How to make raised beds with railway sleepers

Written by alexis lawrence
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How to make raised beds with railway sleepers
Old railway sleepers can be used to create raised planting beds. (Railway Track image by TNK from

If you have poor soil conditions for growing plants, herbs, flowers or vegetables, a raised garden bed provides a fertile area for your plants to thrive. Walls for a raised bed can be created using a variety materials. Many gardeners choose railway sleepers to create a natural wood environment that blends well with the rest of their landscaping.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Railway sleepers
  • Circular saw or chain saw
  • 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 inch) wood screws
  • Metal plate connectors
  • 10 cm (4 inch) wood screws
  • Drill
  • Newspaper
  • Garden hose
  • Peat moss
  • Organic matter
  • Rake or pitchfork

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  1. 1

    Calculate the number of sleepers you need for your raised bed. According to the Railway Sleeper website, the average sleeper size is 2.55 m (8 feet 6 inches) long, 25 cm (10 inches) wide and 12.5 cm (5 inches) deep. The number of sleepers you'll need for your raised bed depends on the size of your desired bed. When calculating, remember that you need to make your bed at least four sleepers tall.

  2. 2

    Arrange railway sleepers into a rectangle or square on the ground. If the sleepers need trimming, cut them to size using a circular saw or a chain saw.

  3. 3

    Connect sleepers end-to-end using metal plate connectors. Center the metal plate connector over the gap where two sleepers meet and place a 10 cm (4 inch) wood screw into each hole to hold the plate in place. If you want your raised bed to be extra secure, place a second metal plate connector on the opposite side of the sleepers as well.

  4. 4

    Attach railway sleepers to each other at the corners using a drill and 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 inch) wood screws. Wood screws do not require pre-drilling and can bore directly through sleepers. Connect the corners by drilling two to three wood screws through the entire width of one sleeper, into the end of the adjacent sleeper.

  5. 5

    Stack sleepers on top of the first set. Attach the sleepers to the bottom rectangle or square in the same way that you attached the bottom sleepers to each other, except drill the timber screws through the top sleepers into the bottom pieces. Also, connect the sleepers to each other as you did the first row, end-to-end.

  6. 6

    Continue stacking sleepers on top of each other until your wall is at least 45 cm (18 inches) high, though it can be higher if you prefer. Continue to use wood screws to connect the sleepers to each other.

  7. 7

    Fill the sleeper bed with garden soil to complete your growing space. Plant your flowers or vegetables according to the directions on the seed or seedling packages.

Tips and warnings

  • In general, a smaller raised bed works well for growing flowers, while a larger bed gives you the space needed for growing a garden. When creating your raised bed, choose a location in your garden that benefits the plants you're growing. If you plan to grow a garden or a summer flower bed within the sleepers, place the bed where it will receive full sun during the day. Create a fertile growing space by layering organic materials inside the sleeper bed a few months before planting. Begin with 10 sheets of wet newspaper, cover it with a layer of moss and top it with a variety of normal compost materials, such as food bits, manure, mulch and leaves. Use 30 cm (12 inches) of organic materials for the best results. Water the bed each week, except when temperatures freeze. The matter will decompose and create a fertile base in which your plants will thrive.

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