Anyone who enjoys growing or gardening knows that constantly bending over to work or working directly on the ground can be hard on the back as well as make a fun hobby more of chore. A planting or Potting bench is a work bench that can keep all your planting tools, soils and pots in one place while providing a working platform that is not only convenient to use but well organized.
The Planting Bench showcased here is made with 95% reclaimed wood and actually allows for not only using the bench as a work surface but it's built in such a way that you can actually grow vegetables and herbs within the bench while keeping the functionality of the bench's works areas clear and clean.
This project for me is by far one of my favourite builds yet. I love growing things and this bench has been perfect for what I wanted. Its extremely strong and stands alone with out the need for any supports. I built it in 1.5 days with wood I had laying around and left over pieces from other projects. I had no design or plan when I built it, just a general idea of what I wanted but the majority of the design decisions came from working with what available wood I had on hand. The only wood I had to buy was the post supports because I wanted 4"x4" supports for extreme strength. I bought one 12' piece that cost me $12.95 and had it cut in the lumber store.
Now because I had no design and the wood I used was "reclaimed and extra" the material list might be a little random but I'll try my best to cover everything you will need to build something like this for yourself.
- Wood and lots of it !
- 4 pieces 4x4 posts cut to 3' tall
- 2 pc. 8'x 2" x 4" for the frame with 2' cut of each end leaving you with 2, 6 foot pieces and 2, 2 foot pieces
- Barn fence boards they are usually 12" wide 3/4" thick and 6'-7' long I had a bunch laying around.
- Slat material - I used 8 pieces of 1.5" wide x 8' long by 3/4" thick which I had laying around from a different project.
- Skid or pallet wood for side shelf
- Lots of cut offs and random pieces to use where you can
- 1 pc. of Lexan, This can be pricey but you can get it at most home reno stores they sell it in Canada at Home Depot. I already had it laying around so for me it was free but this is essential to the growing section of the planter bench
- Screw eyelets for hanging things
- different types of small fixtures to hang larger items off of
- outdoor thermometer
- beer/bottle opener
- wine crates (optional) but helpful - get them at a liquor store
- watering can
- gardening tools
- garden netting 9optional
- Jigsaw or circular saw
- power drill
- miter saw (optional)
- lots of screws of different sizes
- hammer and finishing nails
***Pro-tip - Most of the fun when making something like this comes from the versatility in design options and making changes on the fly based on what material you are working with. So use this instructable as a guide but I highly recommend altering the design and really making it your own through trial and error***
Step 1: Building the Frame
The frame for a planting bench needs to be sturdy because soil, plants and tools can weigh quite a bit especially after you soak everything in water adding to the overall weight. Not to worry though a 2x4 frame on 4x4 posts will be more then enough to support 200-300lbs
I had 8 foot long 2x4's laying around from another project so I cut 2' off each end and was left with 2, 6 foot lengths and 2, 2 foot lengths.
I had to buy the posts for the legs I bought 1, 12' long piece of 4x4 and had it cut in the lumber store to 4 equal lengths of 3'.
Step 1 - On a level floor layout the rectangular shape of the bench with the 2x4 pieces. make sure to use a "square" or something that will ensure these initial frame is as square as possible. now place two screws in each end securing the frame together.
Step 2 - Attaching the legs is simple. Move the frame to a bench to make it easier to work with. find a spacer that is about 3/4" in height and place it in the corner of the frame then place 1 4x4 post/leg in the corner and secure with 4 3" wood screws, 2 from each side of the frame. The spacer is used to elevate the 4x4 post so that when you have attached all 4 legs and flip the bench right side up there will be an equal offset from the top of the bench to the top of the legs allowing you to add slats that will be flush later on.
Step 3 - Now you can flip the bench over and secure supports to the legs which will also be supports for a lower bench that will act as storage as well as the growing section of the bench. I used 2x2 pieces and attached them just a bit lower then halfway down the legs. Then I grabbed 1 on the fence boards I had and placed it on the supports to see how it looked but I thought it would look better as 2 pieces so I just measured it and cut it in half to create two strips. I then attached them to the supports and now I had a growing shelf.
Step 4 - Adding Slat supports. I had some 3/4" thick by 1.5" wide by 8' long laying around from a frame a built for a different instructable so I cut it to sit flush inside the legs at the same height and secure it to the front and back of the bench. These will act as the supports for the slats and Lexan which eventually make the bench portion of the bench.
Step 5 - Adding the top shelf. With some cut off pieces of wood I made 2 supports that were about 10-12" tall then secured them to the back of the bench frame. I used an extra piece of fence board and attached it to the supports then used some 90 degree metal supports to add more stability to the shelf. After the shelf was secure I added 1" slats between the two supports with some strips of wood I cut out from a piece of fence board. They not only provided more stability to the shelf but looked great and was very quick and easy to install.
Step 6 - Adding Slats and Lexan. So I had an old piece of Lexan which is the clear plastic looking piece you can see in the photos. I wanted to make a growing station so I centered the clear Lexan and then measure my remaining space to be filled with slats. I cut the slats to fit and then spaced them by eye and secure each slat with 2 screws, one screw at each end. Finally the bench was taking shape.
****The Lexan is not secured down. I wanted to be able to lift the clear piece of Lexan so I could clean it or wipe it down or even to simply remove it and allow full light and rain into the growing area.****
Step 2: Customizing and Finishing Touches
Now that the frame and bench is basically complete you can can now add things to make it more functional and make your life easier when working and planting on the bench. I added a varierty of different fasteners and holders for different tools. I added green netting to the back to help deter some larger animals like squires and birds.
When my bench was basically done I decided I wanted to add another grwoing shelf to the right side of the planting bench that I chould grow tomoatoes and peppers on. I grabed some random wood I had laying around and made a very simple shelf that was sturdy and looks great too.
I added 2 LED solar lights to the upper shelf for a little landscape lighting at night. Though I am probably not going to be doing much planting at night the solar lights look very nice accenting the bench in my yard.
Step 3: Functionality and Growing
After 2 weeks my plants are growing great and the bench is more then I could have ever hoped for. I am planting or re-potting different items almost everyday and the Planted Bench is the best and most usable garden item I have.
Key functionality points
- The bench is easy to clean and drains all water quickly and efficiently reducing the risk of mold related issues.
- The Lexan growing area is working wonders. It protects the younger seedlings from the direct elements, creates a somewhat more humid greenhouse like environment and if I want to I can remove the Lexan and allow for rain water to fall onto the plants naturally.
- I used 95% reclaimed wood and scrap wood I already owned which kept cost down and was fun to work around.
- The Planting Bench has a presence in my yard and is a good looking outdoor structure. The solar lighting accents the wood at night creating ambiant lighting in my yard.
- I made the entire project with no plan or design I just had fun doing it.
- The bench can easilly hold 200-300 lbs of weight.
- The bench is moveable and can be brought to a new house should I ever move or want to just move it to a different location on my current property.
- I had so much fun building it !