Gardening requires gear, and gear requires storage. But gardeners’ gear is often relegated to nooks and crannies in garages where it soon collides with cars and the paraphernalia of other family pursuits. We often spend half our gardening time looking for the tools of our trade.
A place to play with plants and to store stuff is the dream of many gardeners. But where to put that horticultural hideaway? What should it look like? How should it function? Following are two examples to give you inspiration for building your own potting shed.
A Useful Bench
For Millie Headrick of Lexington, S.C., a secluded spot in a side yard became the perfect place to pot and play.
Like many of us, she stowed her gardening gear in the garage, but had no designated work area. She relied on two saw horses and an old door set up in the driveway when she needed a flat work surface. At the end of the day, this “portable” table had to be dismantled and put away.
Tired of hauling her table and sundry potting supplies in and out of the garage, she decided to create her own work station. “I went to Lowe’s and walked around looking for inspiration. It had to be easy for me to put together – I wasn’t interested in nailing, hammering or sawing.”
She chose 2 by 6 treated lumber in the longest length she could find – 12 feet – for the top, and cinder blocks for the foundation. “I used three boards laid next to each other for the top surface since they fit perfectly on top of the block – no carpentry skills involved.”
Tucked into a service area behind a privacy fence, the bench shares a wall with her husband’s workshop. The back of the workshop already had an extended roofline where mowers and wheelbarrows were stored, so her husband built two storage cabinets to link the spaces together. One cabinet is outfitted with shelves for short items with rectangular wire bins attached to the door to hold small tools – trowels, gloves, pruners. The other cabinet is designed for storing long-handled tools – shovels, rakes and hoes.
Headrick’s “do-it-herself” potting bench shares a wall with her husband’s workshop. The generously proportioned bench provides ample work space and the storage cabinet keeps long-handled tools organized and accessible. The adjacent cabinet provides shelf and bin storage for smaller items.
A watering station at the end of the bench nestles in a corner made by the privacy fence and workshop wall. Outfitted with large J-hooks, the fence provides tangle-free storage for hoses. Millie uses pots to soften the functional arrangements of water connections.
Before constructing her potting bench, Millie leveled the footprint and paved the area with square, cement patio pavers, eventually expanding the adjacent floor surface with bricks. This previously unused space is now her nursery area, where sick plants are nurtured and out-of-season plants wait their turn in one of her container creations.
“My potting bench is something I threw together years ago out of desperation. Now that my husband is retired, he wants to build me the “ultimate potting bench.” If the bench was in a more visible area of the yard I would opt for something more attractive, but I’m happy with the old one. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional.”
Kathy and Steve Aiello turned a gazebo located in the middle of their garden into this charming and functional potting shed.
Inside the compact potting shed, tools, potting supplies and a work surface share space efficiently.
A Conversion Shed
Drenched in the shade of a giant oak tree, Kathy and Steve Aiello’s West Columbia, S.C., garden is an inspired arrangement of horticulture and hospitality. Brick paths wander past huge containers billowing with specimen plants, while several water features and seating areas encourage guests to linger. Located in the middle of it all is Kathy’s potting shed.
Before the shed took shape, Kathy stored a burgeoning ceramic container collection and gardening equipment in the garage, using an old table for her potting chores. Seven years ago, when she decided she needed a potting shed, Steve agreed. “I figured if her gardening stuff was somewhere else, I would have more room in my garage workshop.”
So Steve converted a gazebo which sat in the middle of their garden into a potting shed. The original 6 by 6 footprint became the foundation for a charming structure complete with a glass door, metal roof and outdoor shower.
The Aiello’s use architectural pieces and old farm implements from family tobacco farms to personalize their garden, and the potting shed is no exception. Its push-out windows came from her grandparent’s house, as did the mule collar and metal tractor seat that decorate the back wall.
Inside, a stainless steel counter provides quick clean-up, recycled cabinets provide drawer storage and a garbage can stores potting soil. Shovels and rakes hang in the corners, while pegboard above the counter organizes hand tools.
Light filtering through an antique stained glass window, one of many in Kathy’s extensive collection, adds an artful touch. Although the shed has no sink, there’s a hose bib just outside the door that is part of an outdoor shower arrangement.
Kathy’s favorite part of the shed is its convenience. “I love having everything right at hand, plus its size is a good scale with the rest of the garden. If it was any bigger, it would be stuffed with more containers,” Kathy said.
As these gardeners discovered, with a little imagination and a bit of sweat equity, a horticultural play station is easy to create.
A version of this article appeared in Carolina Gardener Volume 23 Number 3.
Photography courtesy of Sharon Thompson.