Many homes have been built on sloping sites and this can present a potential problem with the garden. Building a retaining wall to hold back soil and water is desirable and a patio or sitting area can be created by doing this. An attractive and cost effective way to do this is to use old railway sleepers if you can get hold of them as they are solid and because they have been treated with a heavy pressure creosote treatment with last for many years without problems.
Using reclaimed sleepers will be cheaper than bricks, will possibly outlast brick which can spall and break due to frost with them being constantly wet through contact with the earth. Sleepers are of course heavy and you will need a helper to manoeuvre them into position, and the height should not exceed about half a metre. Although the sleepers will be virtually proof against rot, lining the inside of the retaining wall with builders’ polythene will ensure that they will still be there as long as required. However you should always allow a small amount of drainage at the bottom of the wall and this can be achieved by leaving gaps between the bottom row of sleepers. Using reclaimed sleepers for creating raised flower beds is also ideal, this is a great help if you are trying to create a garden for a person who is disabled, or perhaps elderly.
When laying the sleepers please ensure that these are “bonded” in the same way as you would if laying brick or stone, the second row of sleepers should overlap the joints in the bottom row. These can be “fixed” by driving a large nail at an angle through the joint into the adjoining one as it will not be possible to nail through the face into the next one. You can now back fill the wall and you do not have to wait for cement mortar to dry as you would with brick or stone.