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While you will see railroad ties being used in many different landscaping and garden design ideas, they should probably be left out of most of them. As a visible element, railroad ties have a rustic appeal that only fits the theme of certain garden plans. If you want to save your budget in making this garden landscape model then you can customize with a variety of shapes and sizes. If you want to get a good basic garden then give a special structure on the bottom layer of the soil. Adjacent to the Children’s Garden, the Train Garden is a must see for everyone young or old. The Oregon Garden’s horticultural team designed the vegetation and plantings for this innovative exhibit, while the Pacific Crossings Railroad Club of Salem and the Rose City Garden Railway Society of Portland donated funds to purchase the train and accessories, and designed the layout.
Powered by a low-voltage electric track, all the train’s components are weather safe, and it is generally in operation between 10 am and 3 pm daily.
If you’re interested in supporting the work in the train garden, please visit the Network for Good to make a donation. The soil in raised beds is usually superior to that in row gardens in part because it never gets stepped on (much less subjected to the weight of machines) and therefore does not get compacted. Raised garden beds are made to order for those whose native soil drains either too quickly or too slowly.
A raised bed warms up more quickly than does the surrounding soil in spring, so it’s possible to plant in them earlier than in a flat bed. Yields increase also because more of the garden can be planted than in conventional gardens. The dense planting in a raised garden makes weeding difficult, so it’s a good thing that it also crowds weeds out.
Even those who don’t have back problems can appreciate stooping less or not at all when they garden.
If you try hard enough, you can probably come up with a couple of possible disadvantages to raised beds. The second potential disadvantage is one you might read about here and there: raised beds supposedly require more water than the equivalent space in a ground level bed, and not only because they usually support more plants per square foot.
All of these things are true, but it doesn’t always follow that a raised bed will require more water than one at ground level. At any rate, the real question is not whether a raised bed requires more water per square foot of soil, but whether it requires more per plant. If you want something permanent but you’d rather not build your own structure, pre-fabricated raised bed kits can be bought online from a number of different companies. The metal troughs in this picture appear shallower than they actually are, as they were sunk in the earth. If you’re already a gardener, you know that location, location, location holds true for gardening beds as well as for houses.
Efficiency becomes more and more important as major aquifers drop to unprecedented levels and extended droughts and water shortages affect more and more cities and regions. Conventional sprinklers use water inefficiently because much falls on paths and more evaporates, both in the air as it travels towards its destination, and then from leaves once it arrives.
An automatic sprinkler system with spigots at soil level in the raised beds (not at ground level below them) eliminates the problems mentioned above, but leaves another one which applies to all sprinkling systems: they wet foliage, not soil, and damp foliage is vulnerable to disease and fungi, especially in humid climates. Drip irrigation may sound expensive or high-tech, but nothing could be simpler either to understand or to use than a soaker hose. Hoses draped over a planter violate many people’s aesthetic standards, and those lying about on paths can trip the unwary. Containers such as barrels and large pots generally dry out faster than ground-level soil or larger raised beds, both because they have much more surface area in relation to the volume of soil they contain, and because they are so densely planted.
Yet another, more low-tech option is described by Gayla Sanders, who blogged her way to gardening fame with You Grow Girl. If you’re tall and flexible, reaching the center of a four-foot wide bed will not be a problem. Four-foot wide beds, with paths of twenty to twenty-four inches between them, get the most growing area out of a small garden, while still leaving room to navigate. As should already be clear, both materials and design are widely variable. Used railway ties are an old standard, but since they were often treated with creosote, they have gained a bad reputation. Ties, landscape timbers, or 4X4s can all be used in one of the simplest and most familiar designs, in which the timbers are laid on the ground and stacked to the desired height. Some designs call for rebar to be driven through the timbers into the soil, and for upper timbers to be attached to lower ones with spikes. Concrete blocks make a stable structure even without mortar, if you are only building them two or three rows high.
Retaining wall brick comes in various sizes, shapes, and colors, including curved bricks for curving walls. Stone is another option, but building a stable stone wall is an art beyond the scope of this article (or its author).
