For most gardeners, winter is the time of year to ponder spring, and next year’s garden necessities. Would a potting bench make life easier? But what makes a good potting bench? There are commercial versions aplenty, but they are all pretty much alike and all fairly basic, whether made of wood, metal or plastic. Most gardeners settle for the commercial versions, though they seldom meet all your needs. Yet it isn’t such a big project that you couldn’t design and build your own.
Medford Master Gardener Richard Brewer says the first decision to make is where to put a potting bench. Close to the house or in an out-of-the-way corner where the attendant mess will not be so prominent? Most people, he notes, opt for the out-of-the-way location, although somewhat less convenient.
“The most important thing,” Brewer adds, “is a sink. Even if it isn’t connected to plumbing but just drains on the ground, a convenient place to rinse pots is essential.”
He’s right, of course, water is the essential missing part of most commercial potting benches. You can find them, including a plastic one with a built-in sink which can be connected to a hose, but be prepared to pay a bit more.
Gardening coach Sioux Rogers of Morning Star Gardens in the Applegate Valley has a lot of requirements for the dream potting bench.
“First, it has to be the right height for whoever is using it,” Rogers insists. This is indeed an issue for a 5-foot-tall woman with a 6-foot-4-inch husband.
Rogers doesn’t require a sink, but would like drainage holes so it can be hosed off, a drawer for gardening gloves, and a pegboard for small tools.
“It must have a back so things don’t fall through. It also needs a shelf,” she says. “Something high enough you don’t hit your head on it but easily reachable, and with a cover above it for shade.” Rogers would use the shelf to store her repotting essentials like Rootone and vitamin B-1. She would store bags of potting soil and additives under the bench, out of the weather.
She would also require a cup full of pencils and labels, and a hook for hanging a hat.
“I do all my labels in pencil. Ink always fades, but pencil never does. A hook with a hanging whisk broom on one side and a hook on the other side for a basket of sphagnum moss” completes Rogers’ wish list.
Since many people will not want to use chemically treated wood if they will be repotting edibles, the choices are between redwood, cedar, or the new recycled plastic decking materials. Remember, although all of these are slightly expensive, the bench itself need not be very big. A 4-foot by 2-foot potting bench would require only two 8-foot pieces of decking material for the top and three more for the legs and supports. One piece of 10-foot corrugated tin halved would suffice for a sun/rain roof, and plain 2 by 2s could be used to support the roof and a bottom shelf, if wanted.
Consider whether you’ll want a shelf to hold small plastic pails of potting soil, vermiculite and compost or manure. A square rubber trough, about 2 by 3 feet and 8 inches deep will make a perfect potting sink. If you get ambitious, a drain can be added.
Many landscape contractors can build your dream bench, or you (or your honey) can take on the project with do-it-yourself verve. Can you think of a more ambitious way to start the gardening year?