Please find pictures of our four raised vegetable beds made from used tropical hardwood railway sleepers. We wanted something that would look aged and weathered, and match a cottage garden, yet which still had years of life left in them.
1) We marked out & levelled the 'footprint' that the railway sleepers were to sit on. As it was on a slope, some of the 'trenches' that the railway sleepers were to sit on were more buried into the ground than others, and so we decided on two layers, or 60cm (2 ft high). We allowed 1.2m (4ft) between each bed for mower and wheel barrow access.
2) We sorted through the railway sleepers (32 no. x 2.6m and 24 no. x 1.2m) so we could find matching pairs, and marked their sizes with chalk. That way we could deal with the inevitable discrepancies in length, and avoid any cutting! They were very heavy (about 100kg each for the 2.6m) and not for the faint hearted.
3) We placed the first layer of railway sleepers loosely in position, levelled them, pre-drilled the screw holes (essential) with a 6mm Makita wood drill, before connecting them together with the 200mm Timberlok sleeper screws. Really important to use a powerful drill (we used both a Metabo mains drill and a cordless 18v DeWalt)
4) We placed weed membrane inside each raised bed, followed by a thin layer of stone and rubble (which we had hanging around) and then filled them up with top soil, using 3 bulk bags per bed (12 tons in total). Luckily the top soil lorry had a crane and could just reach each bed with the suspended bags, which we cut open, allowing the soil to pour out.
RAILWAY SLEEPERS USED
32 no. 2.6m x 300mm x 125mm used tropical hardwood railway sleepers
24 no. 1.2m x 300mm x 125mm used tropical hardwood railway sleepers
Thank you so much for all the brilliant photos and step by step descriptions of the building of your railway sleeper project. You have created a really attractive and classical looking vegetable garden which sits beautifully next to the greenhouse, hedge and trees. Yes, the railway sleepers are really heavy to move and put in place, but once you have managed that, you have created some wonderful raised beds that will be a source of pleasure for decades to come. It's also wonderful to see the raised beds all planted up, a year or so later, and mouth wateringly full of produce!