Garden borders provide definition to garden beds and pathways, adding structure and visual interest. Rather than basic wood or metal borders, why not get creative with cinder blocks? These versatile concrete blocks can be used to make borders in a variety of interesting shapes and patterns. Cinder block borders are inexpensive, easy to install, and make a durable edging that will last for years.
With a bit of creativity, you can use standard cinder blocks to add geometric, flowing, or zig-zagged borders. They provide the perfect sturdy canvas to get artistic. Let’s dive into everything you need to know to build stunning cinder block garden borders that will elevate your landscape design.
Plan Your Cinder Block Garden Border
Careful planning is important when undertaking any new garden project. Building borders from cinder blocks involves determining the layout, calculating materials, and choosing the block styles. Advance planning will ensure your cinder block border is attractive, functional, and tailored to your specific garden.
Measure the Area
First, examine the garden space and decide on the shape and dimensions for your cinder block border. Consider the existing hardscape and plants you want to incorporate. Mark the outline with a hose or flour. This allows you to visualize the size and make adjustments as needed before installing the permanent border.
For straight borders, measure the total linear footage. For curved or zig-zagged borders, break the area into segments and measure each one. Account for the extra length needed if incorporating angles or corners into the border design.
Calculate Number of Blocks Needed
Standard cinder blocks are usually 8″ high by 16″ long. With the measurements of your planned border, you can calculate the approximate number of blocks required. One 8″ high, 16″ long cinder block will provide 16″ of linear border footage. For taller borders, allow for stacking blocks in two or more layers.
It’s smart to buy 10-20% more cinder blocks than your calculations suggest allowing for design changes, breakage, or the need to double stack blocks for added stability.
Choose Your Block Style
For a basic look, standard gray cinder blocks are a fine choice. But you can also find colored or textured cinder blocks to create a more unique style. Options include earth tones like terracotta or brown, eye-catching red or blue-grey blocks, and cinder blocks with a stone-like textured face. Split cinder blocks are also available which are the same 8″ height but only 8″ long.
Decorative blocks or those with beveled, scalloped or rounded edges provide more visual interest. Mixing standard blocks with specialty ones allows endless creativity. Consider combining blocks of different colors, sizes, or textures for a eclectic look.
Design Inspiration for Cinder Block Borders
From classic straight lines to fluid curves, cinder blocks can be arranged in many configurations. Look to these common design styles for inspiration when planning the layout of your unique garden border.
For a clean, elegant look, arrange standard cinder blocks end to end in a straight line. The blocks can be mortared together to create a continuous solid wall if desired. Straight borders are easy to measure and install. They create a crisp, linear definition between garden spaces.
Gentle sweeping curves add whimsical style to garden beds. Dry stacking the blocks allows you to create free-form curved borders. Use same-size blocks, or alternate with partial blocks to organically meander the border shape as desired. Curving borders soften hard angles and feel more naturalistic.
Alternating the direction of the cinder blocks creates a lively zig-zag edge. This cottage garden look pairs well with informal plantings. Extending certain blocks longer on the ends exaggerates the angled shape. Zig-zagging cinder block borders add energy and texture.
Geometric Pattern Borders
For a bolder, modern look, lay cinder blocks in geometric patterns. Classic options include herringbone or basketweave designs. Start by graphing the pattern to determine block placement and achieve symmetry. Geometric borders require more planning but deliver visual impact.
Building Your Cinder Block Border
Once your supplies are gathered based on the plan, it’s time to start building. Proper site preparation, careful block placement, and adding decorative accents will complete your unique cinder block garden border.
Preparing the Site
Mark the outline of your planned border with spray paint or stakes. The area should be leveled smoothly with no high or low spots. Use a shovel to remove sod and dig down 2-3 inches. Adding a gravel base improves drainage which is important for stability. A layer of sand on top of the gravel provides extra leveling.
Arranging the Blocks
Cinder blocks can simply be dry stacked without mortar, or mortared together for a permanent border. Overlap the blocks and alternate end-to-end joints from row to row for stability if not using mortar. Check that each block added is level and positioned squarely.
Partially bury the first course of blocks in the ground for anchoring. Stack additional courses to the desired height, alternating the seams. Avoid overly tall stacks which may topple. Staggering blocks creates visual interest.
Once the main border is stacks, add accents and fillers. Gravel or soil can fill block holes to discourage weeds. Contrasting colored gravel aggregates or pebbles create decorative patterns. Plants trailing over the edges soften the look.
Painting borders with masonry paint or applying colorful stains are other creative options. You can also mount address numbers or small decorative accents on the blocks for personalization.
Planting Your Cinder Block Border
Now for the fun part – selecting and placing the plants! Choose plants suited to the cinder block border height that will complement the design.
Choose Plants by Size
Low growing perennials like sedum, rock cress, oregano or thyme work well with shorter cinder block borders. For taller stacked borders, consider small shrubs or ornamental grasses under 3 feet tall. Vining annuals can be trellised on taller cinder block borders.
Filler Plants for Open Cores
The open cores of the cinder blocks provide perfect spots for small filler plants. Trailing succulents like burro’s tail or sempervivum add texture. Compact herbs or tiny cascading annuals like lobelia overflow the holes attractively.
Complementary Plants for Base
Choose plants in contrasting colors or textures to edge the outside of the border. Low carpet-style thyme or phlox hug the ground. Upright sedum or irises accentuate vertical borders. Repeat colors from block choices to tie together.
Caring for Your Cinder Block Border
Cinder block borders are relatively low maintenance, but still require care to stay looking neat. Follow these tips for keeping your border in top shape from season to season.
Weeding and Watering
Stay vigilant about promptly pulling any weeds around the blocks or growing in open cores before they get established. In dry weather, actively water the plants along the border to keep them thriving. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation are low effort watering methods.
Dealing with Erosion
Check borders after heavy rains for soil washout between blocks or plants subsiding. Relevel any blocks that shift. Adding mulch around plants retains moisture and minimizes erosion issues.
Extending Border Life
Over years of seasonal freeze and thaw, mortar may crack. Repair it to prevent blocks from moving. Level any blocks that settle or sink unevenly. Hand trimming plants keeps them fitting neatly within the allotted space.
Inspiring Examples of Creative Cinder Block Borders
The simple cinder block is amazingly versatile when it comes to garden borders. Take a look at these stunning designs and let your creativity be sparked!
Painting select blocks in an alternating color pattern transforms plain cinder blocks into mosaic works of art. Complement the blocks with low edging plants trailing over the edges for a softening effect.
Stacking blocks in stair-stepped tiers adds elevated interest. Varying the tiers with curves creates unique shapes. Underplanting with low growing flowers and foliage fills it out attractively.
With their perfect scale, succulents flourish planted in cinder block holes and crevices. Mix trailing, rosette, and upright varieties for diverse textures and colors. Thriving succulents cascade beautifully over the blocks.
Well-designed borders are an integral part of any garden layout. Cinder blocks provide ideal sturdy, adaptable material for edging beds in style. With smart planning and preparation, they can be arranged in endless configurations – straight, curved, or zig-zagged according to your vision.
Stacking and planting cinder blocks transforms a common, inexpensive material into a custom work of art. Cinder block borders require little maintenance while serving as the backbone of your garden design for years of enjoyment. We hope these tips have inspired you to get creative with cinder blocks to edge your garden beds and pathways with striking style.