Building a Potting Bench
Learn how to build a potting bench.
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Master gardener Paul James has decided to build a potting bench for his patio. Because he loves container gardening and he usually repots his plants on the patio, this is the perfect location for his new potting bench. So he sketches out a design, buys the lumber and supplies and is ready to get to work.
Building the Potting Bench
First, he clears out the area so he has room to work. Then he measures 36 inches up from ground level against the wall of his house where the bench is going to go. This is a comfortable height for a tabletop. Next he puts up the back plate so that its top edge is level with the 36-inch measurement. The back plate runs the length of the bench and will serve as the support for the back of the bench. Because the walls of his house are made of brick and concrete, he uses a masonry bit to pre-drill holes for the screws. He uses masonry screws to fasten the board to the wall.
Now it's time to set the posts. (Before you get started digging, make sure that there aren't cable, water or gas lines underground.) Because he plans to use a nearby post from the structure of his covered patio, Paul has to set only one post. "Obviously if you don't have a nearby covered patio, you'll have to set two posts," he says. With his posthole digger, he digs down about 15 inches.
Next he measures the length of post. Because the hole is 15 inches deep and the bench will be 36 inches tall, he adds 15 and 36 inches to equal 51 inches. This is how long the post needs to be, so he uses a saw to cut a post 51 inches long. He places the post in the hole. Since the bench isn't going to be used for supporting a lot of weight, he packs dirt around the base of the post, instead of setting it in concrete.
He cuts several support pieces. He attaches one to the back plate and one to the post. Along the way, he'll attach several more to give support to the top of the potting bench. He pre-drills holes so he won't split the lumber when screwing in the fasteners. From here, he attaches the rest of the boards to the back plate, evenly spacing them apart so they will distribute the weight of the tabletop among each of the boards.
Once the support pieces are in place, he is ready to attach the faceplate. Since this board will be visible, Paul selects a nice piece of cedar that's free of any unsightly marks. He angles the screws from the support boards into the back of the faceplate. This way none of the screws will show.
With the faceplate attached, the framework is completed, and it's time to place the table top. He places each board, complete with pre-drilled holes, on top of the frame and screws it into place. To space the boards evenly apart, he places a nail between each board before screwing it into place. He repeats the process until the table top is finished.
Building a Shelf
To make the most of his new potting bench, Paul decides to build a shelf to place on top of the table. He lays the pieces of wood out on the ground in the shape of his shelf. This will help to make it easier to assemble. To make room for storing items of various sizes, he makes room for three shelves of varying heights.
He connects the top of the frame with miter joints. These joints are strong, easy to cut and look nice. Before screwing them together, he uses wood glue to secure both ends together. Then he screws the rest of the shelf together. He adds a fresh coat of paint. In no time, Paul has a brand new shelf for his new potting bench.
Filling the Shelves
Once the paint has dried, it's time to equip the bench with all the accoutrements needed to make it functional. Working from the bottom up, Paul begins by storing a number of containers beneath the bench. These containers contain a variety of things needed for potting up container plants, including a mix of vermiculite and perlite, potting soil and the various mosses he uses as decorative mulches. He also includes a container for trash. Next to the containers is the hose reel, which has easy access to the faucet underneath the bench.
On the top of the bench, he uses a rectangular plastic mat to minimize messes. It's actually designed for muddy shoes, but here it will function as a catch-all for the soil he might spill when filling containers. On one side of the bench, he makes space for his water wands and a small dust broom and pan on the other.
On the shelves, he has placed a mixture of items, some of which are useful and others which are purely decorative. Among the more useful items are sheep shears, scissors, pruners, a pruning knife, a root pruning knife, trowels, twine, watering can and gloves.
See how the Rip & Renew crew builds a combination toy box and bench seat into an used niche.