• How to Lay Sleepers for Garden Edging

    | by Holly Wood

    Understanding how to lay sleepers for garden edging is a crucial skill for anyone looking to enhance their outdoor space. Nonetheless, gardening is not just about plants and flowers; it’s also about creating a structured, visually appealing area.

    Using garden sleepers for edging provides a clear definition and adds character to your garden. Moreover, these robust, rectangular blocks, once a staple in railway construction, have found a new life in landscaping due to their versatility and rustic appeal.

    Whether it’s for building raised beds, edging, steps, or seating, garden sleepers offer a durable and natural-looking solution to various gardening needs.

    In addition, this guide will walk you through the process of laying garden sleepers for edging and explore the creative possibilities they bring to your garden space.

    Understanding Garden Sleepers

    Types of Sleepers

    Before you lay garden sleepers, it’s crucial to understand the different types available. As well as concrete sleepers, which are ideal for a more modern and durable edge, there are other options:

    1. Hardwood and Softwood Sleepers: These timber sleepers are popular for their natural look and versatility.
    2. Reclaimed Sleepers: Offering an eco-friendly option, reclaimed railway sleepers and timber are also a choice.
    3. Recycled Plastic Sleepers: As a sustainable and rot-resistant alternative, these are worth considering.

    Choosing the Right Sleepers

    To achieve the desired aesthetic, consider the look you’re aiming for in your garden. For a more natural and rustic look, timber or reclaimed sleepers are ideal. However, for a sleek and modern edge, concrete sleepers work best.

    Preparing To Lay Railway Sleepers

    Necessary Tools and Materials

    You’ll need the following tools and materials to lay sleepers for garden edging:

    • Garden sleepers of your choice
    • Spirit level
    • Shovel or spade for digging
    • Heavy-duty gardening gloves
    • Wood stain or preservative (for timber sleepers)
    • Steel rod pins or long landscaping screws
    • Concrete mix (for extra support)
    • Saw (if cutting is necessary)

    Site Preparation

    Firstly, clear the area where you plan to lay the sleepers. If you’re building raised beds or retaining walls, consider the height and ensure the ground is level.

    Laying the Sleepers Starting with the First Sleeper

    1. Dig a Shallow Trench: The first step in laying sleepers is to dig a level trench. The depth should be about one-third the height of the sleeper.
    2. Lay the First Sleeper: Place the first sleeper in the trench. Use a spirit level to ensure it’s perfectly horizontal.
    3. Securing the Sleeper: If you’re laying one or two sleepers for garden edging, you might not need extra support. For raised beds or taller structures, secure the sleeper with steel rod pins or landscaping screws.

    Building Up

    Adding More Sleepers: For raised beds or retaining walls, stack the sleepers to the desired height. Ensure each layer is level.

    Securing Each Layer: Use long landscaping screws to create a strong bond between layers.

    Finishing Touches: For timber sleepers, apply a wood preservative or stain to protect against the elements.

    Tips for a Professional Finish

    For a straight edge, use a string line. And when cutting sleepers, treat exposed or cut surfaces with wood preservative. For a strong structure, use metal plates to join sleepers at corners.

    Additional Ideas Beyond Edging

    Sleepers can also be used for other garden features:

    • Garden Furniture: Create benches or tables for a cohesive look.
    • Vertical Edging: Employ sleepers vertically for a unique garden border.
    • Pathways: Lay sleepers as stepping stones for a charming garden path.


    Regularly check and treat wooden sleepers to maintain their appearance and longevity. For concrete sleepers, a simple wipe down is usually sufficient.

    Conclusion: Enjoy Your Garden’s New Look

    While laying sleepers for garden edging might seem time-consuming, the end result is a visually appealing and functional addition to your garden.

    With this step-by-step guide, you now have the knowledge and confidence to start laying sleepers in your garden, ensuring a strong, durable, and aesthetically pleasing edge that complements your outdoor space.

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