What can you grow in the holes of cinder blocks?

castorpDecember 6, 2005

I've been reading all the threads on this forum about making raised beds out of cinder blocks, and I'm really taken with the idea.

There's another thread on this forum about the measurements of beds made out of cinderblocks, and my question is closely related.

My question is, What can I grow in the holes? I remember reading that someone (I think it was Ray) said that not much would grow in the holes. Someone else said they grew strawberries. I've read about growing bush beans in the holes of cinder blocks (one garden book suggests 4 bush beans to a hole, which seems too much to me), and herbs. Others mentioned pest deterrent plants like marigolds. I was wondering about nasturtiums. . .

Would the smaller leaf lettuces grow in the holes of cinder blocks? Mustards? Parsley? What else would grow in them?

Do plants growing in the holes need a lot of extra watering?

Basically I'm trying to decide whether to consider the holes a "serious" growing space. It's an issue for me because I don't have a lot of space for the beds, and because I'd like to keep everything in the beds easily reachable (this was discussed on another thread too.)



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username_5(banned for no reason)

In your climate I wouldn't think much would grow in the holes due to the heat. Some sempervivums probably would as would most any arid prefering plant, but if you want something edible I would think you would have best results in your coolest season and hopefully you get decent rainfall in that season.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 10:37AM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

I do have a short list of things that have done "ok" in the holes, one plant/clump per hole. Note most of these can be stepped on a bit without killing the plant.

Turnip greens (7-top) but not regular turnips
chives/green onions

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 11:22AM
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Thanks for the information.

Ray, do the vegetables that you grow in the holes require much more watering? By "ok" do you mean they'd do a lot better in the main part of the bed?

I'm trying to decide whether to go with the skinny concrete blocks (and learn some masonry) or the regular cinder blocks and sacrifice space (of which I don't have a lot)--or just go with wood. I have one raised bed made out of cedar and I like it a lot, but I hesitate to make more because it'll all have to be replaced when it rots. I'm thinking it will rot a good deal quicker here with our wet summers.

Thanks, again.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 6:13PM
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new2gardenfl(Z9 CentralFL)

Hey Bill,

I have had a lot of success growing the pak choy in the holes. I have also grown onions and shallots, herbs and flowers. I haven't tried to grow anything in there in the summer yet. I'll keep you posted.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 10:15PM
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new2gardenfl(Z9 CentralFL)

I watered every couple of days after the planting was established. I had some pak choy spring up in a couple of holes over the summer from letting it go to seed and never watered them. They are doing great. Of course, it rained almost every day in the summer. You will need to water them every few days during the dry season. They dry a little quicker, but not THAT much.

I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 8:07AM
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Hi, Nancy. I didn't know you did the square foot gardening thing! Well now that i have some pak choy seeds I'm doubly tempted to try the cinder block beds. The seeds arrived in mail yesterday. Thank you! I hope to be planting some collards this evening.

Please do keep me posted about the cinder blocks. I don't know if I'm going to build more raised beds right now or not. I just know I'm going to build them in the near future, and I'm trying to get all the info I can before I go ahead with it.

Do you grow most of your veggies in raised beds? Do you use mostly cinder blocks, or other materials?


    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 8:20AM
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new2gardenfl(Z9 CentralFL)


I just have the one raised bed. It is approximately 9'X3'. I'm short, so I like the 3' depth for reaching the center. I built it about this time last year. So I am fairly new to it. The size was determined by the number of free cinder blocks that I got from someone from www.freecycle.org.

I didn't plant anything except a few pepper plants and some soybeans over the summer because my schedule wouldn't allow me to keep it up.

I'm mostly growing cold-weather loving greens, creole garlic, shallots, heritage sweet white onions (old FL heirloom), bunching onions, carrots, chinese leafy celery, and herbs. I just planted it Sunday. When everything comes up, I'll send you a picture. I never learned how to post a pic. : )

I grow mostly veggies, but added marigolds last spring.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 12:14PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

The holes do need a bit more water than stuff in the bed, especially in the parts where the blocks are not sunk into the ground (my beds are built on a slope) but that's part of the reson I use things that handle getting less water.

