Anybody use broken concrete for raised garden bed?

Middle River, MD

Anybody ever use busted up concrete (aka urbanite - love the name!) for a raised bed border?
We have a 20 x 20ish pad that needs to come up and we are planning on using the rubble for a raised veg bed. I haven't the foggiest idea how to start. just seemed like a good idea since we have no $$ for extra stuff like that now.
I have studied techniques for dry stacked stone wall and it all seems pretty easy, just very time consuming finding just the right rock for the right spot.

any tips or pix would be appreciated.

(Zone 5b)

hi philsgal, we built a dry stack wall , it was time consuming but it came out pretty good. We used fieldstone though. Actually we built 3 walls, took us 3 summers . But I have lots of chunks of concrete that was dumped in my yard by the builders...I have been wondering if I can do something creative with them. I have seen it busted up & used for walkways, but I don't know about walls. Will be interesting to see if anyone has any ideas.

Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

Philsgal & Lynnie6868,
I have much the same situation. Had a concrete cutter cut my neighbor's driveway off where it was poured 10 feet over my property line. Also had an old sidewalk rerouted when I built a new porch. They broke the concrete up into "bite size" pieces and hauled it around back for me. I have a "rock pile" that I think would be great for edging flower beds, etc. There are some really large pieces (too big for me to lift) but it breaks up pretty easily with a sledge hammer. Like you, I thought "Why not? Free rocks!" I was going to stack some of them two-rocks high which would be the same as your making a raised bed. I don't see why it wouldn't work. It's been too hot here to do anything for the past few weeks but I'm dying to get started on a bed to see how it looks. I'm going to try a post a photo but I'm really new at this. Here's my "rock" pile:

Thumbnail by JudyinGA
Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

I might add that the neighbor was very agreeable to the whole process. We didn't discover the error until he had his yard surveyed for a fence. Since it would look funny to start his fence in the middle of the driveway, we had the situation fixed ... and I got a bunch of free rocks in the process. Urbanite, huh? That's a new one on me. But a very appropriate name. I would be very interested in seeing the results of your stacked wall if you decide to do it. I had thought about doing the same thing and felt a glop or two of mortar between the stones at various points would help stabilize the wall. Let me know how it goes.

Judy in Newnan, GA (just south of Atlanta)

(Zone 5b)

wow Judy that's a lot of concrete! I don't have much at all. That will be labor intensive, but you can go at your own pace and it's worth it.
My 3rd fieldstone wall is more of a raised bed, done with the leftovers of the fieldstone, and I did it by myself but my husband put those glops of mortar around to kids walk on the walls, so they get tested!

Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

20 x 20 is a lot larger than you think. All those "rocks" in the photo are from a pie-shaped piece of concrete about 40' long and 10' wide, plus a piece of sidewalk about 10' x 3'. The pile in the picture is about 80' long. The depth varies and is very irregular because they didn't level the ground before they poured the concrete (sloppy builder). However, I'm pleased with the similarity to real rocks and am eager to see what they look like as edging. I think you will have more than you realize once you get it all broken up. I put my grandchildren to work breaking up mine LOL.

(Zone 5b)

The area with the debris is just getting cleaned up, so I'm not sure what's in there yet. Lots of real rocks, too. You'd think my husband was pulling up diamonds out there, I get so excited when a rock comes up. It will be fun, anyway! Post pics as you go along!

Middle River, MD

Good, I'm not the only one who thought - hey free rocks! HEY FREE GARDEN BORDER! YIPPEE! HEY HONEY, WE CAN USE THIS TO MAKE ME A RAISED VEGGIE BED! honey answers with a grunted "We? what? veggie bed?"

I've seen this done where it looks awesome also seen it where it looks pretty crappy.
I'm hoping for more of the awesome look.

As we are still in the beginning planning stages, i thought I would build as high as possible with the materials we have. It needs to be at least 18 inches high just to prevent the dog from watering it.

I'm thinking that the wall will end up being 24" high by 12" wide so I can sit on it to garden. the bed's inside dimensions will be about 3.5' x 18'. Just enough for me to do my thing.

I'm still trying to figure out whether to use mortar or construction adhesive, how we will support it from the inside if needed and how we will afford to rent the concrete saw to get this stuff cut into useable chunks. It may end up being a few weekends of sledgehammering if we cant rent the thing. I'm not sure how we would get the stuff busted up evenly with out one. cold chisel maybe?

I'm looking forward to seeing the other dger's projects take shape.

Currently my veggies are all in large bright yellow cat litter buckets. not pretty but gets the job done and the veggies seem pretty happy.

