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

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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