Designing a garden is not just about art. There is definitely some science to it. One of the best things you can become good at is dividing spaces so that they sit separate from each other. And one of the best ways to divide spaces is with Sleepers. There are several different types of sleepers but today I will mainly focus on the old used Railway Sleeper and the newer Concrete Sleeper. In both cases they have a multitude of uses and if applied properly will lift the garden up to the professional level.
I think to start, I will just explain what I meant about dividing areas. Often you have two separate ideas happening in a garden. For example you might have a beautiful green lawn that is set next to a garden bed. If done correctly this can look nice but a good trick is to use something like a Sleeper to divide the two distinct areas. This division highlights both and stops them from overlapping. Sleepers also work amazingly well as a border. They are chunky and solid and if they are not made from wood, they resemble wood so closely that they work perfectly in the garden.
One of the most common uses for Sleepers is to make walls with them. Now in Victoria we have several different laws about walls and so I will link HERE a link to Knox City Council to the forms about permits (higher than 1 meter) and regulations. If you need an engineer, give me a call at the yard and I can help you out there too.
Walls are a great way to take land which is unusable or difficult to use and make it both more refined and more usable. Best yet is that fact that often you can reduce your weekly work (one of my favourite things) by walling off an area.
Above we have three different uses of the Sleepers available. On the left we have a Slate Sleeper wall in two sections. The lower is used to divide the grass from the garden and the upper is used as a privacy wall. In the middle we have a typical raised garden bed along a fence-line using railway sleepers. The final picture is of a feature wall made from Slate Concrete Sleepers. I love this idea. It is stylish and practical and best of all, not expensive.
One great way to use Sleepers is to change them into garden furniture. There is a rustic beauty to this type of furniture. A roughness combined with utility that harks back to an older, simpler age.
Obviously if you wanted to you could add epoxy or lacquer to any of these and make them shiny and more modern but personally I like the rustic, lumberjack type feel. This type of Sleeper Furniture will last for ages as well being very useful around the home.
Another regular use for Sleepers is in making Planters or Garden Beds from them. In the pictures below we have three different types of sleepers used. The first is what I call Turnout Timber from our "Unique Rare Timbers" range. I get these from a large farm, many miles away. You can see some more of these rare timbers HERE. They are fabulous for special projects.
The middle one is an example of using Concrete Sleepers to make a raised Garden for Vegetables and the final picture is a seat built into a raised planter running along a fence line. All of these are simple, yet practical uses for sleepers.
Sleepers Used In Paths
Paths are a good way to use sleepers. So a quick note here. Although a railway sleeper (made from wood) is going to look and feel great to walk on, if not done properly, it will rot. If you can't (or won't) make sure it can drain well, so as to dry out quickly after rain, I would suggest using the Concrete Sleepers in this project. You can't tell the difference from a few meters away.
The above three pictures are all terrific paths. The one on the left is using Concrete Sleeper while the two on the right are using railway sleepers. I can't see how the middle one has laid them but the one on the right has laid them in and I presume, on, stones. This will definitely assist with the drying of the sleepers after rain and therefore stop premature rotting.
If you really want to make a statement in your garden then go no further than a Sleeper Pond. The idea has formed from the way Japanese Garden's use heavy wood to separate the different stones and they also use the heavy wood to make ponds.
Both of these ponds are particularly simple to build as you only need a pond liner and the sleepers to form the pond. Dressing them with stones and plants just adds to the allure and as you know adding water to any garden increases the peace felt within the garden. Of course bird life love ponds as well so don't be surprised if you find several new birds frolicking within the pond to bathe or drink.
Since many gardens are situated on land that slopes, it is often a useful thing to put a retaining wall in. Once you have done this you have a new problem. How do I get down to (or up to) the next level. Of course the answer is steps and there is no easier step to build than from sleepers. Below I have three examples of how you can bridge the different levels. The picture in the middle is the easiest and the picture on the right is the hardest. Whichever way you go though, you will find that steps make it easier to guide people around your garden.
As with all gardens, it is nice to make spaces that one can use to "be" in the garden. A deck is a great place for a BBQ area or even a back yard stage for parties and functions. Make a space where you can go a be in the garden. That is what they are for.
The humble sleeper makes a wonderful deck. They are extremely simple to make and it is so robust it will outlast the house. Just make sure that your supporting "beams" underneath will not rot. Lift the deck off the ground, even a little to make sure the wood can dry out after rain.
The final use I can think of for Sleepers is use them as uprights. I love this picture on the left with all the different height sleepers. Using them in this way allows a contrast that is hard to get any other way. Easy to do and striking as well, I think every garden could use some sleepers this way.
So there are my ideas on Sleepers, both Railway Sleepers and Concrete Sleepers. I am sure there are some other ideas that I have not show here but I can't think of them right now. If you can think of anything new, tell me and I will update this article to include them.
I hope you enjoyed it, so long for now.
Hi, I am Darren and I have been running Manna Gum for the last 20 years. Boy does time fly by. Before running a Building and Garden supply business I ran my own Brick Laying business. I know what it means to roll up your sleeves and bend into the work and I know that getting the things you need, to be delivered on time and be of good quality, means everything. If you have any questions, give me a yell. Cheers.