Construct a Sleeper Bed

Constructing a raised bed out of railway sleepers is amazingly easy. Think wooden building blocks. Very simple & quick, with very few tools needed. Creating these sleeper beds is also a very creative way of adding personality to your garden as the design and style of them comes down to how you would like them to look.

What you’ll need...

  • Sleepers
  • Screws
  • Plastic
  • Membrane
  • Soil
  • Stone (optional)
  • Plants

1) Choose where your raised bed will be located
Choose the best place for your raised bed, taking into account if you want to sit or stand next to it, or if you want both sides to be accessible.

2) Lay the railway sleepers on the ground.
Place the sleepers in the rectangle or square shape that you desire, making sure the corners of the sleepers meet up at 90° angles, like putting together a huge picture frame. Many people simply lay them down directly on the earth, grass, deck or concrete, but we would recommend using a foundation of hardcore or concrete, however, both options will be suitable. Also, keep in mind creating some sort of drainage for the raised bed.

3) Fasten them together
Fasten the sleepers together with screws, making sure the screw goes about two inches deep into the adjoining sleeper. We recommend putting two screws per corner as a good rule of thumb.

4) Stack and fix a second layer (if you want it to be higher)

If you want a second or a third layer, simply repeat stages 2 & 3, apart from you are placing the second or third layer of railway sleepers onto the already positioned first layer. Once you've done that, you will have two or more layers sitting on top of each other, but not attached. Simply now fasten the layers together with a screw that goes through the top layer to the layer below. If you don't want this to be seen, screw at 45 degrees on the inside of the raised bed, through the side of the top layer into the layer below. Alter­natively, you can use a batten to fasten the different layers together. The whole structure is now interlocked.

5) Fit a plastic membrane.
Some landscapers choose to fix a plastic sheet on the inside of the raised bed, to create a barrier between the wet soil and the railway sleeper. Occasionally people will even use heavy-duty plastic refuse bags, but normally landscapers use a thicker heavy-duty plastic that won't degrade in the soil.

6) Get the soil
Before you fill with bags of compost, topsoil or manure, it might be worth considering putting stone/hardcore etc.. on the bottom to encourage drainage. (Many people construct raised beds as a useful way of getting rid of / hiding unwanted bits of rubble etc...!) The great thing about using raised beds is that you can fill them with whatever type of soil that best fits your planting. e.g. lime hating rhodod­en­drons, camellias, azaleas and heathers require a more acidic soil.

7) Stick some plants in!
Now you are ready to fill your sleeper bed with whatever vegetables or plants you desire.

So if you’re looking to improve your garden this summer look no further than Johnsons Timber Supplies, call us on 0115 964 0888 or email

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