A potting bench is a more achievable undertaking, and - you know me - I figured I could make one for almost free.
My first step was to decide what features I wanted in my potting bench. I needed ample storage for the loose plant pots that normally litter our patio and garage from spring to fall as I plant, transplant and experiment. I wanted some storage for the small tools I use all the time. And I wanted my bench to have a stainless steel sink so I could muck around with plants and dirt and water without having to worry about being messy. A sink would also be a good place to keep plants wet while they wait to be planted or transplanted.
I picked all the sturdiest pieces for the frame, and chose thinner planks for bench's shelf and counter. As you can see, the pieces are far from perfect, and many pieces have curved gouges meant for forklifts when they carry loads of pallets. But I was quite happy to have a rugged, beaten-up, rustic potting bench. (And as Dan pointed out to me recently, my potting bench has a convenient feature in that it can always be lifted by a forklift if necessary!)
Next, I made sure I had all my tools and implements ready to go. Here's what I used for my bench:
When I build stuff, I like to start by cutting to size all the pieces I need, as much as possible. This keeps things more organized in my brain and in my work area (the backyard in this case). With this potting bench, my starting point was to build two side frames, and then attach the frames together with four lengths of wood. I planned for my bench to be 36" high, which is standard counter height. Here are all my side frame pieces, cut and ready to go!
I measured the bench so that the sink would just fit atop the frame, and I must say, it fits like a glove. Next, I added a countertop and a bottom shelf. For these, I used the thinner slats of wood from the tops of wood pallets.
All told, I spent less than $50 on this potting bench. My only costs were the decking screws and the stainless steel sink. Aw yeah.
As a finishing touch to my potting bench, I added a very special detail. When Dan and I got married in 1999, Dan's Opa Koopman made us two Muskoka chairs as a wedding gift. Over the years, we've enjoyed many balmy afternoons in the comfort of these chairs, and inevitably, the chairs have become weather-worn and the joints have weakened. One chair didn't survive our move from west Hamilton to east Hamilton, and the other came apart last summer. Opa has been gone for almost ten years now. And maybe it's silly, but I want to hold on to that broken chair - or pieces of it at least - in memory of him. So I got the idea to incorporate some of the pieces into my potting bench. Now, the top of the bench is made from the arms of Opa Koopman's Muskoka chair, and it holds the treasured garden tools I received from his grandson for my 30-something-eth birthday.
I am over-the-moon happy with my potting bench. It spent the winter under a giant tarp to protect it from snow and cat pee, and now it's in perfect shape for gardening season. I've been using it already, usually with a giddy grin on my face and a wink for Opa Koopman.
Jane Hogeterp Koopman
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