Cilantro does better in the holes than in the bed proper.
Parsley is a wash.
Marigolds seem to be just as happy in the holes as they do outside the beds. (only one of my beds is built with cinderblocks that have holes, for the rest, the marigolds are planted around the edges and are stepeed over/on as needed)
Chives I've never even tried in the main bed, I just tuck them around in little spots.

Turnip greens, greeen onions, and basil are happier in the bed proper, but they work well enough in the holes for the quantities I need.

Oh, nearly forgot, thyme does well in the holes too.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 10:06AM
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I'm looking forward to the picture, Nancy. I'm going to investigate that FL onion you mention. I've never heard of it but I've been looking for a good onion.

I've decided to go with the cinderblocks. I figure even if conditions get really harsh in the summer I can just plant the holes with portulaca, or mabye plant the bed with sweet potatoes and let the vines trail over the sides.

So it looks like I'll be asking for Cinder blocks for Christmas.

Thanks again and good luck with your garden.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 10:08AM
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Thanks for the info, Ray. This should work out perfectly then because I love cilantro, parsely, and onions and I've been wanting to grow much more of them anyway. I'm thinking the thyme may do even better in holes because here with our summer rains good drainage is very important. I'm really looking forward to trying this!


    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 10:19AM
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new2gardenfl(Z9 CentralFL)


You just have to experiment what will work in the holes. That is what I am doing.

The Heritage Sweet White Onion is used mainly for the greens. It only forms a small bulb about 1" across and is supposed to be pretty spicy. I am trying it for the first time this fall. The bubils that grow on the tips can be replanted for the next season. I believe it goes dormant in the summer, but I'm not 100% positive. I got mine from a guy over on the allium forum. Hopefully, next year I will have enough to share.

Here is a link:

check on www.freecycle.org for free blocks.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 12:27PM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

The herbs seem to like the confinement better than most other veggies.

Recently, I decided to try a double layer of cement blocks to build up enough height to grow potatoes - with the added space to "hill up" around the tubers. I found the concrete blocks to be an aid to giving sweet potatoes the warmth they needed in our coastal cool climate.

Just my 2 c's.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 3:08PM
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paradisi(Sunshine Coast)

my next door neighbour (sub tropical coastal australia - so should be close to your zone) grows or grew

capsicum, tomatoes, marigolds, basil, chives, bunching onions, spring onions, egg plant, chilli, all sorts of ferns, and flowers

the larger growing plants were bonsai'd by the lack of root space but grew enough to keep a couple of pensioners happy.

after seeing what they did with their garden I'd say give just about anything a go that grows up rather than develops a root.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2006 at 8:22PM
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garden_fever_girl(5 CO)

I had four 4x6 cinder block garden beds last year - made of the 1/2 size cinder blocks versus the larger ones-- and in every hole I had planted small marigolds and nasturtiums in all the corner holes-- they were very pretty really -- but it required alot of flowers-- lol. I found that they didn't sprout real well in the cinder block holes -- I think they dried out too quickly and then got beaten down when they were young and I was trying to tend to my other seedlings in the beds (could've been the kids too) but the transplants I added (when marigolds got real cheap at the end of selling season) did just fine without any more watering than the rest of the garden-- of course marigolds are a little drought hearty, and I don't live in FL.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2006 at 3:28PM
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artic(7 - Albuquerque)

Here is a quick list of what I managed to grow in the thinner type mason blocks here in zone 7b (Albuquerque, NM). Some things did better than I expected, some things not so much, read the comments for some explanation. Keep in mind also that last year was my first try at most of those plants, and only my second year of real gardening. All the plants were purchased as small plants from the nursery (except the garlic chives which were started by seed some years before and transplanted). The blocks were filled with a mixture of composted manure and our local poor soil.