The stock watering troughs mentioned above make a pre-fabricated metal or plastic container. Most materials do not affect the design as long as you’re working with conventional rectangular beds, but if you want a curved wall, boards and timbers are probably out. Old tires, a more unconventional building material, can also be used to create unconventional garden shapes. As mentioned above, a fair number of people have laid a box made of timbers or boards on the ground, piled soil inside it, and ridden off into a happy gardener’s sunset. This can be done by covering the area with black plastic for two months, or by repeated spraying with organic herbicides. Building a bed on top of a good, tough weed barrier eliminates the need for these treatments. An aggressive rhizomous grass can (and probably will) migrate under a timber and up through a foot or two of dirt, and once established, it can be surprisingly difficult to eradicate or remove. The list of resources at the end of this page includes several blow-by-blow accounts of actual raised-bed building projects complete with photographs. Before you begin, read through the instructions below to decide which steps apply to your plan. Unless you’re building on top of weed cloth, loosen the soil with a shovel, to facilitate mixing layers later. Any hoses or connections for irrigation parts that will run up the inside of the beds should be put in place before edging or walls are installed.
Before you bury the feeder hose, cap the open end with a screw cap, a bit of plastic and an elastic band — anything to keep dirt out. Walls with concrete foundations won’t need separate edging, unless you have very deep-rooted weeds. For a wall that doesn’t require a concrete foundation, dig a shallow trench to accommodate the bottom several inches of timbers, stones, or wood. Install plastic or metal edging as a weed barrier at the perimeter, unless you’re planning to use weed cloth. Lay weed cloth if you’re building on top of it, overlapping adjoining edges by six inches or more.
Brick. Wet the concrete foundation and, starting at one corner, spread mortar down the center in a stripe about an inch thick and two feet long.
Some blocks designed for walls have projecting tabs or lips built into their backs so that they lock in place and can’t be shoved forwards by the pressure of dirt behind the wall. Wooden Boards. Depending on the size of the bed, a wooden box can be constructed ahead of time and then set in place, or it can be built in situ.
The simplest model is a small rectangle with metal brackets screwed into the inside corners to hold the boards together.
A larger bed may need to be built in place, and will be more stable if corner posts are used instead of metal brackets. To deter moles and others who come from below, lay pre-cut wire mesh or screen (aka hardware cloth) in the bottom of the bed, cutting corners to fit around corner posts. To build the supports, secure a 6- to 12-inch length of 1″ PVC pipe to the inside of the frame, using pre-formed tube straps. Have on hand all the ingredients for your soil mix before you start filling the beds, and pre-mix as much as possible, on a large tarp if necessary, to avoid pockets of clay or fertilizer or any other material. Put about a shovel’s depth of new soil into the planter, and mix it with the loosened soil below. Mix the next layer of earth with the previous one, but after that, fill at will, stopping an inch or two short of the top. Very rarely should they be used as a primary visible element or hardscape but more often as a retainer or border as in the garden path in this picture. They sometimes don't even work well in rustic landscaping applications because of their refined manufactured look.
You just need to learn how the basic shape of the brick will be arranged with the railroad and where the place to turn.
Not many people are trying to choose the way off the track, while the same shape of the garden will make you become bored.
If you have a large garden then you can form a complete landscape such as hills, slopes, mountains and rivers.


Some simple basic you can apply to determine the type of plants that can grow in the garden. The feature consists of 120 feet of circular track, looping the 1970’s Southern Pacific diesel style engine complete with two box cars, two flat cars and a caboose, around a mountain and through hedges.
Beyond that, filling beds usually becomes an opportunity to get high-quality soil and to fine-tune the mix of fertilizer and amendments. The mere fact of being raised improves drainage in clay soils, but the real kicker is that you can mix the soil to your own specifications, creating a fine loam even where clay or sandy soil prevails.
The light soil improves the movement of both water and air, and roots can spread out in search of nutrients more easily than in compacted dirt. The walls of most raised beds create at least a partial block to many blowing seeds and to most rhizomous plants. Rodents can often be blocked-out below with metal screens, and birds from above with netting or row covers. For those who do have back problems, (or knee problems, or any of a dozen other physical limitations) the raised bed can make the difference between gardening and not gardening. Digging compost or fertilizer into the top few inches of soil is a breeze, especially as the soil tends to be nice and loose to begin with. To add nutrients, compost can be laid over the top of the bed in spring and fall; worms will do the mixing work.
