DIY Potting Bench

Few tools are as valuable to a gardener as their potting bench, but their high prices or lack of customization can be hindering. Instead of settling for less than what you want, build your own customizable potting bench out of repurposed materials.

| July/August 2018

  • diy potting bench
    Avoid aches and pains by customizing the height of the bench to what’s comfortable for you.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • diy potting bench
    A functional potting bench is easy to make with a few reusable materials.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • underside of countertop
    Measure countertop’s thickness.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • square leg with stepped end
    Clamp the 2-by-4s together.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • square leg screw layout
    Sketch guidelines.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • screwing square leg together
    Use decking screws to fasten together.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • attaching crossbar
    Attach crossbar with scrap wood spacer.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • crossbar attached to square leg
    Remove scrap wood spacer.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • squaring square leg assembly
    Square up the leg assembly.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • leg assembly with shelf frame
    Assemble with shelf frame.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • shelf support boards
    Bottom shelf supports.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • shelf set in place
    Bottom shelf in place.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • brass fittings detail
    Brass fittings for plumbing.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • plumbing detail
    Connect hoses and fittings.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • sink basin set in place
    Attach the faucet and set the sink basin in place.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • tie in frame boards
    Attach the front and back boards to the bench.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman

  • diy potting bench
  • diy potting bench
  • underside of countertop
  • square leg with stepped end
  • square leg screw layout
  • screwing square leg together
  • attaching crossbar
  • crossbar attached to square leg
  • squaring square leg assembly
  • leg assembly with shelf frame
  • shelf support boards
  • shelf set in place
  • brass fittings detail
  • plumbing detail
  • sink basin set in place
  • tie in frame boards

To a gardener, the potting bench is an indispensable tool. It provides a dedicated work space for seeding flats, starting transplants, repotting seedlings, bench grafting, trimming harvested vegetables, washing harvested vegetables... the list goes on and on. If asked their favorite tool, a gardener might pick a certain trowel or pruner, but they probably use their potting bench more, and for more diverse tasks, than any other tool they own.

There are plenty of potting benches available to purchase, with prices ranging from $50 to $500. Some have shelves and bins for potting mix. Others have built-in wells to contain repotting messes, or frames to hold grow lights over seedlings. None ever seem to have all of the features you want, or the space you need. And you get what you pay for; cheap models rarely last more than a year.

However, for the price of a box of decking screws, a few brass fittings, a few 2-by-4s, a few hours of work, and some opportunistic upcycling, you can build the ultimate potting bench complete with every feature you want, including the kitchen sink. This project revolves around a salvaged section of kitchen countertop and a sink basin with faucet plumbing.

The countertop I used for this article came from our kitchen remodel. Even if you have no plans for updating your kitchen in the near future, you can still get your hands on a castoff sink counter. Once in a while, one will appear on the side of the road along with a "FREE" sign. Ask around; family, friends, or coworkers may be planning a remodel soon. Keep an eye on Craigslist or other online crowd-sourcing platforms. The simplest and fastest way to find an old countertop and sink, however, is to go right to the source: call local contractors and ask them. Since contractors have to pay to dispose of construction waste, someone is certain to be happy to supply you with what you need. They may even have several to choose from.



A word on materials: The countertop will most likely be laminated particleboard or plywood. While lamination will protect the surface from water, exposed edges can swell and degrade if they get wet. Seal them with an aerosol rubberizing spray, especially if the bench will spend significant time outside in the elements.

The sink will probably be either stainless steel or enameled steel, and may be a single or double basin. Either style will work well and last for years. Stainless steel is considerably lighter, which will matter only during construction.






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