eBook review – Cinder Block Gardens

Cinder Block Gardens Book


My interest in this book was originally due to the fact that my own wooden raised beds are rotting away. So I was thinking about using concrete tiles as building blocks instead. Then I saw this eBook and liked the idea of using cinder blocks instead. I did some research and found out that cinders blocks are used around here too for construction. They’re called foundation blocks.
The 224-page eBook is written by Lynn Mentgen-Gillespie, who has 13 years of experience in gardening, with her father Glen Mentgen as co-author. Lynn lives in the Colorado Rockies with her family. The price was $19.95 and you can buy it here.

What is the principle of Cinder Block Gardens?

The method described in the book for growing your own food actually looks pretty general, and it’s not exclusively for cinder block gardens. If you know a little about gardening you can probably recognize these steps:

  1. Decide a location for your garden (south, east, north, west)
  2. Order materials and build your garden. This is special compared to row-gardening
  3. Produce your own soil. This is highly recommended for Cinder block gardens, but could be applied to wooden raised beds too.
  4. Sow or plant
  5. Water and remove weed throughout the growing season
  6. Mulch
  7. Harvest
  8. Feed the soil
  9. Evaluate and go back to 4) or 1)

What I like about Cinder Block Gardens

First of all, it was nice that I was able to see the whole table of content before buying, but that’s not really related to the eBook itself.

  • It’s a practical book. There’s a certain method to be followed throughout the book, towards growing your own food. It’s what I would call a good down to earth explanation of the gardening principle πŸ˜‰
  • Lynn and I share the same values that drives us to do this kind of work. Things like the quality of what we eat, respect for other living creatures and respect for the environment.
  • There’s a sense of purpose in doing gardening the way she describes. It’s not just about doing the mechanical work, but it’s also about improving our health and the the health of our children.
  • She writes from 13 years of experience and includes personal stories
  • The location of your garden is discussed. I haven’t given this much thought myself but I think I have underestimated that.
  • She explains ways to add trellis to a Cinder Block garden. That was a positive surprise I hadn’t contemplated.
  • The important role of aisles between raised beds is discussed
  • Pictures and illustrations are used throughout the contents. I really like that I can see what she’s talking about. I guess I’m a highly visual person.
  • The Magic Soil Mix: This is a big one. There’s a lot of experience packed into that one. The whole idea of designing your own soil is new to me, and I think this is something I need to embrace in the future, if I want to take my gardening to a new level.
  • Seeds, planting and transplanting are described very well and thoroughly.
  • I’m not a mulcher myself, but again I think this is something I’ll be looking into in the future. Her description of mulching is an eye opener and I feel inspired to give it a try.
  • I like the informative part on low water gardening
  • The chapter about pest control acts as a good reference. I was pleasantly surprised to find advice on cats πŸ˜‰

What I DON’T like about Cinder Block Gardens

  • I’m not sure what her father is doing in this book. I think Lynn would do just fine without the few pages that relates to him. It’s a bit confusing.
  • Much energy is used on how to save money. Maybe this energy could be converted into creating more and better food. For instance a chapter or small eBook on how to make money from selling food.
  • There’s a big overlap between growing food in wooden raised beds and cinder block gardens, for instance the chapter on the weed free garden. I expected this book to be more cinder block specific. I’ve already written about the advantages of growing food in wooden raised beds. I think there are quite a few chapters, that I really didn’t expect in a book about cinder blocks gardens, because they’re more general gardening advice:
    – Soil
    – Fertilizer and compost
    – Seeds, planting and transplanting
    – Season extenders
    If these were the areas I wanted information about I don’t think my first choice would have been the Cinder Block Gardens eBook.
  • I didn’t find the chapter about the different sizes of cinder block beds particularly useful. It’s fine to describe the first standard unit but from there I prefer to just do the calculations to match the particular space requirements. It’s not like it’s a tough calculation or anything.
  • I find the chapter about planting in the holes unnecessary. I imagine I would just go by feel and explore the possibilities myself.
  • I don’t think I will ever use the vegetable reference guide, since it depends on what kinds of seeds I’ll be inspired to get each season. Usually there’s a good description on the paper envelopes. I’ll just do the math on the fly if I’ll do any at all.
  • Anything to do with chemicals I would prefer was kept out of a book about gardening

Who should buy this book

I think this is a very good beginners book on vegetable gardening in general. It takes you all the way from scratch and up to a fully functional food producing garden. There’s a clear method to be followed all the way from start to finish, where you have your vegetables in your hand. Also, you shouldn’t be afraid of doing things in a new way, and answer questions from curious visitors or neighbours.

4 comments on “eBook review – Cinder Block Gardens

  1. -

    I considered buying this book but have decided I can figure it out on my own. I too use raised beds (wood) for years and will now go to concrete block (split face) for a more permanent landscaped structure. In your general review and in particular the portion of what you ‘didnt like’ about this book I note, between the lines, you may be familiar with Mel Bartholemews instructions in “Square Foot Gardening”. In my view he is the father or modern urban gardening. It would be my recommendation to any gardener novice or otherwise to have his book has the basis from which all backyard gardening should be based. What ever materials you choose to use to construction your garden, his phylosophy should be at the center.

  2. -

    May I add a note the the comment on Mel Bartholomew’s book on SFG. The mix referred to in the book is missing one crucial element: Dolomite (or, Dolomitic Lime). He mentions it as a side note, but too often I have been into these little Mom-n-Pop garden stores to see them selling all the things you need to do it “correctly” according to the book, only to hear how frustrated people are when they get home and the resulting crop is weak. I am a Mississippi Master Gardener, and out of experience I will tell you that Ph of the soil is as critical as the Big-3 (NPK). Without the correct Ph, your plants can’t absorb the nutrients in the soil, if they even grow at all. Be sure to check it a couple times a year. You can get some very inexpensive, acceptable test kits at your local garden store, or send in a soil sample to your local County Extension Service office for detailed analysis.
    PS. If you look on youtube you could look up a gentleman by the name of Jon E Hughes who has a VERY impressive cinder block garden and offers tons of advice and detailed videos of every step of the way. Highly recommended viewing!
    Hope this helps. πŸ™‚

  3. -

    @John: I searched the Cinder Block Gardens ebook to find out if Dolomite was mentioned. It wasn’t but I found something about pH:

    “I don’t have the time for soil tests, figuring out pH, deciding on what type of fertilizer to add if something is missing. When I want to grow some vegetables, I want to go out to the garden and plant.”


    “The compost feeds the soil, microbes and worms, the sand keep the water from drowning the plants and allows proper air flow to the roots and the humus retains moisture for the plants to have a consistent place to get a drink. I don’t have to add any extra ingredients, no pH tests, I don’t have to figure out what type of soil I have…I know, because I made it! This is easy gardening for a busy person.”

    It looks like some people are able to get the results they want, but I would measure the pH level too, like you recommend. Preferably with my small garden computer πŸ˜‰ (I don’t know if it’s even possible to do electronically, but it would be a cool thing to add to my temperature/moisture logging system).

    Thanks for the tip about Jon E. Hughes. I’ll head over to YouTube and see if I can find a good video to share.

    And Happy New Year – may it bring you plenty of great veggies! πŸ˜€

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