Building a Raised Garden Bed with Sleepers | A Step-by-Step Guide

Raised garden beds offer numerous advantages, such as improved drainage and better soil control. If you’re considering building a raised garden bed using sleepers, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process. In this article we demonstrate how to build a rectangle raised bed using 3 sleepers for each layer. However, you can customize your raised bed however you like! Sleepers are sturdy and durable in nature. They are an excellent material choice for constructing raised beds and will withstand the test of time. If you’d like to find out how to build your own, let’s dive in!

Example of raised garden beds made out of sleepers - Shutterstock

Contents of This Article

Plan and Choose Your Size

First determine the location. Choose a suitable spot for your raised garden bed, considering factors like sunlight exposure, access to water, and convenience for gardening tasks. Then, measure and mark the dimensions. Decide on the size and shape of your raised bed, and mark the area accordingly. To help you visualize we recommend using a pen and paper to draw out your plan.

For our example we are using sleepers that are 2.4 meters in length. You can cut them to any size you’d like. You should end up with two longer parts and two shorter parts for the sides. In this example we kept two whole sleepers and two halves.

What You Will Need

  • Sleepers: choose quality, treated hardwood or treated pine sleepers, make sure they are suitable for outdoor use. You can get sleepers from your local wood merchant or shops like B&Q or Wickes. The quantity will depend on how high you would like your raised bed to be. We will be using 6 timber sleepers for this example. (4 full length sleepers + 2 whole sleepers but cut into halves to create 4 smaller ones)
  • 150mm Timber screws that will be used to connect the sleepers together. Again, you can get these alongside your sleepers or at your local hardware store.
  • 250mm Timber screws for attaching layers together.
  • Chainsaw, handsaw or table saw to cut the sleepers to the required size if needed. You may have one of these already in your shed, if not you can usually get one from B&Q, Wickes or any other hardware store that sells gardening equipment. 
  • Screwdriver
  • Measuring tape
  • Spirit Level to ensure your raised bed is level.
  • Safety Equipment to protect yourself.
  • Spade and a Rake for leveling the ground
  • Concrete or metals posts (optional) : You can use concrete mixture to concrete the bottom layer of the raised bed for extra security. Alternatively, to achieve the same level of security, you could use metal posts to secure the bottom layer to the ground. 

Leveling Your Ground and Positioning Your Sleepers

Once you’ve gathered all of your equipment and materials, it’s time to level the area you’d like your raised garden bed to stand. Then, place the sleepers on the leveled ground in a rectangular formation, making sure the narrow sides are on the ground and facing upwards.

Positioning Your Sleepers Plan - Harrods Outdoor

Join The Sleepers Together

At this change you can use the concrete or metal posts to fix the sleepers into the ground one at a time if you choose to. Then, Using 150mm timber screws join the sleepers together from each corner. About 50mm of the screw needs to be screwed into the adjoining sleeper for effective connection. Once this is complete, you will have a rectangular frame you can build on top of, or you can leave it as a low border. It’s really down to you!

Screw placement recommendation - Harrods Outdoor

Increase The Height

Repeat the process of creating another frame out of sleepers, ensuring it is the same size. Then, lay the frame on top of the base frame. You may have to turn it around to make sure you are laying a solid piece of wood over a joint, creating a sturdy structure. Using 250mm timber screws fix it into place, drilling from the top to bottom. Repeat this process, until you have your desired height.

Increasing the height of your rasied bed - Harrods Outdoor

Prepare for Planting and Get Creative

You may want to line the bottom of your bed with weed membrane to prevent weed growth. Line the membrane with coarse gravel or small rocks to improve drainage.  If desired, you can add drainage pipes along the bed’s length to facilitate water flow and prevent water logging. Fill the rest of the bed with a mixture of quality garden soil, compost, and other organic amendments to create a fertile growing environment. Level and compact the soil ensuring the soil is evenly distributed and gently compacted to provide stability for planting. Once all of this is done, you can get creative and begin planting!

Example of a lined raised garden bed - Shutterstock

Ideas for Raised Garden Beds to Get You Inspired

Building a raised garden bed with sleepers is a rewarding project that enhances your gardening experience and allows you to grow a variety of plants. By following this step-by-step guide, you can create a durable and attractive raised bed that provides optimal growing conditions for your plants. Enjoy the benefits of easier gardening, improved soil control, and the satisfaction of cultivating your own thriving garden within the confines of a beautifully constructed raised bed with sleepers. You can use this guide to build a unique raised bed specifically for your garden, however you like! Below we have collected a few photos for inspiration.

Raised garden bed filled with Cherry Laurel hedging - Harrods Outdoor Archive
Raised garden beds filled with herbs and vegetables - shutterstock
Raised garden bed, multilayered filled with flowers - shutterstock
Raised garden beds in a communal garden - shutterstock