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Category:  Gardening

Creative Landscaping with Railroad Ties

By Jack Stone

Did you know that people are still using railroad ties for all sorts of decorative and functional purposes throughout their landscapes? You didn't? Well, where have you been? Railroad ties are used by landscape contractors as a main design component of landscaping both homes and businesses. The use of railroad ties make work easier for grounds maintenance.

Before we talk about all the great things you can do with railroad ties let's talk about how easy and inexpensive they are to use when compared to various brick and block structures. The nicest thing about railroad ties is the ease with which they can be used. It requires much less skill to construct a retaining wall of ties than one of block. For one thing you don't have to be overly concerned about perfectly straight lines. While railroad ties may cost as much as brick or block per square foot to purchase they cost only 1/4th the time in labor to install. Consider how much money that could save, especially if you have to subcontract out the brick or block work to a mason.

Creative uses of railroad ties are limited only by your imagination. They can be stacked horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. They can be staggered front to back or top to bottom. They can border lawns as a mowing strip or set off ground cover from gravel beds. They can be used as risers for stairs or as terraces on a slope. -

How about a walkway or driveway? How about a fence? Stand them upright and spaced 3" to 6" apart. Or, stand them upright on a diagonal so that from one angle they appear to be a solid wall but from another afford a view. Cut them into 2 foot lengths and create a basket weave walkway. Why stop there? How about a jumbled collection of short sections stacked amongst some boulders or to frame a flower bed? Have a steep hill that's slowly washing away? Terrace it with a series of short retaining walls. Tired of the boring expanse of iceplant on a slope? Break it up with groupings of railroad ties.

Separate irrigation areas (i.e. lawns, flower beds, and trees). Stand one upright and stick a mail box on it or a concrete seagull! Better yet you can make some real nice walkway lights. Use railroad ties to define- water effects like ponds or fountains. Ties can be integrated into waterscapes as well as landscapes.

Maintenance gardeners appreciate the use of railroad ties to divide lawn areas from the garden areas because of the durable nature of the tie. The use of ties around parking areas will protect your sprinklers from damage. Mowing and edging along ties is easy with a line trimmer and saves time on lawn maintenance.

If you have your own growing grounds for nusery plants then loose ties can be easily used for dividing areas and controlling invasive weeds.

All it takes to install railroad ties is a hammer, some chisels and gouges, and a heavy drill with a long sharp boring bit.

-There! That should give you a few ideas. See? Railroad ties can be used for all sorts of things.

Railroad ties come in many different shapes, sizes and grades. These factors can be very important in determining the price of the ties. Not all railroad ties are the same. Some come rough cut and others are smooth and even-cornered. Some are pressure treated and creosoted while others are only creosoted. When ordering or selecting railroad ties measure their height, depth, and length to make sure that they meet your planned specifications. Nothing can be more frustrating then to have ties that are two inches shorter than you planned.

The creative use of railroad ties will enhance your landscapes, decrease your labor costs in grounds maintenance, and are easy to work with and install.

Think of using railroad ties on your next landscaping project.

Jack Stone is a Contributing Editor for ProGardenBiz Magazine, an online magazine for professional gardeners and landscape contractors. Visit ProGardenBiz to find out how you can get a free subscription, start-up guidance, business ideas and inspiration at


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Category:  Gardening

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