Lynda Hal­li­nan

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 wall­pa­perdi­, 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!

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