Making raised garden beds from sleepers is a fantastic idea and when completed, it will provide us with more than just a raised bed. The finished raised bed frame will become a strong, sturdy structure and should last us for years. By accident rather than design, a raised bed made from sleepers can also become a seating area, that is if we use them on the flat. Just a slight word of caution here, when these railway sleepers were being made back in the day, they were not intended to become attractive garden features or accessories.
They were designed to hold rail tracks in position and were exposed to the elements, so they were possibly coated in a substance called creosote or tar bitumen. The creosote was a weatherproofing formula, designed to protect the sleepers from the elements and mainly to prevent the timbers from rotting. The sleepers or timbers that we can source at our timber/lumber merchants or garden centres are well preserved as a result and are safe to use for making raised garden beds.
Raised Beds from sleepers;
Regardless of whether we are using the sleepers as our flower, vegetable or shrub raised beds, they will look awesome if constructed properly. The fact is that these railway sleeper planks are pre-treated and do not need any further weather coating. The appearance of the planks when assembled will give that aged look to any garden and will feel that they have been there since day one. Your timber merchant may also have lengths of wood that resemble railway sleepers, so these can be used in the same way to fashion a vegetable raised bed.
These are possibly treated along the same lines as the sleepers and are good to go as well. If we have any concerns on the use of these timbers for growing our vegetables, it may be a good idea to line the inside of the bed frame with a membrane waterproof liner. This will ensure that the soil or veggies do not become in contact with the planks and any leeching from the planks is prevented.
Constructing Raised Beds from Sleepers;
The sleepers come in lengths of approx 8ft-9ft approx so three of these will be sufficient to make a sizeable planting bed for beginners. That would give us a standard sized bed frame measuring approx 4 ft x 8 ft. However, if we are laying these on the flat we may need two rows as they are only approx 4”-5″ high. If we decide to go the flat route, we will have a terrific sturdy structure and will make a great seating area as well. So lets look at placing the sleepers on edge for starters.
What we need to do is cut one of the planks in half, that will give us two lengths of wood approx 4ft each. Place the two full sleepers (standing on edge) parallel to each other, spaced approx 4ft apart, then butt-up the half lengths against these and attach or screw together with carraige bolts. These bolts need to be approx 8″ in length and will need pre-drilled holes for attachment. Secure firmly by means of these bolts and that gives you an awesome structure that will last a lifetime. It should be sturdy enough to contain the soil within and more often than not, don’t need any further reinforcements.
Cost of sleeper raised beds;
The cost of a raised bed made from sleepers could vary, depending on the grade of sleeper planks that we choose. At a discount if we were lucky, you could purchase the sleepers for $10. That would be a rock bottom, however we could pay $20-25 per sleeper and that may be a better grade of lumber. So on average a raised bed made from sleepers would set us back $100 or more. We need to factor in the cost of construction and extras like shipping, carraige bolts etc etc. But whatever the price, we can expect those raised beds to last us for decades.
There is not a whole lot more to add at this point except to say when we are using this system, its all about economics. By using the sleepers on the flat, it will be twice as expensive, rather than if we were to use them singularly on edge. Taking all of the above into account and if we have decided on what will look best, again depending on how much room we have at our disposal, making raised beds with sleepers will definitely look the part.
By taking our time and ensure we have selected a suitable, sunny location for these sleeper raised beds, because once we have assembled these, we definitely don’t want to be moving them again to another area. I would advise that we get a good tradesman for the construction of these as they are rather cumbersome and heavy to manoeuver and manipulate into place. Whatever way we want to go to work, this is just another option for us, on our journey of building raised garden beds. There are so many options available to us, all we have to do is be creative and use whatever we have at our disposal to make the most out of it.
I trust that this article was useful and informative. As always, please remember that we are a sociable lot here at buildingraisedbeds.com. If you would like to join in the conversation about making raised beds with sleepers, we would love if you would do so via the comments box and we will happily reply in due course.