A fast and easy way to create a functional potting area is to customize readily available items from big box stores. This allows for more flexibility in design than purchasing a prefabricated unit, yet doesn’t take the skills of a carpenter to build. But designing an “out-of-the-box” potting station does take some thought, and finding the right elements can be an exercise in compromise—or an exciting treasure hunt—depending on your frame of mind and how much time you can devote to the project. Our completed potting station cost just under $350. Here are a few guidelines to get you on your way.
Left: Lorraine's shed before she built her potting bench
What to look for
Shelving Start by finding a framework for your potting station; it should be sturdy and durable, and—if the unit will be sitting outdoors—built to weather the elements. Look for adjustable shelves with easy-to-clean surfaces. We chose the Broder galvanized steel shelving system from Ikea. The solid worktop bears up to 100 kilograms of weight, while the upper mesh shelf allows for good ventilation, making it great for holding terracotta pots, which are less likely to develop fungal growths in a well-aired environment.
Storage Organizing a range of materials—from fertilizers, labels and soil to pots and decorative mulches—calls for a variety of storage solutions and a bit of ingenuity. Look for slide-out bins (the ones we used are made for toys) that can be moved from shelf to worktop as needed, and durable stackables to hold the heavier, bulkier items. Labels and markers can be tucked away in a cutlery tray, fertilizers nestled in a wire mesh basket designed to hold CDs, and mulches neatly stored in large kitchen canisters.
Equipment Whether you opt for a pegboard or metal grid, maximize wall space with a system that’s versatile enough to hold items that need to be close at hand, such as trowels and watering cans. We selected a metal grid that’s intended for reinforcing concrete, readily available at building supply stores. Cut to size with a pair of wire snippers; the grid is offset with shims about 2.5 centimetres from the wall to make it easy to tuck in tools and hang S-hooks to hold everything from scissors to dustpans for sweeping debris into a handy garbage can.