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The distance between the ends of two sleepers being measured with tape

Overview

A garden bed lets you grow the flowers, trees, fruit, vegetables and herbs of your choice in your own backyard in the best soil possible. This guide shows you the tools and equipment you need to build one yourself. It also gives you tips about how to keep your sleepers square, the best way to remove concrete footings and the easiest way to dig trenches for your wooden sleepers.

Steps

1Set out the garden bed

Lay the longest sleepers out on the grass where you want to build your garden bed. If you have them, use the concrete footings as a guide to keep the sleepers straight. Measure the distance between the two sleepers at each end to make sure they're square.

2Cut the end sleepers

Measure the distance between the two longest sleepers, this is the width of your garden bed. Put a wooden sleeper on the work horses. Take the width measurement and mark out this distance on the sleeper. Put on the safety glasses, dust mask and earmuffs. Use the circular saw to cut the sleeper to the right length. Repeat this step to cut the sleeper for the opposite end of the garden bed.

A circular saw being used to cut a sleeper to size

3Join the sleepers together

Put the two side sleepers and the end sleeper together so they make a U-shape. Use the cordless drill to make a pilot hole near the end of one of the side sleepers. Then drill in a temporary screw. Repeat this process to join the other sleepers together. Use the roofing square to make sure the corners are square.

Two sleepers being screwed together as part of a garden bed

4Plan the look of the garden

If there are two trees or plants that you want to keep in the garden bed, that are at either end of the bed, measure the distance from one tree or plant to the edge of the sleeper. Go to the other end of the bed and measure the same distance from the tree or plant and mark this spot on the grass with marking paint. This'll give your garden bed a balanced and even look.

Sleepers being bolted around two existing garden beds

5Measure and cut the sleepers

Use the tape measure to work out the length of the garden bed and halve this figure, which'll be the length you want to cut the sleepers for the sides of your garden bed.  Mark the length out on your sleepers and cut them to length. You want to cut the sleepers to the same length so that they join in the middle of the garden bed. 

Sleepers being marked for cutting

6Lay sleepers down the sides of the garden bed

Remove the temporary screw you drilled to make the U-shape at one end of the garden bed. Lay two sleepers down one side. Drill a temporary screw to join the sleeper at the other end, so it makes a corner. Use the roofing square to make sure that the corner is square. Once it is square, lay the two other sleepers on the opposite side. Check that all four corners, where the sleepers join, are square. Use marking paint to mark the corners on the outside of the sleepers, which'll tell you where to dig a trench for the sleepers.

A square rule being used to ensure the correct placement of garden bed sleepers

7Remove the sleepers

Once the corners are square, remove the sleepers. A good tip is that as you take the sleepers away, remember where each of them was, so that when you start to rebuild the garden bed each piece goes in the right place.

8Remove the grass

Use a mattock to remove the grass and dig down to the required depth. The sleepers will be sunk, so that 50mm is above the ground. This'll make sure that the grass won't grow back into the garden bed. Make the trench deep enough so that you can also lever up the concrete slab.

The ground around an existing garden bed being dug up to make room for sleepers

9Remove the concrete

Use a crowbar to lever up and loosen the concrete on all sides. Use a sledge hammer or lump hammer to break the concrete into smaller pieces. After the concrete is broken, use the crowbar to also lever up the broken pieces. Put these in a wheelbarrow to take them away. Use the mattock to dig out the rest of the grass and dig a trench for the sleepers to sit in, so that 50mm of the sleeper sits above the ground.

An old concrete garden bed being pried free from the ground with a pry bar

10Screw the ends of the garden bed together

Once the trench is the right depth, start putting the ends of the garden bed together. Use batten screws to join a sleeper on the side of the garden bed to the end. Use two screws, one at the top and bottom of each joint. Repeat this process for the other end of the garden bed. Once you've joined both ends together, have someone help you lift them into place.

Two sleepers being bolted together as part of a garden bed

11Put the sleepers in place

Put the four side sleepers in place. Run a string line from one end of the garden bed to the other, to make sure the sleepers are straight. To do this, drill in a screw at both ends of the garden bed and tie your string line to this. Adjust the sleepers so that they are straight and at the right height. Repeat this process for the sleepers on the other side.

String being used to plot out a garden bed

12Secure the sleepers with stakes

Once the sleepers are straight and at the right height. Hammer in a stake to join them at the centre. Drill four galvanised screws into the stakes to join the sleepers together. Repeat this process where the sleepers join on the other side. Depending on the size of your garden bed, you may need to hammer and drill in more stakes to keep the garden bed secure. Backfill the soil, so that it sits evenly in your garden bed. Now your garden bed is complete, add the necessary compost and fertiliser to help your plants grow.

Metal brackets being used to secure two sleepers against each other

13Freshen up your garden

We've got plenty of other ideas to help you freshen up your garden!

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.