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