After many seasons of faithful service our potting bench needed replacing. Most of the wood used to construct this gardening necessity was recycled from the playhouse I built for my daughters years ago. Now after seasons of rot, insect damage and wear from the elements little of the wood could continue to serve.
I rescued the best of the decking lumber so that with a creative design and some fancy saw work I might preserve the chain of reuse in the new bench. That wood reminds me of my girls and their playhouse shelves lined with jars of dirt, seeds, feathers, and a host of other items scrounged from the woods around us. We opted for outside discovery rather than indoor video games. God provides the best playgrounds for kids.
The potting bench can be a large ticket item. With shelves, nooks and crannies, antique hardware, upscale wood and a professional finish the bench can easily run several hundred dollars. And peer pressure is as strong in gardening as in other arenas. How will anyone take me seriously as a gardener unless I have the Ultra 2000 Mega Bench with the built in sink and sprayer? I turned from the commercial solutions to Pinterest and examined several DIY designs, and again the cost of the lumber to adapt some of those ideas expanded beyond my budget.
And then it hit me. The battle in our materialistic world rages against our contentment. Those unsettling must-have-it urges drive us to pursue stuff we really don’t need. I thought of the Apostle Paul who, confined in a prison though innocent of any crime, taught the Philippians about contentment.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13 NASB
The desire for an expensive and complex bench drifted away. I would rather spend my money on plants anyway. The question to ask is, “What do I need in a potting bench?”
I discussed the project with Shawn, my gardening partner, to see what issues she had with the old bench. That discussion led us to an elegantly simple solution sketched on a piece of scrap paper. And the cost of the materials would not overwhelm our budget.
We designed the previous bench in the early stages of our gardening journey and thought we would use it for starting seeds and working with seedlings in flats, but those tasks, usually completed in mid-winter are best done in the shop.
The working surface was a whopping 40 inches off the ground. Shawn could not reach the top of a 16 inch pot to do her planting. And I had found that lifting a pot full of soil to that height was becoming a challenge also. We found ourselves working with pots in the wheelbarrow or on the garden cart instead. The new bench must be lower, perhaps counter height (~36 inches).
The old bench was not wide enough for two adults to work side-by-side (our preferred gardening arrangement). Don’t get me wrong. I like bumping into Shawn but when one is covered in soil, swatting bugs, and glowing from humidity and temperatures in the 90’s a little breeze space is nice. Wider would be better. The width of the new bench was chosen based on the number of deck boards I salvaged from the original.
What about shelves and drawers and doodads? We don’t need them. Our potting bench is a tool and as such must be well-built but attractive in its simplicity.
This is an easy project and could be done with a circular saw and a box of nails. I used my Kreg Jig pocket screw kit, a chop saw, a trim gun, and a few other items from the shop.
The pocket screws allow me to create a sturdy frame, a must for a potting bench.
Lips front and back allow the top slats to rest in place with no hardware. Removable slats make cleaning the bench a cinch.
My deck boards were the standard 5/4 x 6 which means the width is actually 5 ½ inches. I trimmed one length-wise using the table saw to ease the fit so the slats pop up easy if I want to dump a pile of dirt off the bench.
Getting the potting bench to its new location offered a chance for some frivolity. Shawn snapped a few pictures of my toting skills and doubled over in laughter as I backed into place with the appropriate sound effect.
I placed the legs onto 4 granite remnants and invested a few minutes leveling the structure. Although pressure treated wood can be placed in contact with soil I’ve found its life is extended if its feet remain dry.
With screws to serve as hooks for the compost sifters, and a holder for my garden stakes in the back I smiled on the finished product.
Now, back to the plants.