Bay Laural :- way too small for permanent placement, now re-potted on windowsill
Borage :- died shortly after first flowers opened
Cat Mint
Catnip :- 2 plants in large corner stone, did, and is still doing real well, reseeded itself all over the yard Chili Herb :- small capstasian type peppers
Chives :- one did great, one not so much
Chocolate Patty Mint
Dill :- Eaten by caterpillars
Fennel :- windstorm snapped the plant and killed it
French tarragon
German chamomile :- reseeded itself in near by voids
Garlic Chives :- did well
Horehound :- did OK, but likely would have done better in larger container
Italian Oregano
Lemon Balm
Lemon Verbena
Mother of Thyme
Orange Mint
Pineapple Mint
Pineapple Sage :- remained small, never did much, wonderful flowers
Purple Ruffles Basil :- unimpressive performance
Rosemary Officinals :- should have been planted in larger container
Siam Queen Basil :- not too impressive
Sugar Herb (stevia)
Sweet Basil :- grew massive, much larger than expected, did very will
Sweet Marjoram
Thymus Bulgaras

Follow the link for a couple small out of focus pictures of the garden. If you want to see a hight rez picture let me know. For those inquiring minds, the thing in the background is my beehive. The wall that all my herbs are planted in was originally intended to keep my dog out of my apiary. I did not work so well at keeping the dog out, but I did appreciate the herbs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of the Garden

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 12:33PM
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I am new to the cinder blocks, didn't know about this site and used the blocks because they were easy to handle. I filled the beds with pebbles and small broken pcs of granite and marble (i work at a granite shop)and also the holes are filled with the rocks. I think the rocks will hold moisture in the beds. I also work at Home depot and knew that you can buy broken bags of organic soil conditioner, organic compost, organic top soil for .58 @ bag. I was able to get 7 raised beds this spring and used all the broken bags to fill the beds. Summer lettuce works great as a mulch for your tomato plants. I have been using the diatomaceous earth for all the critters, and like this because it doesn't hurt animals.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 11:27PM
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decolady01(7a/6b AL/TN)

Mostly I am growing herbs in the holes in the blocks.

Top row: basil & pineapple sage
Middle row: nasturtiums
Bottom row: basil, lemon balm, lemon thymes, nasturtium, golden sage

Top row: chives
Middle row: savoury, opal basil, lemon grass, thyme
Bottom row: parsley

Top row: cilantro, purple sage, basil, dill
Bottom row: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano

With the drought we've been having, I've had to water the blocks fairly often.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 6:34PM
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I've been planting in cinder blocks for years and after reading the threads the key I see is water and space.
I've grown "square" beats, and yes most herbs can be grown in the holes, but water is the key. Think about it, cinder blocks are porous. Water and wind penetrate the block even the in most insignificant way it is more than nature earth planting. The soil dries faster and retains less water, therefore watering is the key, and then soil pH. In NJ summers are brutal. High humidity and intense heat the past 10 years. Summers in NJ are no different from summers in FL now and unless I water at least twice a day the plants in my blocks do not do well. I did not photograph my "crop" last year, but for an urban garden, we fed three families a variety of vegatables, "oganically grown" without all the hub bub of the green people. Use good soil, water frequently. It is my premise you can grow virtually anything in the holes. Respectfully submitted. Thanks to everyone for comments. This is a great forum of worthwhile info. jsf

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 9:44AM
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Suggestions for growing in blocks (cinder of concrete). First, water is obvious. Blocks are porous and probably raised. Second, use jumbo blocks if available. Much better. Third, you'll have better luck with a greater variety of plants if you age the blocks for a year (let them weather). Both cinder and concrete blocks are alkaline when new. Plants that like a neutral or low ph are not going to do well in new blocks. BTW, hypertufa containers should also be aged.

Follow those 3 suggestions and you'll grow almost any small plant in either concrete or cinder blocks. The watering is a bit of an aggravation in most summer climates.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:59PM
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