Sunday, March 8, 2009

Diary March 2006 - Potting Sheds

I wonder if my disorganized world resembles yours: my shovels, trowels, scissors, pruners and pots are stored in the garage. My topsoil is dumped in a big, black heap on the driveway. The mulch is dumped behind the topsoil. My compost is in 2 places: at the side of the house in a black, environmental container provided by the City and then, way down at the back of the yard, are another set of homebuilt bins. When I am dividing plants for the horticulture society’s plant sale or to give to friends, I sit on the steps of the deck near the garden hose, with my pots scattered on the grass and my dirt in the wheelbarrow. I divide and pot up using the stairs as a table.
Sounds like a mess, eh? You bet! Because I consider myself a pretty organized person, what I need now (or at least in the Perfect Garden) is a POTTING SHED!
I’d love either a completely enclosed little “house” or a partially sheltered area with a potting bench and some shelves.
Look at this - here’s a pretty one:

If I had a little potting shed house, here’s how I would organize it:
First of all, the structure would include a window or two, which would be perfect for seedlings. The window would need to be big, both for light and to invite a breeze on a warm afternoon. A hook on the back of the door could hold a sweater, jacket, apron or hat.
The focal point would be a long, wide comfortable bench/work table with multi-level shelves. The table should be built at a comfortable standing height. I’d make sure I also had a high chair or stool beside it as an option. Maybe it would be good to have a fluorescent light over top. The table could have some built-in drawers for catalogues, seed packets, waterproof pens and labels. A small box could hold hand cream and sunscreen. The shelf underneath could house my kneeling pad, buckets, fertilizer boxes, bags of potting soil, vermiculite and sprayers. I would hang all my shovels, rakes, hoes and pruners on the wall. (I also vow, and the world is hearing this! to clean my shovels and tools after every use and especially well at the end of the season. No more ugly, rusty tools allowed!!) If the shed was big enough, maybe it could even store the lawn mower, garden hoses and the wood chipper.
Pots could be stacked in a corner or on shelves around the perimeter. I could have a few plastic crates on the floor for storing bulbs (they’d get good air circulation that way).I would LOVE a sink nearby as well, for watering plants and clean-up. The outside of the little house would be complete with a few flower boxes and a built-in cold frame at the side for hardening off seedlings.
Fantastic, eh??? Wow! I can picture it already!

Now, if a structure was not possible, I could certainly live with just a potting bench.

The premise would be the same – a working surface with enough shelves and spaces to store dirt, trowels and pots. Lattice on 2 sides could provide a wind break and wide slats overhead would keep the sun off the working area. Being right outside is a pleasant place to work – airy and scenic, but there’s no protection from the elements for myself or tender plants. At least the surface area would be better than sitting on the stairs of the deck!
A wonderful little book called The Potting Shed by Linda Joan Smith (Workman Publishing, New York, c1996) shows some nostalgic as well as practical ideas for potting sheds. In the first chapters she describes the pleasure of a shed: “If we’re messy, no one will tell us to clean up. If we are neat, no one will disturb our order……Dirt is a welcome guest. In the house, mud and sand are turned away like unworthy beggars at the door, but in the potting shed we give them a warm reception.” She delves into the history of potting sheds and later describes how to take care of tools, talks about what fun it is to start doing little “garden” things in the shed long before winter is officially gone and many other practical purposes of such a shed. I really enjoyed this book!

So, I think I’ll consider where a potting shed could go in the Perfect Garden so that it serves both a practical purpose and can also be a bit of a retreat, in which to muck about in the dirt.

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