A large row-garden watered with any sprinkler system will use (and waste) more water than a raised bed with a drip hose, because the sprinkler waters paths as well as garden rows.
If one separated the crops in a raised bed garden into individual ground level beds, the water needed to irrigate them all (even with drip hoses) would almost certainly be more than that needed to water the single raised bed they share. Drip systems put water where it’s needed, near the roots, which reduces loss through evaporation. These include watering only in early morning or evening, only when plants really need it, and always to a depth of six to ten inches. A soil mix high in organic matter will retain water for several days to a week, allowing plants to draw moisture and nutrients from deep in the bed.
If the soil below it is water-logged or hard-packed, even a raised bed will have difficulty draining. Even if you live where water appears to be plentiful, it is wise to plan for possible shortages or drought. Sprinklers simply don’t work in gardens with high raised beds, since the walls of the beds block the water. These porous, flexible hoses can be wound around in a confined space, but like ordinary hoses they are also somewhat stiff, so there are limits to their flexibility. To avoid these hazards, hoses that bring water from a spigot can be buried to the edge of a bed and then run up the inside of it. It’s a well-known dictum of landscaping that all beds should slope away from structures and away from the center of the bed. Hand watering is always an option, but it’s also possible to have a drip system installed, or to build your own from kits and parts available at hardware stores. In both the blog and the resulting book by the same name, Sanders describes the innovative and inexpensive techniques she uses on her Toronto roof garden. Even a six-inch rise will mean warmer, less compacted soil, and a commensurate increase in soil quality and therefore in plant growth and productivity.
Four feet seems to have become the recommended standard, because most people can still weed and tend plants at a two-foot reach, but not much beyond. Christopher Starbuck, of the University of Missouri Extension, recommends a bed two feet high and three feet wide.
Leaving space around the outside for access, do you build one bed measuring four feet by ten, or two smaller beds? Take away either of those advantages, though, and the bed’s center becomes increasingly elusive. While it is generally a good rule of thumb to avoid treated woods, the creosote in railway ties wears away with time, so if the ties appear dry (not slick, sticky, or oily) they are probably safe to use. However, many people stack timbers directly on the ground, laying them like bricks so that each timber overlaps two in the row below it. At the corners, abutting boards are attached to L-shaped metal brackets or to posts (2×2 and up, depending on the size of the bed). Be sure to arrange the blocks as bricks are laid, so that each block overlaps half of two in the row below. These bricks make building a breeze, as they’re designed for stability without mortar. Flat stones are, obviously, much easier to deal with than rounded ones, and a low wall built of large flat rocks can be built by the determined beginner. Since these troughs have bottoms, they’re especially useful for areas where weeds are rampant or water scarce. However,concrete, stone, and metal all offer the possibility of curved (or semi-curved) walls.
To learn how to transform aging tires into garden walls, visit the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, which has a great page on the topic. If that ground, however, is already inhabited by an aggressive, rhizomous grass, or by weeds such as bindweed, kudzu, or creeping bellflower, it’s best to kill off the existing vegetation before building the raised bed. A single spraying will kill existing vegetation, but not deep tubers or extensive root systems.) Anything not killed by such treatments, which deprive plants of the foliage that feeds their roots for an entire season, will also not be killed by spraying conventional chemicals such as Roundup or 2-4D.
While cloth prevents earthworms and other organisms from traveling freely through different levels of soil, it can sometimes be the best choice. A barrier (or edging) that extends down into the earth below the root zone of the grass and up the inside of the container will block such incursions. In particular, be aware that some plants can invade from the side, as well as from beneath. These demonstrate the wide variety of options available, and the range of materials and designs. Consult someone local about how deeply hoses must be buried to avoid freezing in your region. Concrete can be poured directly into a dirt trench dug for this purpose, and should be left to cure for several days.
If you do, install edging at the bottom of the trench dug for the foundation, before pouring concrete.
A trenching shovel makes a neat, narrow cut, but leaves a curved bottom that isn’t ideal for receiving squared timbers, so when you have the sides at the desired depth, sprinkle some loose dirt on the bottom and smooth it with the edge of the shovel. Metal flashing, which comes in various widths, makes a nearly impermeable barrier and can be easily bent around curves or corners.
Dirt between the edges will separate them, providing a pathway for weeds, so do your best to keep the overlap clean.
