How to lay garden sleepers
Garden sleepers can give any space - regardless of size - some much-needed definition. From using sleepers to create raised beds to bold edging on terracing or lawns, they form a base that gives you plenty of room for your horticultural creativity.
Garden sleepers have been a big trend in landscaping and garden design for a while now. But at Arnold Laver, we think they’ll be sticking around for the long haul because:
- They’re practical – easy to install and maintain
- They're long-lasting – treated garden sleepers will last for years
- They’re stylish – They add a focal point to any landscape design
As with every other job in the garden, the key to successfully laying garden sleepers is all in preparation. You’ll need to start by clearing any vegetation, rubble, or general debris away from the area.
What type of sleepers should I use?
There are two main types of sleepers available at Arnold Laver:
Sawn Green Treated Incised FSC Sleepers – these are specially cut to allow the wood preservative to penetrate deep into the timber. They're ideal for jobs where the wood will be in constant contact with the ground, as the preservative used slows the rotting process.
Sawn Green Treated 1st Grade FSC Sleepers – These are ideal for raised borders, retaining walls, and patio edging. They look fantastic and are long-lasting.
What does FSC mean?
FSC® Certified indicates that the timber has been sourced from sustainable sources and managed forests.
Getting the foundations right
Dig a shallow trench and make sure it’s level using a builder’s spirit level. If you’re using your sleepers for edging a lawn, make sure that the sleeper will be at the correct height once it’s in position.
A good way of stabilising a structure is to set your sleeper into concrete. However, you’ll need to make the trench a little deeper to compensate for the space taken up by the concrete mix. If you’re placing your sleepers straight onto the earth, we recommend installing a waterproof layer first to prevent water from soaking up through the wood. Water damage could cause the sleepers to warp over time.
You can also pin your sleepers into position using a wooden post or stake.
Stacking them high
A single layer is easy enough to install, but if you’re planning on building up some height (when building a raised bed, for example), you’ll need to stabilise the stack. Overlap the sleepers at the ends and then join them using a steel rod pin or landscaping screw. The alternative is to use metal corner plates and braces. These are quicker, easier, and form a strong bond that’ll hold your structure in position without the need to overlap the ends.
What tools do I need?
You’ll need some simple tools to install your sleepers, including:
- A shovel, fork, and spade for digging the trench (include a pick if the ground is particularly hard)
- A spirit level to make sure your sleepers are even
- A mallet for tapping down your sleepers
- String to mark out your trenches
- Power tools for screwing and drilling to attached corner plates, pins, and braces
- Lots of tea and biscuits – you’ll burn up plenty of energy installing your sleepers!
Finishing the job
Once your sleepers are installed, you can finish them off using a hand sander. This will smooth off any rough edges and give them a professional finish. You can then either allow the wood to weather naturally or add a wood stain to bring out the natural beauty of the grain. Exterior wood stains will also help protect the surface of the sleepers, prolonging their life and ensuring they look gorgeous for years to come.
Then it's time to fill your raised beds with topsoil and get planting or add those finishing touches to your terracing or lawn edging. Garden sleepers are a great way to bring structure into your garden. They're versatile, long-lasting, and can create points of interest in even the smallest space.