference in the blocks. Cinder blocks are made with cement and fly ash. Concrete blocks are made with cement and crushed aggregates. The fly ash may contain some toxic elements but it is unclear as to whether or not it leaches into the soil. It is recommended that you only use cinder blocks to create garden space for plants that are not going to be used for food or medicine. Concrete doesn't have that issue but both types blocks will be very alkaline. This may affect the PH of your soil. If you have particularly acid soil, this could be a benefit. However, if you have alkaline soil, like mine, you may want to choose some other type of building materials for your beds.

    They do make a nice heat retention wall that could expand your growing season. With that many blocks you could build yourself a very nice garden shed. Then you could espalier some fruit trees on the outside.

    @MaryRowe has a good point about the soil drying out quicker.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    Well, at least the blocks keep the turtles out, but one of the funniest and most frustrating late Feb./early March garden scenes is the resident senior groundhog, now out of hibernation and just burrowed under the fence, stretching up on his back legs, front feet up on the the top row of blocks, looking over the cinder block bed to see if the early greens are up yet for his dining pleasure....Every year, without fail.....

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,481 admin

    @Denise Grant the trouble I’ve had using pallets in the past is white ants. Thought I was doing the right thing getting untreated pallets and 6 months later the white ants (termites) were into them, so I got rid of them, by burning.

    like @torey says, concrete blocks are more the go and it seems you have heaps of them. Just check your pH occasionally and top dress with lime if you have to.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey I have acid soil. Due to age I am not sure what Block I have buit I will find out. TY for heads up

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @jodienancarrow thanks for ther heads up on termites. They usually are not a problem here but I will check with ny friends that have used them.

    Blocks would be more permanent. I do not know how long pallets last before they rot

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MaryRowe I have a real issue with Ground hogs too and I had one that burrowed under my fence and I almost stepped on it. I though the was going to bite me.

    They can take out an entire crop of beans in less than half an hour.

    I had one that knew my shedule and would go out when it knew I would not be there. So I chenaged my schedule. Yes, ground hogs can give you dirty looks

  • Granny Marie
    Granny Marie Posts: 53 ✭✭✭

    My pallet raised beds last about 6-7 years. That's not a problem for me as I put logs and manure in the bottom half of them and that needs to be replaced about the same time.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I also fill my beds half way with manure and other compost materials @Granny Marie . Saves a lot of money making beds and everything grows well.

    How tall are your raided beds?

  • lewis.mary.e
    lewis.mary.e Posts: 225 ✭✭✭

    We are considering using pallets for the bottom sides of a greenhouse. No idea if it will work, but we're going to try in the spring.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have seen it used. And I plan to do this with the trampoline parts I have. @ or 3 foot pallets on bottom and hoops on top.

    I was just wondering on securing in the ground. At this time (may move them) I do not want to use cement. I guess longer piping would work

    This week is cold here in NW Pa, but dry and the ground is not frozen so I have to get up a smaller greenhouse for my seedling starts. You don't need much spacwe top start them but when I split them up, space disappears

    Good luck @lewis.mary.e

  • VickiP
    VickiP Posts: 586 ✭✭✭✭

    We have a pallet factory about a mile and a half from my place. They have pallets of course but one waste material they sell cheap are the "end pieces" They are fro 6-8" in circumference and are trimmed to be squared to go through the mill. Most of them are 14-16" they are the bits that are left after the logs are cut to length. So essentially smallish wooden cinderblocks in size and shape. We have used them for flooring outside as well as all kinds of supports for pots and benches. They charge $20.00 a truck load and since we only get the hardwood ones they make great fire wood as well. I have been toying with the idea of using them as the corner post and side supports for some raised beds. I have two concrete block beds and really need 2 more. If I use these guys I can then use some old tin we have as the sidewalls and get away pretty cheap. Not necessarily pretty, but cheap.

  • Sharie
    Sharie Posts: 276 ✭✭✭

    When I was living in Ontario I placed a row of cement blocks sideways and planted nasturiums in most of them and a few near the kitchen door got herbs. The row was parallel to my driveway and there was a flower bed between that and the house so it was a nice protected area and no damage occurred to any plants. In a cold climate it's helpful for the plants to have warm roots and for that the blocks were great and they looked nice with the flowers hanging over them.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    What about T-posts? They're readily available. Check Tractor Supply or someplace that has fencing supplies. Maybe check some former construction sites. They don't always clean everything up when they leave.

  • Lisa K
    Lisa K Posts: 1,756 ✭✭✭✭✭

    When I redid my raised-beds, I put the wooden frames on top of a row of cinder blocks to raise them up a bit.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 2021

    I picked up 12 pallets yesterday and have another 33 coming today. I had wanted to put in a privacy fence in the front yard so mom could go out and sit. Prices have tripled for fencing this year and even fences on sale sites are high for what you are getting so its pallet fencing .

    I have not decided it I want to cut the top like picket fencing, put a rail on and buy those ball wood pieces or make a planting place on top

  • Lisa K
    Lisa K Posts: 1,756 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I love repurposing things and pallets are sooooo useful!