However, even these containers do need a couple of prefatory steps before they’re ready to use. Set the first brick at the corner, tapping it with the mortar trowel until the mortar is only half an inch thick or so. For extra stability, drill holes through the timbers at a 20 degree angle and drive rebar through them and at least twelve inches into the earth below. Two brackets at each corner, one set several inches above the other, will give far more stability than a single bracket.
With a board over the post-ends to protect them, use a mallet or sledge hammer to drive the posts partway down into the holes and loosened dirt you’ve prepared for them. It is also the perfect time to install additions that protect against moles from below or birds from above.
To deter birds, extend the growing season, and protect crops from flying pests such as leaf miners, install supports for hoops that can be draped with row covers or bird netting. Place the first and last pipes two feet from the ends of the bed, and the others at approximately four-foot intervals, using two straps for each pipe.
This may seem pointless with a deep planter in which roots are unlikely to reach the original ground-level, but it will encourage the activity of earthworms and micro-organisms on which soil health (and therefore plant health) depends. Since the soil will settle with time, you may need to add more later, but resist the urge to avoid this step by piling dirt into the container above its edges.
As an inexpensive border, retainer, or garden path step, they can still often find a place in many landscapes and gardens. Landscaping has become very easy to do and be the principal reason landscaping model selection.
You can set the most appropriate distance to give you an idea that it is a mountain or hill.
Once you make a rail road that looks beautiful, and then add some accents are more prominent. Although this looks like an easy and cheap garden, but you can make some simple addition to give a different impression. Actually, though, raised bed gardening improves drainage, uses space more efficiently, increases yield, and simplifies the control of weeds and pests.
This is a more affordable (and therefore attractive) prospect than it might at first seem since none of these additions get wasted on or in paths: all the good stuff goes into the beds themselves.
It’s therefore possible to plant a raised bed more densely than one would the same amount of space in a traditional garden, which translates into higher yields.


Raised beds require either wide rows or enclosed beds, both of which can cut the amount of space used by paths by a third to a half. Where aggressive weeds are a problem, raised beds can be established on top of a layer of weed cloth, blocking roots out completely. Of course, any garden can be covered, but since raised beds are usually small and intensively planted, doing so is easier than in a large, conventional garden. Permanent enclosed beds, built to the correct height and width (usually about two feet high and three wide) make it possible to garden from a wheelchair. But working with a shovel can be an act for a tight-rope walker, especially if the bed is over a foot high.
Slow release fertilizers can be mixed with the compost in fall or dug into the top few inches of soil in spring or between crops. Furthermore, since the soil in raised beds is warmer than that in flat ones, evaporation rates rise again. Even if the rows have individual drip hoses, they are probably vulnerable to a higher evaporation rate because more soil is exposed than in a densely planted raised bed. Some water in the top layer of soil is always lost to evaporation, while more of the water that penetrates soil deeply can actually be taken up by plants. So even the soil mix can help reduce how much water gets used, and wasted, in a garden bed. Even bales of straw can be pressed into service for what might be called a semi-permanent structure.
However, if that’s otherwise the best or the only choice, check the design section below for compensating features you can build into your plan. It can take a bit of time to get the best arrangement for a particular bed — and doing this after planting can be nightmarish.
If all goes smoothly, the end of the hose will be just at the level of the dirt in the bed, where it’s available to connect to a soaker hose.
In a really boggy site, though, those blocks will themselves need to be set on long, broad timbers, which will distribute the weight of the bed over a greater surface area. Most experts recommend a drop of a quarter inch over each horizontal foot, which works out to about a 2 percent slope. Then, you loosen the soil to the depth of one more spade-length, before returning the topsoil bit by bit and mixing the layers.
For our height- or flexibility-challenged client, reaching the center of a four-foot wide bed, all down its ten-foot length, can be — well, a challenge. If you have any doubts about these or any other wood, line the bed with a safe, impermeable material such as heavy-duty plastic (see Does Pressure-Treated Wood Belong in Your Garden?). The dirt filler stabilizes the timbers from the inside, and a piece of rebar or two along each outside wall, driven firmly into the dirt close to the timbers, will stabilize them from the outside. If one block is set directly on top of the one beneath it, all bets concerning stability are off. The holes you drill in the bottom will allow for drainage, but don’t give much access to weeds, and the nearly-solid bottom can significantly slow water loss.