Now the next question... what do I fill it with? Mel's mix, cornell mix, lasagna garden stuff?

thanks all

(Zone 5b)

Philsgal, here are some husband & I pretty much just researched online & did it. We did get a masonry chisel to break up the rocks, and we did the gravel trench & the tieback pieces (longer stones going back to front for stability). We used pallets of fieldstone, which is harder than stackstone but I'm sure waaay easier than concrete chunks. Ours is called mountain laurel or rainbow rock. The colors helped tie in the house, driveway, etc.....we did use the level to keep it, well, level :) The second link has more links to mortar stones & whatnot.

Middle River, MD

Lynnie, I'd love to see some pix!

thanks for the links too.

My brain is now officially in "concrete raised veg bed mode" and running a million miles an hour with ideas. :-D

Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

I think the beauty of "rocks" is in their imperfection. That's why I went with the sledgehammer approach. The "cutting" with the machine had to be done in a straight line to keep with the property line. Then the triangular slab was cut into LARGE chunks and later broken with the sledgehammer. The sidewalk was "busted"into chunks with a sledgehammer starting on the edges. Once you get some "air" under a piece, it breaks pretty easily. The big rocks in the pile you see were further reduced by placing them on top of another rock, and hitting them with the sledgehammer. I'm only 4'9" and I could do it myself. In fact, when I was moving some of the larger ones and tossed them wherever I could, if they landed on another rock, they broke by themselves. I still need to break more down into usable sizes. No DH to help, here. I'm doing it myself. Stubborn old woman.

If you're thinking about cutting yours into even pieces (like large bricks) it would be interesting to see the pattern and effect you'd get on the outer edge. It would be a lot easier to stack them and cement them if they were uniform in size. I just prefer the random pattern made by breaking with the sledgehammer. I'm more of a "cottage" garden person where things sort of evolve on their own. In fact, until I saw some of the posts on DG and GardenWeb, I was going to use bricks to edge my beds. Now I'm definitely set on using my "free rocks" for a more casual look. When the weather cools off a bit and I start making the beds, I'll post more photos. You guys do the same. I don't think I've seen this done before. Maybe we have started a whole new area of recycling. :-)

Middle River, MD

Actually Judy, I do prefer the broken, natural look, but I think cutting it evenly may be easier to lay.

Or is my thinking flawed? Would the jagged edges actually set and hold the mass together kind of like a puzzle.
I do think at the very least the capstones and 'dead men' would have to be cut to achieve the right size and shape.

Maybe a chisel may be better for the look and shaping. or a combo of chisel and masonry saw. Ya know saw it out then rough it up and fit it with a chisel.

We still have no clue how thick it is. We don't think it has rebar in it. It's been here since the house was built in the 50s so I'm hoping that maybe it will crumble easier because it is old.

I can't wait to see pix of yours too Judy.
It can be a really beautiful material if done right.

these are the examples that inspired this whole idea. well that and our lack of funds

about halfway down the page on this one. i love the thyme planted in the cracks

I have alot of work ahead of me!
If i didn't have to cook dinner soon I'd be out there now with a sledgehammer!

(Zone 5b)

I didn't ("I" ok I mean "he" lol) use any machine, just a chisel to chip a piece out if it was needed to fit. Iove the pics in the link....I was thinking if you have raised beds, if you step the concrete back the soil of the bed should help hold it.....that's what we did with ours, they were raised beds just because the yard slopes. One end of one wall was about a foot high with the other being 2 1/2 feet. The other side was even, they're foundation beds. My 3rd one is just on the side of the garage, it's also a raised bed & I put roses in there... it's been raining buckets, I'll get pics & post them...I have some pics on davesgarden from when we first built the beds, but I'm not sure if they show the walls, I was looking for landscaping help...I'll check....
Rachel make sure to wear goggles to protect your eyes.

(Zone 5b)

here's one tiny part of the wall.....

And Judy I like your style! You probably do more with determination than others with brawn!

Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

Boy! Love those links. The first one shows a lot of time and effort to get the "rocks" fitted just right and it looks like the concrete has aged a lot. You can't tell the difference between that and real rocks. If that's what ours will look like in a few years, Rachel, I'm really enthusiastic about doing it.

In the second photo, the concrete still looks fairly new ... or newly cut/broken. Not as much effort was taken to fit the rocks together but the thyme "flowing" out of the cracks gives a nice effect. That's what I love about the "cottage" look ... just do whatever floats your boat.

