Landscape timbers are relatively inexpensive and have numerous uses for landscaping around your home. Timbers range in size and shape from 8-by-8-inch squares down to smaller 3-by-3-inch timbers with rounded sides. The standard landscape timber length is 8 feet but can be 20 feet or longer. Smaller landscape timbers are lightweight enough that children can help with landscape timber projects. Project ideas include gardening and landscaping projects, and even a sandbox for outdoor play.
1. Raised Beds
A raised bed garden puts your plants at a more accessible height, both for adults and children, and the sides have the added benefit of keeping children from trampling the plants. They also provide better drainage if you have heavy soil. You can build a raised bed using square or round-edged landscape timbers. The first course of timbers should be set at least halfway below soil grade to anchor the bed to the ground. Drill pilot holes through the base course timbers and drive stakes or rebar through the pilot holes. Stack the landscape timbers up to 2 1/2 feet tall with the joints staggered at each corner for better stability. Soil can easily push the stacked timbers out of place, so drive 6-inch timber screws spaced 3 feet apart to connect each course of timbers. Fill in the raised bed with clean topsoil and plant your favorite crops.
Edging around flower beds and walkways adds definition to your outdoor space and also keeps unwanted foot traffic -- such as children and pets -- away from your plants. The simplest way to edge a straight bed or path is to lay the timbers flat along the border. Drive stakes into the ground along the outside edge, using a stake at the ends of each landscape timber and every 3 feet in between to prevent them from shifting out of place. The timbers might separate at the ends, so screw metal mending plates to hold the ends together. A mending plate straddles the end joints and has screw holes for installation. If you have a curved border, cut the landscape timbers into shorter lengths and stand them upright along the bed or path. Bury at least 12 inches of the standing timbers to hold them in place.
A landscape timber boardwalk path is more kid-friendly than gravel or brick; kids won't scrape their knees as much when they fall. If you use pressure-treated landscape timbers or rot-resistant wood such as cedar, you can install the timbers directly on the ground without any framing required. Excavate the path area to make it perfectly level and spread 2 inches each of compacted gravel and coarse sand to provide a base with good drainage. Line each side with 1-by-4-inch lumber to prevent sideways shifting. Cut the timbers to the desired path width, lay them between the side rails and butt them tight together. Drive 3-inch wood screws through the 1-by-4-inch lumber and into the timbers.
Kids love the look of plastic turtle sandboxes, but they can be an eyesore for adults in the middle of an otherwise well-manicured garden. Landscape timbers work well for containing sand and offer a more grown-up look that can blend in with your garden. The area must be excavated to provide a flat surface and the desired depth for the sandbox, usually about 6 to 8 inches deep. To form the sides of the sandbox, stack landscape timbers with joints overlapping up to slightly above soil grade, using 6-inch timber screws to hold the courses together. Line the box with landscaping fabric to keep soil from shifting up into the sand. Keep the sand covered with a tarp or large piece of acrylic glass when not in use so the sandbox doesn't become the neighborhood litter box.