Hi, Ken, Here is some advice, courtesy of our Almanac Garden Planner App experts:
1) + 2) There are lots of conflicting opinions on this, and it will depend on the type of dye used on the cement bricks you buy - I can only advise you to call the manufacturer. If you're concerned you can use clay bricks, or line the inside of the bed, and underside of the bottom row of cement bricks, with plastic to prevent any possible leaching.
3) + 4) Cement and mortar can raised the pH over time (making it more alkaline) but this does take a very long time - I would only be concerned if you're growing acid-loving plants such as blueberries. Normal mulching using leaves, pine needles etc for acid-loving plants should be sufficient, or you could also incorporate sulphur chips into the soil (not for other fruits or veggies though).
5) The best way to suppress the crabgrass within the bed would be to lay a permeable membrane down on the base soil (eg landscape fabric, which can be bought from most gardening stores) and install your beds on top. The permeable membrane will prevent the crabgrass from growing up into your bed, while still allowing free drainage.
6) About 12" depth is sufficient for most veggies (even potatoes, since normally you hill up earth around potatoes rather than planting them particularly deeply), but if the bed is very small it might be better to allow for a bit more, especially if using a permeable membrane at the base. A larger, deeper bed will also retain moisture better and cool down more slowly in the fall than one that is small and shallow.
I hope that helps!
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