The dream of a potting bench runs rampant among real gardeners who long for a hidden retreat in their landscape, not only to add organization to their passion but to perform a little horticultural magic.
During the past couple of years, I have been able to see the difference between those who really use their potting benches and those who had benches but whose dreams never materialized. I am certainly not poking fun at those who failed to see their dreams come to fruition; after all, I too have used exercise equipment for a clothes rack.
The first thing that all of the successful benches had in common was a close proximity to the home. The further the walk to the work area, it seemed, the less likely the bench would be used properly.
Think about it: One of the hoped-for aspects of the bench is organization, a place where the Felco or Corona pruners are kept safe and secure. The gloves are right where you want them to be. The bench that is far away loses its purpose, and the garden treasures start to end up in cubbies in the garage, the storage shed or the kitchen.
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The second feature of the most successful potting benches has been the proximity to water. To be honest, most had a water source incorporated in the bench's design. Others had a water hose with a spray nozzle close at hand. The least successful required dragging a hose the length of the yard or using a watering can.
Thirdly, the benches were designed and built with the user in mind, just the right height to keep the gardener from bending, kneeling and more bending.
The best benches provided adequate shelving and compartments for pots, soil, tools, fertilizer, rooting hormone and more.
Some potting benches became gathering places. We have outdoor rooms for entertaining and relaxing, and these work areas also became a gathering place for gardeners to relax and perhaps share cuttings.
One rustic bench that had everything I've described also had a large compost pile nearby. This was great for recycling and to gather some of the material that had turned into black gold.
One gardener had dual potting benches. One was outside and functional; the other was incorporated into a poolside cabana in an almost greenhouse atmosphere. There were large windows for sunlight, and of course it provided ample protection from freezing temperatures during the winter.
Fall is a great time for dividing perennials, taking cuttings and rooting plants. It also is time to get tropicals ready to be repotted and moved indoors. A potting bench will make the tasks seem like horticultural fun instead of a laborious project.