How to Create a Raised Flower Bed Using Railroad Ties


Raised flower beds have many functions within the garden. Gardeners can improve poor soil conditions, increase drainage in a poorly draining site and they make the chore of gardening less back-breaking. Using railroad ties or landscape timbers to create the raised bed is relatively basic and the timbers will give the bed a finished look. If you know how to operate a drill, shovel and hammer, you should have your raised bed ready for planting flowers inside of the same day you start making it.

Step 1

Select the area of your landscape where the raised bed will be. Consider that railroad ties usually come in 4-foot by 6-foot pieces so creating a bed the size of the timbers will alleviate the need for cutting the timbers to fit. Consider the light requirements of the flowers you are planting inside the flower bed when selecting a site.

Step 2

Measure the area and mark it off with spray paint. Allow the entire area to be approximately 6 inches wider on all side than the railroad ties. This will allow enough room for digging and placing the ties in place.

Step 3

Spray the area with a non-selective herbicide to kill any grasses or weeds. Select a product that states on the label that it does not remain in the soil long-term and will wash away when you plant the flowers into the soil. Turn off any water to the site for at least 48 hours allowing the vegetation to die.

Step 4

Rake the area free of any dead vegetation and remove any branches, sticks or rocks. After removing the debris, rake the soil level.

Step 5

Dig a trench around the entire area that is approximately 4 inches in depth and approximately 6 to 8 inches wide so the railroad ties properly fit inside. Use a level to make sure the soil is at the same height throughout the trench.

Step 6

Lay a railroad tie in one of the trenches, pulling the end of the tie to the end of the trench. Lay the next railroad tie in the next trench, butting the sides against each other. Continue until all the railroad ties are in their trenches with their sides butted against each other forming a perfect rectangle.

Step 7

Build the next layer of railroad ties by laying a tie on top of one on the first layer. Align the end so it is flush with one end of the first layer railroad tie. The opening on the other end will allow enough room for the next tie to fit flush into the opening. Continue situating the other railroad ties in place upon the first level, making sure all the ends are flush.

Step 8

Drill a hole on each top corner approximately 2 to 3 inches from the end that is slightly smaller than the spike. Drive a 12-inch spike into each one of the holes using a 3-lb. sledge hammer.

Step 9

Fill the area with your desired soil medium and the raised flower bed is ready for planting.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Spray paint
  • Herbicide
  • Rake
  • Shovel
  • Level
  • Drill
  • Drill bit
  • 12-inch spike
  • Sledge hammer
  • Soil medium


  • The Home Depot: Installing Landscape Timber Edging
  • University of Illinois Extension: Build a Raised Bed
  • Corner Hardware: Edging Your Garden Bed

Who Can Help

  • The Home Depot: Installing Landscape Timber Edging
Keywords: creating raised beds, railroad tie beds, installing landscape timbers, raised flower beds

About this Author

Joyce Starr is a freelance writer from Florida and owns a landscaping company and garden center. She has published articles about camping in Florida, lawncare, gardening and writes for a local gardening newsletter. She shares her love and knowledge of the outdoors and nature through her writing.