pimps her potting bench
Afold-up plastic trestle table has numerous meritorious features. It’s lightweight, portable, inexpensive, durable, waterproof and able to fit, with a little wiggling and jiggling, into the boot of an average family car. Unlike flat-pack furniture, no assembly is required and good quality models include a carry handle and metal clips to keep their legs firmly crossed when not in use.
My 1.8m fold-up plastic trestle table cost less than $50 at my nearest hardware chain. I use it almost every day. It serves as a picnic table, potting bench, roadside stall, farmers market stand, summer garden bar, barbecue table, workshop lectern, preserving sideboard, spare desk, temporary kitchen island and as an extra shelf in the shed. It can be dressed up with a vintage tablecloth, washed down with a hose or covered with a sheet to make an indoor tent when our children want to camp in the lounge.
I can’t fault my trestle table’s practicality but have to admit it’s not very aesthetically pleasing and, as the Swiss industrial design entrepreneur Yves Béhar once said, “If you don’t love something, it’s not functional, in my opinion.”
In summer, I’m quite content to sow seeds, pot up bulbs, take cuttings, prick out plants and arrange flowers on my trestle table, but in winter, I’d rather do these jobs somewhere warm and dry. Which means that, much to my husband’s chagrin, I invariably migrate indoors with my seed packets, pots, trowels and bags of compost.
A couple of years ago, with the help of local builder Elvin Blank, I designed a potting nook for the end wall of our stable block, with a lean-to roof, two recycled windows and an old workbench that I nabbed for $80 from a demolition yard. It was a lovely sunny space that had everything going for it, bar the kitchen sink.
It was a dry bar. If I was arranging flowers, I’d have to drag the hose from the other end of our house to fill my vases, or lug buckets and watering cans around when I wanted to give my pot plants a good soak. That became pretty tiresome pretty quickly, which explains why I abandoned my nook in favour of unfolding my trestle table right next to the tap instead.
Gardening is a dirty job at the best of the times. There’s liquid fertiliser
to dilute, organic salad greens to rinse free of aphids, root crops to scrub (acquaintances down the road jokingly call their outdoor bathroom “the carrot shower”), hand tools to clean and grubby green fingers to exfoliate and wash.
But of the many good reasons why keen gardeners need a dedicated outdoor sink, marital harmony must rank quite high on the list. My husband might tolerate the occasional trail of muddy footprints through the house (nature doesn’t always call at the most convenient times) but he was less amused the time I blocked our bath’s waste trap washing dirt off a bucketful of new-season potatoes.
“I would have done it outdoors,” I said, hoping he might get the hint, “if only I had a sink...”
While renovating an indoor bathroom can require a second mortgage, creating an outdoor washing-up area needn’t be costly. Second-hand sinks and antique taps are a dime a dozen at demolition yards and my chipped butler’s sink was a bargain, even if it did require some serious elbow grease, not to mention half a bottle of Jif, to get rid of its old rust stains.
Having saved on the fittings, I thought I’d splurge on a drystone schist wall, like the ones in the designer gardens at London’s Chelsea Flower Show, to give my potting corner a sense of glamorous gravitas. Just kidding: it’s vinyl wallpaper. I slapped up a single roll of faux Cornish Stone (Arthouse Wallpapers from wallpaperdirect.co.uk), for which I paid the princely sum of £10.99 ($20).
I wasn’t intending to plumb my sink in professionally. My original plan was simply to fit the tap to a standard hosepipe attachment, so I could turn it on and off as required, with a strategically placed bucket under the plughole to catch all the drips. (When washing my hands, I use natural organic soap and recycle the sudsy water as a sooty mould spray for citrus trees or an eco-friendly aphid deterrent for my rose bushes.)
So, when my husband volunteered to do the plumbing, I must confess that I found his sudden enthusiasm for my potting bench project slightly suspicious, and I was right to be leery.
“This is going to make an excellent fish-filleting bench come summer,” he said.
With its own sink and rustic decor, Lynda’s covered potting nook is a step up from her summertime outdoor trestle table. Wooden crates make great shelves and baskets provide extra storage.
Old baskets and pottery stem holders are useful and nice to look at. The sink – perfect for watering and cleaning up – also supports marital harmony!