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Concrete Block rubble uses?

 
master gardener
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Good Morning,

I have been tirelessly cleaning up areas of my property as well as some nearby woods that has been littered on for quite a long time by the amount of junk I have pulled out of it. Something that has been plaguing me has bee the amount of partial or mostly whole concrete blocks that are scattered about. They are heavy, numerous, and expensive to have them disposed of at a waste facility to only then be added to a landfill?

What ideas could I come up with for rubble concrete? It is ugly and hard to dress up. Kind of like an urbanization scar tissue that is left about. Would I be foolish just to make a rubble pile on a corner of the property to make critter habitat out of? Maybe take the mostly whole concrete block pieces and put them in a hole in the ground to make a type of hibernaculum perhaps? Cover it with the flatter or smaller pieces in a low lying wall on top?

Any concerns I should have?

Thank you for your thoughts.
 
pollinator
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Do you have any low areas you want to raise up? At my new property there are lots of tractor ruts so I've been filling them in with broken bricks and covering with a layer of char.
Tractor-Ruts.jpg
[Thumbnail for Tractor-Ruts.jpg]
 
master steward
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What about using some of the pieces to make pathways?

Dig down so that the pieces lay flat with the ground.
 
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Broken up they work well to fill soft spots on trails.  As you drive on them they will get pushed into the mud, then dump some more on.
 
gardener
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I just used some to make a rough foundation under a file cabinet.
The cabinet will be holding up one end of a grow table.
 
pollinator
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I, too, was thinking they could be used as walkways, but another way they could be used is to line a garden edge with them--holes up.  You could plant within the holes things that might otherwise spread or not--chives, strawberries, flowers, etc.  You could also build 3 sided composters with them. You could uses them in a sun ray fashion around trees to protect from weed wacking and the like...It's a good dilemma to have!
 
pollinator
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We too have urban rocks.  I mostly use them as edging for beds.  They work nicely and after plants grow in they aren't even ugly.   😂
 
gardener
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Are you in a colder wetter climate?  What about making an herb spiral type bed…

Or a dry stacked retaining wall,

Do you have a cob project in mind?  They could make the base, to keep the cob out of contact with soil moisture…. And then could be incorporated into the cob bench, oven, sculpture, what ever…

Incorporating rocks and chunks of concrete is common, just have to have adequate cob surrounding each piece.  It’s cob you don’t have to mix.

I’ve seen  cattle guards made out of concrete block, and driveway made of concrete block holes vertical, filled with soil and seeded …. It allows rain to soak in instead of running off.

Possibly you will find so many things to do with them you’ll come to consider them a resource and then you’ll miss them when they’re gone!

 
master pollinator
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Well, they make fantastic hidden base material for an herb spiral, that’s for sure. Keep them below the soil and no one will ever know.

j

Timothy Norton wrote:Good Morning,

I have been tirelessly cleaning up areas of my property as well as some nearby woods that has been littered on for quite a long time by the amount of junk I have pulled out of it. Something that has been plaguing me has bee the amount of partial or mostly whole concrete blocks that are scattered about. They are heavy, numerous, and expensive to have them disposed of at a waste facility to only then be added to a landfill?

What ideas could I come up with for rubble concrete? It is ugly and hard to dress up. Kind of like an urbanization scar tissue that is left about. Would I be foolish just to make a rubble pile on a corner of the property to make critter habitat out of? Maybe take the mostly whole concrete block pieces and put them in a hole in the ground to make a type of hibernaculum perhaps? Cover it with the flatter or smaller pieces in a low lying wall on top?

Any concerns I should have?

Thank you for your thoughts.

 
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Timothy Norton wrote:Good Morning,
Maybe take the mostly whole concrete block pieces and put them



as walls for a raised bed garden maybe 3 ft wide and 10 to 15 ft long.
I have four such beds and they work well. It does take a LOT of soil to fill those up though.
Maybe you could have someone with a Tractor & Bucket skim off top soil from a field and fill those for you.

A 3 ft X 15 ft block build would take about 1 1/3 cubic yards of soil to fill it.
 
Timothy Norton
master gardener
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I have some work to do, still gathering up the pieces that are scattered about. Once I do that, I will know how much rubble I have to work with. I'm really hoping for it to be on the less than more side but we will do what we got to do regardless!

