A raised bed is the perfect way to grow vegetables and flowers as they help improve the health of your plants. They are also easier to maintain without bending over and can add visual interest to your garden. A simple and affordable way to make a raised garden bed is with railway sleepers. They are easy to assemble and can be made taller than usual to increase their depth.
Step 1: Digging
When it comes to building a raised garden bed, there are some different options available. You can use a flat-pack kit that’s cut to size, or you can build the bed yourself from scratch. Before you start digging, you should have a plan for where you want to build your bed. This could be in your side yard, front yard, or even a driveway. You’ll also need to consider how tall you would like your bed to be. This is important, as it will affect your access and the height of your plants.
Next, you must dig a hole for the support posts at each end of your raised garden bed. These should be around half the depth of the sleepers you’re sinking in. Then, lay your sleepers on top of the ground in a rectangular shape with the narrowest ends facing up and the wider sides on the ground. Attach them using 150mm timber screws.
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Step 2: Laying the Sleepers
Once you’ve dug your trench, you must lay the sleepers on it. This is a simple process that involves laying a concrete bed about 50mm-100mm deep, allowing for a bit of space behind the sleepers. Alternatively, you could use wooden stakes to secure the sleepers into place. This works well on soft or rocky ground.
The next step is to decide how to fill your steps with a medium such as soil, grass, shingle, or chippings. If you’re using soil and grass, make your bed a level surface by compacting it and ensuring it’s leveled with a spirit level. When laying the sleepers, overlap the right-angled corners for added stability and strength. You can also use corner brackets and fixing plates for extra support if you build several layers.
Step 3: Attaching the Front Supports
A raised garden bed is a great way to grow vegetables and flowers, especially when you have sloping or uneven ground. They are easy to maintain and can look beautiful, with perennials filling in during the winter and annuals blooming during the summer. A standard-sized raised garden bed should have 12 to 24″ of soil depth below it, depending on which crops you want to grow. You can stack your 2 x 6s to make higher beds if you need extra height for plants with deeper roots.
Next, attach the first frame to one of your corner posts with two screws. Screw in each side until you have a complete row of frames. If you want to add a little extra stability, consider using full-dimension lumber instead of the nominal cut that you’ll get from your local lumber store. This will strengthen your raised garden bed and ensure that the frame doesn’t shift under its weight.
Step 4: Filling the Bed
The bed’s core should be filled with rotting organic materials such as straw bales, twigs, and leaves. These should be left outside during the winter to break down and make the core free for use. The material should be buried about 10-12 inches deep in the bed, filling the gaps and smothering any weeds that may sprout from the rotting matter. This technique, known as hugelkultur gardening, is a natural way to build up the soil of a raised garden bed.
To create a more permanent garden bed, fill it with topsoil from your yard or purchase nutrient-rich mix from the garden store. However, the best results come from using soil native to your area, providing the plants with essential nutrients.
Building raised garden beds from sleepers can be a rewarding experience and provide years of enjoyment. It may be intimidating, but with the right tools and materials, building raised garden beds from sleepers is within reach for most people. The raised garden bed will allow you to comfortably tend to your plants and achieve professional-looking results for any outdoor area. Properly maintained raised garden beds built from sleepers should last a lifetime. This is an ideal weekend project for anyone looking to make their home more enjoyable or increase its value.