With Spring right around the corner, I’ve been dreaming up plans for what my vegetable garden will look like this season. I’ve plotted where the raised garden beds will go and have been gathering cardboard egg containers and toilet paper tubes to serve as degradable plant containers. I’ll grow as many of my plants from seed as possible this year and was just waiting for February so that I could sow some of my plants. Well, February is here!
As I was getting excited about all the plants that I was going to grow from seed this year, it dawned on me that I had nowhere to store them. 🤦🏻♀️ Our dining room used to be a sunroom and because there are so many windows in the room, it’s the ideal sunny spot for seedlings. But, I didn’t have a large surface to put the seedlings. And, as much as I wanted to put them on the dining room table, our latest puzzle that we just finished had taken up so much room on the table that I was glad to get that space back. I didn’t want to give it up again!
So, a potting/growing bench idea was born! I looked into just buying one, but, number one- that’s not fun! Building one from scratch is. Number 2- I wanted mine to have growing lights, AND a removable bucket for dirt and water, AND lots of space to house my growing plants, AND a solid, not slated, work bench. AND I wanted it to be good looking enough to put in our sunny bedroom or dining room until May when it will be time to plant the seedlings in the garden. I couldn’t find all that in an off-the-shelf potting bench.
There are so many options to have a have an effective potting bench from building one from scratch to upcycling furniture, to just buying a potting bench off the shelf so let’s explore all those options!
When I stared looking around at plans to build my bench, I looked at a YouTube video of a DIYer making one to get the basics. But for the most part, I just winged it when it came to the actual construction of the bench.
Because there are so many tutorials out there, this post will be less technical and will instead give you ideas on what to think about with your own bench.
My first step in thinking about how I wanted my bench to function was to think about the space(s) that I wanted to use it in. In my case, it was going in the dining room or our bedroom until around May and then it would move out to the garage from June-January. In both instances, the bench would always be covered and not exposed to the elements. Because of that, I used a combination of of untreated common board (the cheapest wood you can use) for the unseen parts and untreated poplar (another affordable option but a bit harder and smoother looking than common board ) for the seen parts. If I was going to also use the bench outside, cedar would have been my choice of wood.
For the dimensions of the bench, I wanted the bench to be about bellybutton height since I didn’t want to have to stoop down or reach up to use it. For me that was about 3.5 feet tall. So, I can basically reach my arms straight out and access the bench top. Perfect!
I also wanted the bench to be super versatile so I built two removable shelves so that I could either use them for seedlings with grow lights that are located under the 1st and 2nd shelves, or I could remove the shelves to have a lot of storage space for big items under the bench when it will be used in the garage.
I wanted the bench to be good looking enough that when it lives inside the house, it won’t be an eyesore! So, I painted the frame a pretty blue green (Stratton Blue) and the shelves a light tanish gray (Penthouse). Both colors were by Benjamin Moore.
I initially wanted to make the top of the bench out of slated wood boards, but then I thought that dirt will just get in the cracks and fall either to the shelf below or to the ground. So, that would’ve defeated the purpose of trying to contain the dirt on the bench. Because of that, the top is made out of solid plywood.
The top also has a plastic tub that I added by routing a piece of the plywood then sanding the edges with my Dremel to make a hole to drop the bucket into. Now, when I do my potting or watering, I’ll aim for the bucket that I can then pull out and dump the contents of.
Lastly, I also installed grow lights under the top shelf to illuminate the middle shelf and under the middle shelf to illuminate the bottom shelf. The grow lights I used are wired so the bench has to be near an outlet, but because they are wired and not rechargeable, they are bright! So, I think the plants are going to love that!
In the Spring, when I move the bench out to the garage, I plan on building a removable pegboard wall surface with a shelf above the bench. That way I can store my tools, seeds, dirt, and pots all in one place so that I don’t have to hunt all over the garage to do my gardening.
I really wanted to build a potting bench so that it would be truly custom, but there are a lot of other options to get a functional bench.
Retrofitting Existing Furniture
Upcycling existing furniture is an excellent, and environmentally friendly, way to make a potting bench. Here are some ideas for retrofitting existing furniture.
Store Bought Potting Benches
If you just want to buy one off the shelf, there are a bunch of great options and I like these the most:
Whatever option you choose, a potting bench is a such a convenient way to sow seeds, store gardening supplies, and pot plants.
Hurry up spring! I’m ready for you!