How to create a raised bed plant

Raised flower/ vegetable beds can be a great way of avoiding the nuisance of weeds invading your plants and also helps avoid creepy crawlies finding their way in as they are raised from the ground and can also be protected with membranes to keep out unwanted visitors. As well as these benefits, they also look great; giving a rustic finish to your garden with the use of wood – plus, it saves you crouching down to the ground to tend to the plants too!
This how-to guide will help give you a rough idea of how the process of building of a raised bed works, the types of wooden sleepers we have available as well as handy tips along the way.

What you’ll need:

Wooden Sleepers

Tanalised Pine Sleepers

These pine sleepers measure 2.4m x 20cm x 10cm. This is a softer timber pine wood making it the lightest to handle, easier to fix to and can be cut easily by a hand saw. They also tend to be more uniform (you can expect 4 even faces). This wood has also been tanalised which gives extra protection and longevity; treated to last at least 10 years.

You could buy 6 of these to make a flower/ vegetable bed measuring 2.4m x 0.8m and cut 2 lengths of wood in half for the shorter sides. This would make a two-tier high raised bed.

Reclaimed Grade A Sleepers

These measure approximately 2.6m x 25cm x 15cm but sizes can vary as these sleepers are actually from old railways. These sleepers make the best value for money; they look great and they’ll last the longest. They have an old, rustic, worn look which is very popular among people looking to add something a bit different to their garden. However, a disadvantage of these is that they tend to seep tar, especially during sunny periods, so some people are put off using them for planting in.

Oak Sleepers

Oak sleepers are also very popular, measuring 2.4m x 20cm x 10cm. They are are a hardwood sleeper that can still be hand sawn or machine sawn would be easier. This wood is untreated and you can expect at least one of the faces of the sleeper to have a rustic edge. When these are left untreated over time they’ll turn from an almost golden colour to a wonderful silver colour.

Tools

  • Spade
  • Spirit Level
  • Drill
  • Sand Paper
  • Exterior coach screws
  • 10mm Flat Wood Drill Bit
  • 32mm Flat Wood Drill Bit
  • 17mm Socket and Rachet

Optional Materials

Weed Membrane

We sell different types of this in-store but can be viewed on our website. This can be laid on the ground to help prevent the growth of weeds coming through and can also help prevent small creatures working their way up through the soil! View our range here.

Drainable Hardcore Material

This could either be scalping or crushed concrete. Putting these down will help the drainage of water and can also prevent rotting of the sleepers when placed underneath.

Step 1

Place down your sleepers to see where looks best

Once your sleepers have been sawn down to size, place them down on the desired area of your garden. You should consider areas of the garden that get a certain amount of sunlight. Once you’re happy with where they are, mark this area by lightly digging a spade around the outside perimeter.

Step 2

Dig out your desired area

You can now remove the sleepers and begin to dig at least 3cm into the ground of the entire
area of these markings. Make sure you remove any roots or stones, and use your spirit level to ensure the ground is level.
Place the sleepers back into the ground within this area and use your spirit level to ensure all sides are level.

Step 3

(Optional) Prevent those pesky weeds!

This step is if you’re using weed fabric. Carefully remove the sleepers from where they are and use the dug out area to measure how much fabric you’ll need to cover the entire area. This may mean using two layers to ensure all under soil is covered. Our Weed Fabric rolls measure 14m x 1m.

This will allow water to drain out from the rain and will also prevent weeds from growing through. Cut the fabric with heavy duty scissors and as an extra option, you can pin down this fabric using nails, although the sleepers should hold this down.

Step 4

(Optional) Add drainable hardcore material

This is when you can start adding either concrete or scalping. You only need a very small amount of this to cover the weed membrane with around a 1cm layer, just to ensure correct drainage and to help prevent rotting of the wood.

Scatter this across until you are happy the weed membrane is covered. Materials like this can be found on our website here.

Step 5

Secure the sleepers

The sleepers can now finally be put back into place. Drill 2 pilot holes into the end of the outer sleeper, into the shorter sleeper. You’ll do this by using the 10mm flat wood drill bit. Then use your 32mm drill bit to drill approximately 1cm into the wood on top of these 2 newly drilled holes. This will allow the screw heads to be recessed. Place the 15cm exterior coach screws into the holes and tighten with the 17mm socket and rachet. Do this process for all 4 corners.

Step 6

Secure the two tiers

You have a couple of options when it comes to securing multiple tiers on top of each other. You could drill pilot holes into the corners of the top tiers going into the sleepers below, securing with coach screws by using the same method in step 5.

Alternatively, you could buy some batten wood, which is readily available from most builders’ merchants, place in each corner as shown in the photo, drill a pilot hole and secure with coach screws this way.

Step 7

Smooth down the edges

Ensure you use sand paper to sand down the corner edges of the sleepers as well as any visible areas to create a smooth finish. You don’t need to do this if you have chosen to paint your sleepers beforehand.

"Ensure you put a dust mask and goggles on while sanding the sleepers down!"

Step 8

Fill your raised plant bed!

Now you’ve got your raised plant bed built and ready to use – it’s time to fill it with our top soil ready to start planting. Fill almost to the top (see photo below) and then add some compost, the compost you are adding will depend on what you are going to plant. To see the compost options we sell, click here.

Step 9

Plant away!

You could plant a variety of beautiful flowers or maybe you’ll decide to grow some fresh, juicy fruits or vegetables – either way, be sure to send us your garden pics to feature on our social media and even this blog! Pictures can be sent to @StoneZoneAndLandscapingCentre on Facebook or @StoneZoneDorset on Twitter.

Please note: These how-to guides are for demonstration purposes only, please seek the assistance of experienced professionals if necessary

Photo Attributions:

Man digging soil: Man photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Hands planting: People photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Lady carrying greens: Business photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com

You can even paint the wood to match your garden's colour scheme!