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How to Set Up a Potting Station

Put together a garden workstation as a handy spot for repotting plants, arranging bouquets and stashing tools

Houzz Contributor. Landscape designer, a former garden editor for Sunset Magazine… More

Potting stations are garden workhorses. They keep tools within easy reach, provide a place to store bags of soil, and offer a work surface for starting seeds and repotting or even dividing plants. Beyond the messier garden tasks, a potting station is also a convenient spot to arrange a bouquet of flowers, set down a basket of herbs, tomatoes or anything else harvested from the garden, or – at the very least – rest your cup of tea.

No matter how you choose to use your potting station, we suspect that once you have one, you may wonder how you ever did without this gardening staple.

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Whether you build it yourself, hire a pro, purchase an off-the-shelf model or repurpose a worktable into a potting station, there’s a few things you need to consider before getting started. Homeowners Sandy and Jim Gorman built this impressive potting shed on their property in Henniker, New Hampshire. It’s beautiful, but you don’t have to go this big to get a practical potting place.

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Consider if it’s for you and cost
Setting up a potting station is a good idea if you’re an avid gardener who can’t wait to take advantage of more space for storing go-to tools, starting seeds, repotting and other projects. Conversely, you may be more hands-off in garden beds but happy to make use of an outdoor prep table for arranging flowers, drying herbs or making outdoor crafts. This project can be done in a weekend, depending on whether you buy it, build it yourself or hire someone to build it for you. The cost varies depending on what you make your potting bench with, ranging from about £70 for the simplest prefab model to over £1,000 for a custom-made bench using top-notch materials. Conversely, by repurposing furniture you already have, you can skip the expense of purchasing a new potting bench altogether.

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Decide where to put it
Think about where you’d like the potting station to be and how you intend to use it when planning your design. Do you want it to be indoors or out? Does an area by the side of the house or a corner of the garage need to be cleared to accommodate the potting station? Can you add it to the back of a shed or a pump house for the pool? This copper-topped, barrel-vaulted outbuilding in Michigan in America serves as a pump house and a potting station.

Ideally, choose a spot that’s close to garden beds and comfortable to work in (somewhere at least partially shaded and out of the elements). In cold-winter and wet areas, the best spot for your potting station will most likely be under an overhang, in a shed or in the garage.

If you’re planning to add an outdoor sink, you’ll also need to consider where you can easily hook up to a water supply and where the sink will drain.

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Think about components
Many potting stations have a three-tier system – a top shelf for storing tools, a main work surface, and a lower shelf for stashing pots and bags of soil and other garden bits and bobs. Beyond that, there is plenty of opportunity to customise it to best suit your gardening needs. Consider adding an outdoor sink, drawers to store additional tools and supplies, built-in bins to hold potting soil, or a shade structure to cover the entire set-up.

Want to store more than your garden tools? Check out these outdoor storage ideas

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4 strategies for setting up a potting station

Don’t want to tackle building a potting station on your own? Don’t worry, there are ready-made potting bench options to suit every budget, and professionals to hire to build one to fit your needs.

1. Buy one already made
Potting benches can be purchased from garden centres and online retailers for about £70 for the simplest set-ups; £200 for standard potting benches with a basic work surface, top shelf and bottom shelf; or upward of £400 for those made of cedar, teak and other choice building materials.

Pros Ready-made benches are ready to go with minimal installation. Models are available to suit many budget levels.
Cons There is minimal opportunity to customise. Many of the less expensive models are made from poor-quality wood that will degrade outdoors.

Landscape designer Patricia Acheff of Visionscapes NW Landscape Design in Portland, Oregon, bought the potting station in this photo that serves as the go-to spot for warm-season tool storage. “I use my potting station for keeping my hand tools in one place, along with watering cans, sprinkler heads, watering wands, hose fittings, etcetera,” she says. “I do, however, bring tools indoors during the winter.” The potting station features a three-tier system, with a top shelf for small potted plants and tools, a main workstation with a side shelf for additional storage, and a lower shelf for storing larger items.

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2. Build it yourself
If you’re experienced with woodworking, constructing a simple potting bench can be a project for a weekend. While you’re at it, try to invest in rot-resistant timber. “Good exterior cedar and redwood are best,” says San Diego-based contractor Dagan Koffler of Dagan Design & Construction. These woods and a weather-resistant finishing treatment will help prolong the life of your potting bench outdoors.

Pros You can get the design and size that is best-suited for your space.
Cons New premium lumber can be pricey. If you’re planning to build a potting station yourself soon, start looking for sources of old redwood or cedar now so that you’ll have materials on hand when you need them.

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3. Hire a pro
If you would like a professionally built bespoke potting station or need to fit a potting bench into an unusual space in your garden, hire a carpenter or a contractor skilled at woodworking. Cost vary and will depend on the potting set-up you’d like built. Expect to pay anywhere from £400 to over £1,000.

Pros You get exactly the model you’d like that is best-suited to your needs and space, and you’ll avoid beginner’s mistakes by having a professional build it.
Cons Most likely, this is going to be more expensive than purchasing an off-the-shelf potting bench or building one yourself.

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Koffler designed and built this three-tier potting station out of long-lasting cedar treated with a weather-resistant stain. He customised the model with drawers for storing supplies, a side bin lined with plastic for storing soil, a lattice cover for shading seedlings and a galvanised steel backdrop, complete with hooks for tools.

The main work surface of the station extends 1m across and about 0.6m wide, covered by a lattice ceiling at about 2m tall, angled at 6.5 degrees. The main work surface is 0.9m off the ground – a good height for working.

Koffler also added a hidden soil sifter to the design. There’s a removable cutout in the main workstation that’s lined with galvanised steel mesh. “The idea is to put a solid pot below and sift out soil,” Koffler says. Good-quality, sifted soil can then be stored in the bin until later use.

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4. Repurpose an outdoor table
Alternatively, you can repurpose an old piece of furniture into a potting station – wooden desks, narrow tables and sidetables can all work well. “A good height for working is important,” Acheff says. Look for pieces that have work surfaces about 0.9m off the ground. Also consider the materials of the furniture and how they’ll hold up to your climate. “Weather can do a number on indoor furniture,” Acheff says, and things like peeling paint can be harmful to the garden. If your furniture is not made for the outdoors or you’re otherwise unsure as to whether it will hold up to the weather, choose a site under a covered patio or in a garage.

Pros It can be free or inexpensive if you can find a piece to recycle.
Cons It may be limited to sheltered use only.

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Keep your station organised
Store most-used items like garden shears where they’re easy to reach: hung from a hook, tucked in the top drawer or placed nose-down in an empty pot.

Gather together loose ends, such as plant labels, waterproof pens and reels of twine, in empty terracotta containers, glass jars or bins. Group similar-use items together so that you’ll know where to find them. For example, put all drip-irrigation supplies in one bin.

Keep the workspace clear. Put away tools as you leave the garden or finish a project and sweep the work surface clear of potting soil. Reserve the lower level for storing large pots and bags of soil, plus things like bone meal or granite dust. Put these fertilisers in bins with sealed lids to keep them dry and out of reach of young children and animals.

Now that your potting station is organised, here’s how to sort your shed

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Do you have a potting station? Are there any features you’ve added that you find particularly useful? We’d love to see them in the Comments below.

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