Hi, I am fairly new to gardening and wonder if it is ok to use railway
sleepers to construct raised beds - are there any concerns using these
as they have been chemically treated. Any help will be much
appreciated. Also is there an optimum size for the bed?
The general consensus is, old railway ties are OK if you are growing
flowers but, not to be used if growing edibles. And, since you posted
to rec.gardens.edible, the short answer to your first question would
Often sleepers have been treated with toxic chemicals and so they would not
be suitable for vegetables, find out from the source what they have been
treated with and then research the risks of that treatment. Some are timber
that is durable in contact with the soil without treatment (and may have
never actually been used on a railway) so they would OK.
The bed should be a width that you can readily work from the side without
standing or kneeling on the bed, so it depends on your height and
flexibility. As a guide 3' to 4' (90-120cm) or half that if you can only
access one side. The length is a compromise between reducing land lost to
paths (longer is better) and the convenience getting between paths without
having to jump over (shorter is better). As a guide 8' to 15' (2 -5m) ,
mine are 32' (10m) but I am nimble :-) The size and shape of the area
available is a factor of course. It is good to make the paths wide enough
for a barrow if you can spare the space. Full sun is important for most
vegetables. It is usual to orient the longest side north-south to get even
sunlight on both sides.
Real railway sleepers usu. called ties around here, are always treated
with toxic chemicals and are toxic to the core. --Even 20 years later,
if there is any solid wood left in one, cutting into it produces a
strong, fresh creosote smell.
Several times a year I argue myself out of going to the railway
embankment near here to pick up free ties for soil erosion efforts
because of this. The RR crews just leave the ones that fall over the
side of the embankment as a kind of ...litter.
Do local poplar logs require any special treatment before
edging raised beds? Space is no problem and the back
acre, once a horse pasture, is choked full of grey birch
and poplar (the local weed species) most 10 years old
(since the great Ice Storm of 1999.)
We now are planning winter logging to open up for better
sunlight. We can burn poplar in the stove (100-120 days/
year) but it is poor fuel and a couple of cords of maple
are seasoned already. Use of poplar logs (6 to 12" diam.)
as edging would mean moving it shorter distances. Can
these logs be used intact with bark or is there some
chemical reason to peel them (next spring)?
I would allow them to cure stacked up as, from what I have read, green
poplar logs can sprout new trees when in contact with the soil. I know
early pioneers, particularly Nordic peoples in North American made log
cabins of poplar so you should be able to use them.
I would cure them over the winter and then just use them bark and all
next spring. I'm not sure how long they will last before rotting when in
contact with the soil but it sounds like you could easily replace them
every few years.
I would definitely NOT use railroad ties that have been treated with
creosote or with any of the arsenic compounds to prevent rot. They will
degrade your soil to a certain extent.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.