Railway sleepers are becoming increasingly popular throughout the world of garden design.
And there are plenty of good reasons for this!
Firstly, they make a great feature to any garden, and whether left in their rustic, often oil-speckled state, or painted to add a dash of colour to a garden, they are a handy way of providing breaks in your design or creating areas for planting that weren’t there before.
So, just what can sleepers for your garden add to your outside area?
Let’s find out.
What are Garden Sleepers?
You may have noticed earlier that I referred to these sleepers as ‘railway sleepers’. This is because, for centuries, these timber sleepers have been used on railways across the world to hold the tracks in place.
Many varieties of wood are used to make railway sleepers, but some that are commonly found are beech, oak and pine.
Over the last few decades, these sleepers have found a new home in back gardens across the UK and beyond.
So just why are they so popular?
Well, they are everything that a gardening material needs to be. Strong and sturdy to hold heavy weights, resistant to the unpredictable British weather, and visually pleasing.
What’s not to love?
With that in mind, here are five great ways you can use garden sleepers in your garden.
1. Garden Edging
Want to provide the perfect finish to your neat and tidy garden?
Then you’re looking for some garden edging.
When designed to fit your garden, edging can have a stunning visual effect, providing a border to your lawn, or any other feature of your garden.
Not only that, but providing edging minimises the need for mowing, and will help to stop things such as soil from overflowing onto your neat lawn.
When using sleepers for edging, you are creating a lovely border for your garden that is sure to last for many years to come.
It can provide a rustic look when using reclaimed sleepers, or alternatively add a modern touch to your outside space if using a smooth and sleek sleeper.
The possibilities are endless.
2. Garden Sleeper Retaining Wall
If you need a retaining wall in your garden, your first thought may be to gather the bricks and cement.
But that’s not the only option available.
Why not use garden sleepers as a cost-efficient alternative?
Choose which way you would like to have your sleepers, whether creating a wave effect with vertical ones or a low wall with a horizontal layout.
Sleepers are tough, durable and can be customised just how you want them.
A dash of paint on a garden sleeper retaining wall can make a world of difference to your garden, but these also have a huge effect when left without decoration.
More than just a wall, if you use sleepers, you are creating a stunning garden feature that is sure to catch the eye.
3. Raised Planting Beds
There are many benefits to having raised planting beds in your garden.
Firstly, for yourself.
The aches and pains that can appear after a long day planting are less frequent when using a raised bed as it requires much less bending over.
It’s also a great way of providing your plants with plenty of healthy soil that can be regularly monitored with ease.
And also, they look good, especially when they’ve been built with railway sleepers.
This is a really stylish way of providing your plants with the optimum environment to grow in. Whether it’s raising them to gain maximum exposure to the sun, or simply to keep your soil warmer and more hydrated, sleepers make the perfect planting partner.
When it comes to garden furniture, there are loads of options of ways to use sleepers.
Whether making a bench that provides a spot of privacy in an overlooked garden or adding a picnic bench to your garden for some fun al fresco dining, sleepers make a great material to build sustainable furniture with.
They are built to last and withstand heavy weight, so whether you use sleepers as shelving for plants, or you layer some to provide a cool place to sit and make the most of the sun, you’re sure to enjoy this low-cost garden furniture.
From seats and tables to benches and pergolas, paint and decorate your furniture any way you would like to add a real statement piece to your garden.
5. Build Some Steps
If you’re looking for something visually exciting that is also a great way to maximise the space in your garden, then why not look at creating a different-levelled design.
This is a technique used often in garden design, and it comes packed with benefits.
Whether making the most of a sunny spot or providing an overlooked area for children to play, having high and low sections of your garden can really transform your outside space.
But how do you get to each section?
Well, to make it look even better, why not use your railway sleepers to build some cool steps.
These are steps that are strong underfoot and that will be resilient to the great British weather, leaving a long-lasting and stylish effect.
If you’re lucky enough to have a multi-level garden, then this is the perfect finishing touch to making it your dream environment.
Top Tips on Using Garden Sleepers
Now you know what you can build, here’s the best ways of building them:
- When thinking of how to lay sleepers for garden edging, the key focus should be on getting them flat. Use a spirit level and try and level your lawn before laying the sleeper. There should be no gaps underneath as it is secured into the ground.
- For a super-rustic look, try and use reclaimed wood. It may have flicks of oil and spills of creosote from a previous life which only adds to the traditional feel of this garden decoration.
- Prepare the space for the job at hand. If you’re laying down edging, dig a small trench to keep your sleepers secure. If you are building sleepers on top of each other, always make sure they are secured at the back with a post.
- To make a structure more solid, add corners. Adding a few angles to your raised planting bed will make the whole thing more stable.
- Especially if there will be children running around the garden, try and sand off any sharp points of the wood so as to avoid splinters.
- To keep your sleepers sustainable, keep an eye out for the FSC certification that should come with it.
- Treat your sleepers with wood or decking oil to act as an extra layer of security to it. This will help it last longer when outside and can also add a nice effect to the wood.
- Of course, if you are unsure of how to lay your sleepers or need some extra help in building them into your garden design, the best choice is always to seek professional help, such as from the team at The Southwest London Gardener.
Where Can you Buy Sleepers?
There are plenty of places that you can buy wooden sleepers, such as highly established DIY brands and local hardware stores.
As long as you measure up the exact length you need, you should be able to source some high-quality sleepers with ease.
And of course, always look for the FSC logo which means the material is from a sustainable source. Establishments such as Wickes promise this with all sleepers.
The Southwest London Gardener Sleeper Projects
We love using sleepers to help transform gardens, such as this special child-friendly garden we built in Streatham Hill.
This showcases various uses of a garden sleeper, such as using it as a step to a higher level of the garden, as well as providing lawn edging and a raised flower bed.
The bright colour of the timber provides a really eye-catching display, especially with the step that runs right across the garden.
As always, we took every care to ensure the sleeper was firmly in place, and safe for the children of the house to play on.
We also added some delightful planting beds, made with stunning sleepers in our recent project in East Sheen. We made this child friendly garden, adding great features such as an outside office and dedicated dining area, and the planting beds provided the perfect finishing touch.
Get in Touch
From adding sleepers to garden edging, introducing steps to your garden and building raised planting beds, we are here to help.