Railroad Tie Garden

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Railway Ties
Yesterday's Mailbox Makeover was an easy DIY, today's feature...not so much.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of DIY, but I'm going to keep it real when I say we were ill-prepared for this project!  The number one thing we would do differently is to 
HAVE MORE HELP!  We completely underestimated their weight ~ on average railroad ties can weigh 100-200 lbs each.  The project itself is pretty straight forward, but if we did it again, we would have more than just two people moving those suckers!
The idea started when we decided to build a retaining wall in our backyard to house our vegetable garden.  Our backyard is two-tiered (see photo top right), so this project would allow us to maximize space.  In keeping this budget-friendly, railroad ties were perfect.  At only $11 a piece they're affordable, durable, sturdy and strong.  
We first leveled the slope then set our first lincoln log.  
Getting the first one level and straight is key.  To reinforce the foundation, Brian drilled holes then hammered in re-bar to secure the first railroad tie in place.  
He then repeated the process for the cut pieces on the side.
Once the foundation was finished we continued to stack railroad ties one by one.  Alternating them in the same way you would with lincoln logs.  This was the hardest part of the whole project!  The weight of these guys was so significant that holding them was hard let alone lifting them up high to stack on one another ~ four body builders would have made this go a lot quicker!
Once they were all cut and stacked, the easy part was reinforcing the structure.  
Brian used additional rebar and galvanized metal tape to secure the frame from the inside (see photos below).
Once the structure was complete all we had to do was fill it up with dirt, then top soil.
 It's now been two years since we built our railroad tie garden and even though there was a lot of moaning and groaning, we now fully appreciate all the heavy lifting!

A Safety Note Concerning Creosote & Railroad Ties 
This is a very controversial topic with very conflicting statements about whether or not to use Railroad Ties in and around garden beds.  We believe this is a very personal choice and each individual should do his/her own research.  In making our own decision we couldn't find a definitive scientific study confirming one way or another.  It seems to us the concern is over how much creosote is still on and within the wood, and whether or not it directly affects the soil and plants.  A lot of other opinions we came across debated that the real concern was over the handling of creosote itself  and therefore would be an issue on new railroad ties but not old worn ones.  We're believers in "rather safe than sorry",  however in this hot-button debate we have opted to use railroad ties.  Ours weren't seeping any sticky substance, nor did they have any odors similar to gasoline.  In the two years we've had them, none of the surrounding plants have died or suffered, we have azaleas surrounding the structure and if anything they've flourished.  Also, surrounding grass has grown on and around our railroad ties.  Here are only a couple articles we came across, but again, we strongly urge you do your own research to come to your individual conclusion.
Garden Web

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