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How to Use Railroad Ties in Gardens

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How to Use Railroad Ties in Gardens

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Many times landscapes require edging, borders or raised beds to grow plants properly or separate an area from encroaching grasses. Using railroad ties for these instances is an inexpensive solution and their installation is relatively basic. The ties give a rustic and natural look to gardens and landscapes. Most railroad ties are 4-inches by 6-inches in size and are quite heavy. When installing the ties, the job will be easier with an assistant to help lift and place the ties.

Using Railroad Ties for Edging

Step 1

Wear rubber, protective gloves when working with newly manufactured railroad ties to protect your skin. The ties' treatment with a preservative can irritate the skin and possibly be absorbed.

Step 2

Measure and mark the area of installation for the railroad ties. Spray paint a guiding line to help in installing the ties in the correct area.

Step 3

Cut the railroad tie to the correct length using a circular saw or handsaw, if the tie is longer than the proposed garden area.

Step 4

Dig a trench that is the size of the width of the tie and to a desired depth. The depth of the railroad tie is a personal preference, but burying it at least halfway assures the tie remains in place with no support.

Step 5

Place the railroad tie into the trench, making sure it is level. Add or remove soil from underneath it as required to level the tie.

Step 6

Pack the soil around three-quarters of the tie to hold it in place as you install the next tie. Butt the next railroad tie firmly against the installed one’s end. Level and pack the soil firmly around it. Continue installing any remaining ties until finished.

Creating a Railroad Tie Raised Bed

Step 1

Wear protective, rubber gloves to protect your skin from the chemicals in new railroad ties when handling them.

Step 2

Measure and mark the raised garden area and cut the timbers to the desired length as you would if installing one layer of edging ties. Cut the second level of timbers to the same length as the bottom layer so they lay evenly on top of each other once installed.

Step 3

Dig a trench that is as wide and long as the bottom ties. Dig the trench deep enough to bury approximately one-half of it into the ground to secure the tie without the need for supports.

Step 4

Place the bottom layer of railroad ties into the trenches, butting the ends and corners snuggly together. Add or remove any soil to make the ties level in the trenched area. Place the second layer of railroad ties on top of the first, lining up corners and butting the ties firmly together. Drill starter or pilot holes that are slightly smaller than the spikes at each corner and approximately every 4 to 5 feet along the top of the top board.

Step 5

Hammer a 12-inch spike through each hole to connect the ties together and hold them in place. Prepare the bed as required and plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves Measuring tape Spray paint Circular saw Handsaw Shovel Drill Drill bit 12-inch spikes Sledgehammer


  • The Home Depot: Installing Landscape Timber Edging
  • Corner Hardware: Edging Your Garden
Keywords: garden railroad ties, railroad tie uses, railroad tie 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.