If I have only a small amount of rubble, I'm building a 'rock' pile habitat on a corner of my property that has an old foundation still partially in the ground. I am experimenting with propagating moss indoors and will be creating a moss slurry to paint over the rock habitat. With a little luck, and some moisture, I will make use of the concrete's surface pores to be an anchor point for a moss sanctum. It makes sense in my head!

If I have a lot, I'm really tempted by the bed idea. I always love an excuse to delineate and develop a new garden!
 
pollinator
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Will just add to what others have posted....save them in a pile for a future project.  If you were closer, I would rent a trailer and take as much off your hands as I could!  As others have noted, minimally they are good as base material.....in low spots that need raising, as edging for planter boxes, etc.  Worth keeping around!...
 
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Timothy.  I have had my share of "old weathered brick" and concrete block in my yard.  I don't have any solution for you. Everything I have tried to use has essentially broke up on me in a 4-season state bordering Canada; and most failures were on a sloped path through my raspberry beds.

But for others who may consider using old concrete it in some kind of construction, you may want to read an article on "the lack of value"of trying to repurpose burnt concrete, such as from a house fire.  Recently an article was written about this in the Journal of Light Construction (mostly home, garage, and deck  Construction @ JLC ONLINE.COM, JLC / NOVEMBER /OCTOBER 2023. You can register for free.  They usually want to know what is the nature of your work that would warrant them sending you a monthly e-copy of their magazine (and probably to satisfy their advertisers.   This article discusses how to test what parts of concrete may still be good and reusable from what it not good; and how concrete changes color when fired.  It is a short read, but full of useful information; and actually it could be valuable information if you were ever to buy a property with a foundation that may have once was been burnt.
 
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Will the composition of the concrete blocks harm the soil? If not, you could use them to fill in groundhog holes.
 
Mark Yates
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Nancy, there have been many different generations of concrete; and even to this day many different formulations for concrete.  I would guess that concrete is not so healthy for the soil; and if it breaks easily in freeze-thaw ground it won't be so desirable for nearby roots.  On the other hand, farmers in Wisconsin, especially in the non-glacial part of wisconsin, the "Coulee Region" (in the south called Hallars) would dump their debris down steep slopes and when they were full(er) they would add some top soil to protect their land from further erosion at the slopes.  
 
pollinator
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I use concrete blocks to raise my bath tub gardens. Ground squirrels eat anything that I plant in the ground, except for potatoes. They can’t climb bath tubs that sit on blocks. It’s easier to outsmart them than to try to get rid of them.
 
pollinator
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Add some mortar, reinforcement (like rebar down through the blocks' holes) and waterproofing on the outsides, and build yourself an in-ground root cellar!  Provided your water table is not too high, of course

I used mine to make raised garden beds with the holes up to hold marigolds or other smallish plants around the edges of the raised beds.   You can make compost bins, dog agility stuff, playhouses for the kiddos, backstops for target practice (may need several layers!)  windbreaks for tender young trees' first few years... and if you think they look unsightly, paint them some color to either blend in with their surroundings or complement your home or barn colors.  You can set them in curves as well as just straight.  You can leave gaps for air flow or butt them up solid.  (I used to love making things with my styrofoam Flintstones Building Boulders set when I was a kid!  Like giant Legos if you're not familiar.)

Add them to a pond for protection of fish fry (babies.)

Last but not least, use them to create small microclimates for plantings that grow maybe one or two zones up from where you live.  They can be decent heat sinks in the sun as well as wind breaks.  If you have a greenhouse, use them as thermal mass.  Break them up with a sledge hammer and use them in a RMH bench.  (I'll stop now.)
 
master pollinator
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If the rubble is small enough, you could mulch a 12 inch circle around your tree trunks. This is the area we aren't supposed to place decomposing mulch.
 
pollinator
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I assume you're talking about concrete blocks like these?

I was left with a lot by former owners' projects. I use a lot for terracing on my steep hilly terrain.

One possible use for broken/rubble pieces is an underground drain channel -- a French drain.
 
pollinator
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I thought of the Dutch (garden) designer Louis Le Roy, who made so-called 'eco-cathedrals' of used bricks, concrete, etc. (in the 1960s).  I thought his intention was to let nature take over (the reason for calling it 'eco').
 
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A lot of great ideas here.

As has been mentioned, my mind went immediately to small builds like an oven.  I wouldn't expect cinder blocks to be appropriate for the hot environment, but could likely serve as a base.

I guess one of the key pieces is how much you ultimately have and what sort of condition.  As a poor student, cinder blocks and some plywood was a living room table.
 
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