Terracing & Landscaping With Railroad Ties


The idea of planting vegetables in long rows comes from the days when farmers plowed fields in teams pulled by mules. Today gardening is just as easily done from smaller, raised beds or terraces that are bound with railroad ties. Railroad ties are large wooden slabs used as a base for railroad tracks. Because each tie has to support a substantial amount of weight, they are large and solid enough that they make good building material for garden beds.

Step 1

Measure out the area of your raised bed or terrace and pound stakes into the ground at the corners of the bed. Tie string between the stakes to mark the boundaries. Raised beds should be roughly rectangular in shape, while terraces should follow the contour of the land.

Step 2

Level the ground where your ties will sit by removing a 2-inch layer of sod and soil at the base of the raised bed or terrace.

Step 3

Arrange your first row of timbers in a rectangle with abutting corners for a raised bed, or along the dug-out trench that follows the shape of the land for a terrace. Drive 12-inch nails through the holes at the end of the railroad ties and into the ground to anchor the ties.

Step 4

Place the second row of four timbers over the first row. Stagger the joining ends of the timbers for a stronger fit. Drive 12-inch nails through the holes in the timbers and into the timbers on the first row.

Step 5

Line the inside of the terrace or raised bed with plastic landscaping fabric to protect the soil from creosote. Secure the plastic landscaping fabric with fencing staples along the tops of the timbers.

Step 6

Mix a soil mix of 1 part topsoil, 1 part compost, 1 part manure and 1 part peat moss to form your soil for your raised bed or terrace. Fill the raised bed or terrace with the soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Hammer
  • Shovel
  • Carpenter's level
  • 8 railroad ties
  • 12-inch nails
  • Plastic landscaping fabric
  • Fencing staples
  • Topsoil
  • Compost
  • Manure
  • Peat moss


  • University of Missouri Extension: Raised-Bed Gardening
  • Washington State University Extension: Gardening on Steep Slopes
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Basic Principles of Landscape Design
  • N.C. State University Extension: Spring Flowering Bulbs: Site Preparation
  • Perdue University Extension: Home Horticulture

Who Can Help

  • N.C. State University: Intensive Vegetable Gardening
Keywords: raised beds, terrace gardening, railroad ties, railroad ties garden

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."