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Northeast Gardening: Thrifty Facelift for a Potting Bench

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

See how you can give an inexpensive makeover to a workaday potting bench. Lowe’s Northeast gardening contributor shows how.

potting bench
cluttered potting bench

By Irene Virag

I had to face it: The outdoor potting bench at the rear of my house was a testament to time and neglect. It had become a dumping ground.

It was a place of last repose for cracked pots and dead plants, for rusted and broken tools, for remnants of roofing shingles, for layers of dirt and grime, for an iron frog that once stood guard over a koi pond, and for a small wagon planter that in its heyday teemed with flowers.

It was a blot on my escutcheon. A place I hurried visitors past or purposefully “forgot” to show them.

clearing out potting bench

And then, like Joan of Arc coming to the aid of Orleans, or the Lone Ranger riding again, along came the Lowes $100 Challenge—in which regional garden contributors are asked to create a new project on a $100 budget. I decided on a makeover for the old workbench.

First I cleared the bench and its shelves, and scrubbed them clean. Next I raked out the fallen leaves, twigs, and assorted debris lurking at the bottom of the bench.

container for tools

I formulated a plan, and it was off to Lowe’s to see what late-season bargains I could lavish a hundred bucks on.

Well, in my case not quite a hundred—I came in at 8 cents under. I had fun and felt virtuous.

I bought six 3-quart pots of pastel-pink and white begonias with bronze foliage, three burgundy-leafed coleus, a crimson mandevilla vine, and two hanging baskets of New Guinea impatiens for half price. And I got a bargain on a large wooden trellis.

I divided the begonias and gave them new homes, in 11 clay pots languishing in my backyard shed, and used two more pots for the coleus. An arrangement was taking shape.

container for tools

It reached new heights when I attached the trellis to the wall above the table and secured the mandevilla to it. I love mandevilla, which symbolized life for me years ago when I fought breast cancer, and I planted the new crimson beauty in an old metal basket I unearthed from beneath the potting bench. A new fiber lining and fresh potting soil, and the planter was a fitting home for the vine.

On the bottom shelf of the workbench, I stored larger clay pots that look good even empty. In front of unsightly pipes and a dryer vent, I placed a container full of clay shards I use as pot liners. The New Guinea impatiens look grand in two charcoal-color pots on either side of the Belgian block border in front of the bench. 

container for knee pads

I even found space for planters that hold trowels, garden gloves, shears, knee pads, and my trusty yellow Crocs.

frog on potting bench

Oh yes: I cleaned up my old iron frog, and he’s very much a presence in front of the workbench. I even put a plant in his lap.

Now I show visitors my potting bench with pride every chance I get. Hi-Ho Silver, awaaay!

See more by this author.

Potting Bench Makeover