Lynnie your wall is beautiful. Took a lot of effort to do that, I'm sure. I do not envy you the job of lifting all those stones. Your selection of plants is most interesting. I have never seen one of those Walking Sticks thingies. I am still learning and trying to choose what will go where. I love seeing whole sections of gardens (as opposed to closeups of just one or two blooms) where you can see the relationship of the house to the gardens/beds, what kinds of plants grow well in different parts of the country, and I love seeing what kind of house everyone lives in and how the style goes with their garden. (Nosy me!)

And, yes, I'm kinda tough and determined. When you're my size you have to be or people leave footprints all over your face LOL. I have been an Army widow since I was 33 (just turned 70 in April) and you have to learn to do things for yourself. We had not been married long and he had introduced me to gardening. He had worked at a nursery all through high school and was wonderful with plants. He bought me a pallet of bricks for Mother's Day (it was my crazy request) and I built a brick walkway and low wall for a flower bed. Loved doing it. After he died I lost interest. It sort of "renewed" about 10 years ago and I'm trying to make up for lost time. It's slow going but I'm determined. Now, if I can just get those beds dug and edged ... :-)

(Zone 5b)

Judy I am your size lol so I know what you sounds like your husband left you a great gift, a love of gardening.
I have done more to the landscaping in that section, I'll try to take some better pictures of the front & post them. Harry only went there because I didn't have anywhere else to put him at the time, he's moving to a new spot in the fall. :) Those walking sticks get 8-10 feet tall. I made a new bed with a weeping norway spruce & a red smokebush and some other shrubs, he'll go in there. Walking sticks are contorted shrubs...the branches & leaves twist and turn, and in the fall they get big yellow catkins on them...I love them. that was a mother's day gift, too.
I didn't realize concrete aged like that either. Nice!

Middle River, MD

Lynnie, that is a really nice wall. That's the type of material we would be using if we had $$$ right now. not only for the veg garden, but all along the foundation of the house. be a homemaker - the sacrifices we make with only 1 income. it's ok, my kids will thank me when they're older. :)

We are planning on stepping the wall back for more support 1/2" per row seems to be the magic number.

Judy, your dh brought you a pallet of bricks for mother's day that's sooo sweet. My dh built me a compost pile for valentines day five years ago. my mom said "a compost pile for valentine's day - how nice (dripping with sarcasm)" nope, I'm not a flowers and candy girl - give me a rose bush instead of getting me that dozen roses.

It would be great if all of us could post pix of progress. I think we'll help each other, but there are so few pictures of this type of thing on the net, we may even inspire somebody else.

Think about the savings of every aspect -
1. depaving. the world needs less concrete and asphalt. I live right on a major tributary to my beloved Chesapeake bay and the less runoff we have from our yards to the storm drains to the creeks the better off we are. unless you replace pulled concrete with another non permeable material that is. we will be filling part of the hole left from removal so we get more lawn.
2. saving a gazillion tons of stuff from the landfill. Here in Baltimore county, our landfills are reaching capacity so recycling everything possible is important to me.
3. Money to buy rock, money to break old concrete, money to haul it away. nuff said there
4. it looks really good! I love the look of stone walls, and as this stuff ages, it really starts to take on a more rock-like appearance. I may even see if I can get some moss to grow on the shadier side of the wall
5. pride. I will be very happy when I get to show my friends and family what I've (dh will help, but mostly it will be me) done with some nasty looking concrete chunks. the pride of having accomplished something good for me, my family and the earth. not to mention all of the delicious food I will be able to grow, organically of course.

I am so stoked about this project!
Lynnie and Judy thanks so much for your input.

(Zone 5b)

hey Rachel the kids are your most important resource! They're worth the sacrifice. :)

(Zone 5b)

look what I got!

Thumbnail by Lynnie6868
Middle River, MD

Beautiful, but how ya gonna move those behemoths? prybar & muscle?
Where are you going to put them? I'd love to see them in situ.

I'm working on the landscape plan now. I'll also be redoing my front & side beds (with free black plastic edging till I can do better - maybe xtra concrete?) this year and though it would be good to have at least some of my ducks in a row before I start. then again, flying by the seat of my pants is my specialty. that's just how i roll.

If all goes well we will be starting demo in mid september.

I am PSYCHED! Cant wait to see the progress from everybody and all the different ways to utilize this material. One man's trash...

(Zone 5b)

lol that's right, the man I got these from has tons on his acres of land, his trash my treasure :)...we have a big tractor thingy here right now, I know where 2 of them are going but I better quick figure out the rest before the tractor is gone

Middle River, MD

The spotted one on the right would look nice half buried with a ring of annuals around it.

