The Salutation Gardens » 13 Easy Steps to Lay Garden Sleepers

13 Easy Steps to Lay Garden Sleepers

The addition of garden sleepers often gives a rustic vibe to your garden, don’t you think? What’s more, from making garden beds to making garden planters and edging your garden, garden sleepers can be used for many purposes when it comes to garden renovation.

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But where do you start? Well, in this post, we shall answer all your questions. Read on to find out how you can lay garden sleepers in your garden.

Tools and materials

There are plenty of things you can do in the garden using garden sleepers. And the supplies list varies accordingly. Nevertheless, here’s a small general list of tools and materials that you might need to gather beforehand if you’re working with garden sleepers.

  1. Garden sleepers
  2. Spirit level
  3. Work gloves
  4. Safety goggles
  5. Saws
  6. Hammer
  7. Concrete
  8. Sawhorse
  9. An array of fasteners
  10. Concrete

Step-by-step Guide on how to Lay Garden Sleepers

In this section, we shall provide you with a detailed step-by-step guide on how to lay garden sleepers for various garden projects.

Making garden planters or raised beds

Step 1. Clearing the area

Clearing the area

First and foremost, decide on the location for planters or raised beds and clear the area.


Step 2. Setting the foundation

Setting the foundation

You don’t want your garden beds and planters to move, do you? Well, then you’d have to set a solid foundation first.

Dig a trench three to four courses in height and fill it with the semi-dry concrete mixture, and lay the sleepers on top. To further strengthen the structure, you can attach screws or hooks to the sleepers and then lay them on the concrete.


Step 3. Build the layers

Build the layers

A little fun fact – the more corners your garden beds have, the stronger the structure is. So, if you’re building the beds too high, make sure you add enough 90-degree angles in the structure.

There are various ways to connect the garden sleepers along the length. Long landscaping screws and steel rod pins provide you with enough strength.

However, if you want to take extra precautions, consider making a hole and hammering a dowel through the bed. You can do so once you reach the top layer. This way, you don’t have to use steel screws or nails on the top layer and won’t have to deal with rusting and black marks as well.

When it comes to connecting the corners, you can use angle brackets. Or, if you don’t have such brackets, you can consider cutting the ends of the sleepers such that they form nice L-shaped ends. Finally, you can overlap the sleepers perpendicularly and nail them in place.

However, this method is more time-consuming and challenging and is only practical if you’re building beds using the sleepers’ flatter side. Alternatively, you can also use corner posts to strengthen the structure.


Step 4. Finish the beds/planters

Finish the bedsplanters

Sand the structure and give specific attention to corners as they tend to be quite sharp. Finally, finish the project by applying beautiful stain or paint to the garden bed.


Step 5. Fill the beds

Fill the beds

Once your beds are complete, fill them with good quality soil, and you’re ready to grow some flowers, herbs, vegetables, and more!


Making garden sleeper edging

Step 6. Plan on the type of edging you want

Plan on the type of edging you want

If you simply want to border the garden, there is more than one way to do so. If you plan on making a sturdy border, you might need a concrete foundation. Or, if you want to make vertical edging, the process is entirely different. So, first, decide on which type of garden edging you want to build.


Step 7. Simple garden edging

Simple garden edging

You can use the flatter side of garden sleepers to build a short yet sturdy edging. However, if you want to make tall edgings, layering sleepers on their side might be a better idea.

The way you make the foundation and stack and connect the sleepers is almost the same as in the case of retaining walls.

Nevertheless, if you’re making a short edging and don’t have to go such overboard, fill the entire trench with concrete mix.

You can dig small holes in a few places along the border and fill them with some concrete mix. Then, attach screws to the slipper and lay them in such a way that the screws are embedded in the concrete.


Step 8. Vertical edging

Vertical edging

Vertical edging gives a rustic look to your garden. If you have some dull-looking area in your garden, fencing it using garden sleepers might glow your garden up.

First and foremost, measure and cut the sleepers. The sleepers don’t necessarily have to be of equal sizes. The randomness in the sleeper’s size might add some more aesthetic value to the edging.

Now, dig a small trench and add a concrete bed. Fix the sleepers on the ground and secure them in place by adding a layer of concrete on both sides.


Building retaining walls

Step 9. Set the foundation

Set the foundation

If you want to build a garden sleeper retaining wall, it is apparent that you need a strong base, isn’t it? Dig a shallow trench and fill them with 6:1 mortar as a concrete base. The concrete bed must be at least 50mm such that the sleepers on top are adequately secured.


Step 10. Add more layers

Add more layers

Just as in the case of raised garden beds, keep on stacking and connecting the sleepers until you’re happy with the height. To make the structure more rigid, secure the wall to short fence posts driven into the ground, ideally embedded into a concrete hole.


Step 11. Finish the wall

Finish the wall

Finally, sand the wall and add a stain or paint to it and you’re done!


Making garden sleeper steps or pathway

Step 12. Making garden sleeper pathway

Making garden sleeper pathway

You can use garden sleepers in case you want to make a beautiful garden pathway. For this, you can concrete the sleepers in place. Alternatively, you can just dig a shallow rectangle hole on the ground and place the sleepers.

However, following the latter way might result in the rotting of the sleepers too fast. So, surrounding the sleepers with gravel might be an ideal way to move forward. Also, remember that it might take some time for the sleepers to set in the soil.


Step 13. Make retaining walls or frames for steps

Make retaining walls or frames for steps

You can either make frames or retaining walls for the garden steps and fill the boxes with gravel, cement, or paving slabs.

You can simply connect the garden slippers using angled brackets to make frames for the steps. Make sure that you dig a trench and add some sort of foundation for the first step.

Once your first step is in place, connect the next frame to the first one, and so on. Sand and gravel have a tendency to settle down, so you might find yourself refilling every now and then.

Also, wet sand makes the steps slippery. If you want to avoid such problems, you might as well concrete or pave the steps.


Extended Tips

There are many ways in which you can use garden sleepers for garden landscaping. We’ve discussed in brief about many such possibilities. However, here are a few tips for you to keep in mind while working with garden sleepers.

Choose the right wood type

Though the way you treat garden sleeper matter to some extent, its lifespan, however, primarily depends upon the type of wood you choose. Treated softwood, reclaimed, and oak sleepers are a few popular types of garden sleepers.

Reclaimed sleepers are creosote treated, which tends to leech out under certain circumstances. This makes reclaimed sleepers ideal for making retaining walls and steps as these structures are not likely to be in direct contact with people.

Treated softwood sleepers are pressure treated and thus, resists rot to some extent. Oak sleepers, on the other hand, though not treated, are naturally long-lasting. However, they can be quite heavy to handle as they are hardwood sleepers.

Apply wood preserver

Applying a coat or two of wood preservative to the garden sleepers is a brilliant idea. Doing so prevents rot as well as fungal growth in the sleepers. You can also treat the sleepers with wood oil twice a year.

Afraid your sleepers will rot? Gravel the surrounding!

A drainage system is essential if you want to increase your garden sleepers’ lifespan. When the sleepers are in direct contact with soil, a small pool of water tends to surround them, accelerating their rotting process.

To prevent this, add a layer of gravel in the trench before you set a foundation. Also, make sure to add gravels at both sides of the retaining walls such that the slippers don’t come in direct contact with soil.


As much as garden works are painstaking, the satisfaction afterward is equally rewarding. Now that you know how to lay the garden sleepers and various landscaping ideas that use garden sleepers, you might as well start greasing your elbows.

If you have any questions regarding garden sleepers, we’re just a comment away!

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