Columnist Jim Hillibish's gardening column.
My neighbor for years has offered to build me a potting bench. I always put him off. Like we already have one, almost - our patio table.
Over the same period, I was oblivious to my wife’s total hatred of her nice, glasstop table, on which we eat regularly turning into a filthy, mud-strewn “potting bench.”
I was out there a lot. My houseplant collection has grown, literally, to jungle status. Repotting, trimming and whatever is a nearly constant chore all summer.
Falling for It
Finally, loosened with Jamaican beer on Dennis and Mimi’s patio, I acquiesced.
Let’s just do it.
My reluctance stemmed from what I have seen in stores and online. The kind of bench I wanted cost 400 smackers plus. Then it arrives all broken down with another eight hours of “some assembly required.” And still, I didn’t see anything that exactly fit my concept of the perfect bench.
Dennis is what we call an engineer’s engineer. He can design anything, fix anything and make anything. I told him what I wanted, and we took the truck to Home Depot.
So Many Choices
We decided on treated lumber. Cedar is about double and synthetic wood which never rots is astronomical.
We spent an hour in the treated department finding exactly what he wanted. It all looked the same to me, but choosing lumber to Dennis is an art. We sighted each piece for warping and checked for excessive knottiness and splintering. I’m sure the clerk thought we were building an airliner.
Then we loaded up on the right kind of rustproof screws, brackets and a special glue impervious to the elements.
At checkout, it came in less than $100. Now we know why the finished ones cost so much. They’re ringing up $200 to $300 just to cut up the stuff.
All afternoon, I heard loud noises in Dennis’ workshop, sawing, mitering, routing, screwing, sanding. Five hours later, my phone rang: “Check this out.”
And there it was, a state-of-the-art potting bench built for total convenience.
A good bench goes beyond “bench.” It must have an array of shelving above for tools and supplies, all handy. The bench top is sectioned with two removable pieces. One is open slatted to let the water through with a kitty litter box underneath. The other covers another bin for potting soil, perfectly positioned.
I hung buckets on each side for trimmings. Instantly I’m wondering how did I ever get along without this. The cleanup alone saves an hour.
But the biggest benefit was watching my wife exclaiming with joy that her precious patio table was rescued from the throes of total filth at least once a week.
If you are tool challenged but intrigued by this, ask around. Woodworking is a popular hobby. I'll bet you have a friend eager to tackle an interesting project.
You can find design ideas on the Internet. Some sites even offer free plans. Decide what you want and go for it.
P.S.: Dennis built one for his wife. It has a cedar-shake roof so she can pot in the rain.
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