To prevent weeds from growing up around the edges of the cloth, make sure it extends all the way up the sides of the container.
While metal flashing is absolutely impermeable, it is also inflexible, so it can be more difficult to secure flush to the wall of the container. Even hand-pulling or cutting back weeds will help remove seeds from the site, especially in summer or fall. Running a hose up the center of a planter (rather than next to the wall) will help protect it. A plant support designed for delphiniums or possibly a tomato cage can keep the hose upright as you fill the bed later. However, unlike the narrower metal edging made for the purpose, it can’t be pounded into place, but must be placed in a pre-dug trench. Any standard drill fitted with a wide-bore bit suitable for drilling metal should work fine. Check the particular blocks you’re using, and ask for information at the store where you purchase them. Lay upper layers like bricks, so that they overlap two timbers below them, especially at the corners. Where the edge of the wood doesn’t meet the ground, earth and water can trickle out, creating an increasingly large hole at the edge of the bed.
Posts (4x4s work well) should be buried about a foot deep, and should be as high as the wall. Attach the lowest side boards to the posts and if necessary to each other, using a board or metal bracket on the inside of the structure. The composition of each brick and concrete which became the basis of a garden will be a very interesting thing. As an additional accent lights the night you can make that will make the garden more beautiful at night. But one of the considerations you can determine the depth and height of the high rail drill which will you wake up. These are things that benefit all gardeners, including those whose backs are in excellent condition.
As a result, more of the garden can actually be used to grow things, rather than to walk around them. When sequential planting and cover crops are used, ensuring that there is no bare dirt for weeds to colonize, weed problems drop off to almost nothing.
Snails and slugs can’t easily find their way into raised beds, and are more easily located and removed once they do make it. Large timbers provide room to sit down right next to the growing space, without kneeling or squatting, saving wear and tear on knees and other joints.
The list of Other Resources at the end of this article includes sites that give step-by-step procedures for making a specific raised bed to specific specifications, as well as sites that take a broader approach. Planting in pots or container gardening is similar to growing in miniature raised beds and offers many of the advantages of their larger cousins.
You just cut off the bottom of the bottle, drill holes in the lid (carefully, with a small bit), fill the bottle, and invert it, setting it into a prepared hole.
This technique lightens and aerates the lower layer of the soil, in essence giving your plants a deeper layer of topsoil in which to grow.
This person might be much happier with two beds, each about four feet by four, with a path between them. Another option is to lay down a piece of weed cloth that extends a foot or more beyond the dimensions of the container, covering the outside with bark or some other mulch. Weed cloth, on the other hand, can be stapled or even taped to the container wall, using duct tape, or it can be extended up the sides of the box. Leave enough slack to angle or curve it as it nears the surface of the box, so it lies horizontally when it emerges, instead of poking straight up, which would make for an awkward connection to a drip hose. According to the Texas A&M site (see link below), this is especially important in clay soils.
Plastic edging works well for straight or gently curved shapes, but the curved lip on most types resists bending at a 90 degree angle. To prevent really pernicious weeds from emerging through the staple holes (some weeds can and will seek out holes that small and separate) cover them with duct tape. You can also add slow-release dry fertilizers such as blood meal for nitrogen, bone meal for phosphorus, and greensand for potassium. Deep, infrequent watering (of mature plants, of course, not seedlings) helps plants develop deep, complex root systems, which in turn lowers water use. Take the time, therefore, to set hoses before planting, or at least before seedlings emerge.
Sanders recommends burying at least a third of the bottle, so that the water reaches the plants’ roots rather than merely moistening the surface soil. The surface should be carefully smoothed and leveled, so that the wall built on it will be stable. Weed cloth that will extend out beyond the edges of the bed should be fitted down into foundation trenches, so it doesn’t tear when timbers or stones are lowered.
Visit Sunset magazine on-line for a useful article that includes pictures of this technique. Don’t add wood ashes until you two weeks before you plan to plant, because the nutrients in them will leach out. Cloth that will cover the inside walls should be weighted with stones or some loose dirt, then folded towards the middle of the bed and if necessary tied there, like a sheaf of corn, to keep it out of the way. Galvanized spikes can be used to secure each layer to the one below, but with low walls this may not be necessary.



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