(Zone 5b)

I can do that :)

Arlington, TX

A neighbor in MI used salvaged concrete and his looked pretty good as walls. One trick he used was to plant into the wall itself to soften the look. Try a practice dry stack wall and see if it looks the way you want before you begin on a large scale. I do this with most of my hardscaping just to make sure its what I want.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

When I was very young, we moved to a house where the backyard had a deep slope and was just a mud hole at the bottom. My father used broken pieces of concrete sidewalk to build a retaining wall, flat side out and concrete in between the pieces. He used pieces to make stepping-stones, 2 stairs with concrete, a patio with concrete, and a 2 tall stacked wall around the patio. There were different type of succulents between the pieces, vines on the steepest slope, and all types of flowers going up from the sitting area of the patio. I saw some photos of him building all of that. Talk about working hard and doing backbreaking work! It is hard to believe that he did all of that by himself.

(Zone 5b)

Venice that sounds gorgeous! Newton I was told I get one shot to get those rocks in the right place lol

Arlington, TX

Now I want some concrete!

Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

Wow! Lynnie. Those "boulders" are beautiful. Can't wait to see how and where you use them. Looking with envy at all that wonderful flat land.

LOL, Newton. "Urbanite" does invite creativity. And "free" is the best kind. Like, you, I can't wait to work with mine but it has been 90+ degrees here for weeks and August is usually our worst month for high temps. I'm probably looking at fall before I can even get started. Our first frost doesn't come until mid to late November. I'm going to use my "rocks" in the back first to see how it goes, then I'll use them in the front if they look okay.

Rachel, I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants too, LOL. I confess to doing a lot of "constructive" staring before I do anything because, with just myself to do anything and my being an old lady, I don't want to have to move things around too many times.

Lynnie, keep posting photos of your "boulder" project. Those things are really gorgeous. I'm jealous!!


Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

philsgal,great thread,a friend of ours used broken concrete to build fairly large retaining walls ,they are beautiful,had no idea that is was urbanite !! until he told me what it was.I will try to stop and get a picture of it.We live on a nice hill,our house is a walkout basement,so we had to terrace all the way around the house.32 ton of field stone,3 loads10,10 ,12,ton. That started in 1980,Iam still building with rocks !!! I love it. Cant wait to see what you do .early spring pic we are working on this area now.

Thumbnail by huggergirl
(Zone 5b)

Huggergirl that's pretty! I think I've seen pics of your property...did you post some somewhere sounds familiar.
Judy this flat yard drove me development, square boring house on flat about a blank slate...I was uninspired and at a loss what to do. And this is before I discovered I liked gardening. I made a mess of the front the first go round.
Philsgal I'd like to see yours as you go along too. Boy we'll be some strong women come fall won't we lol

Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

Lynnie6868,Yes you have ,cottage gardening or uppermidwest. And rock wrangling will make you strong !! I should of taken more pics when we started out 25yrs ago,Ive changed it more than once,Iam really working on the cottage look now,from rock garden,always a work in progress:)

(Zone 5b)

Hugger isn't it funny when you start out one way then end up going another way? The hardest part is explaining to my husband.......
rock wrangling hahaha I'm gonna get a cowboy hat *grin*

Middle River, MD

Venice, that sounds really cool! Got any pictures?
Newton, Put an ad on craigslist for free concrete haul away. I'm sure you'll get some offers. I plan to do that in the future when I'm ready to do the front garden bed.
huggergirl, I would love to see a pic of that retaining wall. Please share if you can.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

I haven't been there in many years. And sorry to say, I don't have any photos. My father did all of that work over 50 years ago. If you have any questions, I could expain it further.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

There are some sites on the Internet about how to build a wall with used sidewalk. You have to make a footing, put concrete between the pieces, reinforce the wall, put in some type of drainage, don't disturb the existing soil, and compact the rest. They give abbreviated directions of how to build the wall by stacking the pieces.

My father made a 3 1/2 foot tall retaining wall so the smooth side was along where you walked. It held back a fairly steep slope with honeysuckle and I have no idea how he actually did it. There was a drain on the ground beside the wall so he must have put in some drainage tile. The short sitting wall didn't have concrete but the pieces were stacked. I have no idea how he held back the soil. Or how he did the stairs or patio. Everything was in pretty good shape the last time I saw them. He was an engineer so he was clever about those things!

I guess that is all I can tell you!

Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

philsgal,we are going to get the harleys out today and we will stop and take some pics for you.

Middle River, MD

Thank you. Looking forward to seeing it. Have a nice ride!

Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

philsgal,heres the photos,

Thumbnail by huggergirl
Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)


Thumbnail by huggergirl
Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)


Thumbnail by huggergirl

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