How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench

Written by jessert
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How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
Outdoor Potting Bench

An outdoor potting bench will make the task of potting up plants an even more enjoyable exercise by giving you an area to work outdoors. Being outdoors enjoying the garden is the object, so any chore that can be performed outside is a plus, especially on sunny days with a light breeze, so the potting bench is an essential piece of equipment for outdoor work. This project is the construction of a basic potting bench, approximately 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide and 5 feet long, with a couple of small features that will make clean up and tool storage a cinch for messy and sometimes absentminded gardeners like myself.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Power miter saw
  • pull saw
  • circular saw
  • jig saw
  • hammer
  • socket set w/extention
  • measuring square
  • (14) 5/16x4 lag screws
  • (1) box 10 penny coated nails
  • water resistant exterior glue
  • (2) small zinc coated hinges
  • (1) zinc coated sliding latch

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Instructions

  1. 1

    The first thing to be built will be the base of the bench. At right there are (4) 30 1/2" 2x4s, (4) 36" 2x4s and (2) 2' 11" 2x6s - all pressure treated.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  2. 2

    Join the two 30 1/2 inch 2x4s and the two 36 inch 2x4s as shown in the picture, but don't nail them together yet, we'll be gluing them up then nailing them together. The nails will serve double duty as fasteners and clamps.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  3. 3

    Glue and nail the 30 1/2 inch and 36 inch pieces together. I'd start the nails in the shorter piece with the nails just protruding out the other side, so when you go to nail the two glued up pieces the tips of the nails will grab into the other 2x4 preventing the two pieces from sliding out of alignment.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  4. 4

    Next glue and nail the legs to the 2 foot 11 inch 2x6, one leg flush with the end and the other leg 24 inches from the same end. The outside measurement of the legs will be 24 inches.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  5. 5

    Make sure to square up the legs before gluing and nailing.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  6. 6

    After attaching the legs we'll place a cross brace in for the legs. Here I'm measuring six inches up from the bottom of the legs and marking the waste area to cut out for the cross brace. Measure up another 3 1/2 inches from the 6 inch mark this will be the width of the cross brace, mark this area with an "X" and remove the waste.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  7. 7

    Set your circular saw to the depth of a 2x4, an easy way is to just get a scrap piece of 2x4 and measure your blade depth with that.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  8. 8

    With the waste removed glue and nail in the 24 inch cross piece.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  9. 9

    Perform the same procedure for the other leg, just make sure you glue and nail the second 2x6 facing the opposite direction like in the picture.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  10. 10

    Cut some blocking from scrap pieces of 4x4 approx. 5 1/2 inches long. This will be used to attach the 4 foot 6 inch 2x6 stretcher in the back. This will also help prevent the bench from racking.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  11. 11

    Countersink 3/4 inch holes about 1/2 inch deep and predrill a hole for the 5/16 x 4 lag screws that will attach the blocking to the back corner of the leg assembly. Do this with both leg assemblies.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  12. 12

    Do the same procedure as step 11, but with the 4 foot 11 inch back stretcher, you'll need a helper to help hold the piece while you check for square, with a framing square, and attach the legs with lag screws.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  13. 13

    On the front side you'll be attaching a 56 inch 2x6 stretcher. I temporarily nailed the stretcher in then performed step 11 again, but with only one 5/16 x 4 inch lag screw on each end.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  14. 14

    Like this.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  15. 15

    Measure 16 inches from the inside of the left and right 2x6s that extends out from the leg assembly. Draw a vertical line 2 3/4 inches down (half the width of the 2x6), then a horizontal line 1 1/2 inches (the thickness of a 2x6) and another 2 3/4 inch vertical line to complete the notch. Mark the waste and remove with a jig saw or hand saw.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  16. 16

    I like to use a pull saw, it gives me better control of the cut - I think.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  17. 17

    A closeup of the notches.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  18. 18

    Here I've placed a 2x6 that's longer than I need. First tap the 2x6 down to the bottom of the notch and make sure the 2x6 butts up to the back stretcher. Adjust the 2x6 until level. Take the inside measurement of the 2x6 that extends out from the leg assembly and mark that measurement on the 2x6 that extends out from the notch and cut, now both of these extended pieces will be the same length.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  19. 19

    While the 2x6 is sitting in the notch mark the notch, now you have the exact placement of the interlocking notch without any measuring.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  20. 20

    Tap the completed piece into it's notch, making sure the measurements in the front and back are the same.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  21. 21

    Measure at the front and at the back make sure you've got the same width and secure the piece by nailing through the back stretcher into the cross piece.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  22. 22

    Like this.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  23. 23

    Glue and nail the fronts of your fixed drawers.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  24. 24

    I'm using 2x6 for the top of the bench, and I'm predrilling the boards - it'll make for an easier time and fewer broken screws.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  25. 25

    I've put in diagonal bracing to stiffen up the bench side to side. Use a measuring square to check for square and to set your brace at 45 degrees.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  26. 26

    Then trace where the brace crosses the legs and the back stretcher. I'll be cutting half laps into the brace ends for a stronger connection.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  27. 27

    Use a circular saw and set the blade depth at 3/4 inch and saw teeth in the area to be removed.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  28. 28

    Knock out the teeth.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  29. 29

    Clean up the notch with a block plane or 1 inch chisel.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  30. 30

    The completed braces.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  31. 31

    With the half lapped ends the braces should line up in a nice 45 degree angle. Glue and screw the half laps for a strong bond.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  32. 32

    Next I cut a 2x6 the length of the bench, this will be the back splash for the bench, then I set the 2x6 on it's side and bore a 1 inch hole 3 inches down with a spade bit, careful here, it's easy to wander to either side. Then drill out the rest of the way with a drill bit slightly smaller than the diameter of your 5/16 x 4 inch lag screw. I've done this once on each end of the 2x6 5 inches in from the ends.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  33. 33

    Use the same procedure as step 32 for the right side of the bench. I drew then cut an ogee in the side pieces so the depth of the hole in the shallower end of the ogee will have to be adjusted. Allow 1 to 1 1/2 inches of the lag screw to screw into the bench top. Then nail the butted ends of the back and side splashes (on the right side) together. On the left side I hinged it and used a sliding latch to secure it.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  34. 34

    Flip down the side for easy clean up or if you need to sweep directly into a wheel barrow or garbage can.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  35. 35

    Next staple hardware cloth to the bottom side of the fixed drawers, then screw on strips of 1x2s to the bottom side to secure the hardware cloth and hide away any wire that might be poking out. I'm messy, and I rarely use pegs or hooks to hold my tools while I'm working; if I misplace tools while working I may waste 10 to 20 minutes looking for them; so the fixed drawers work great for me I'll just drop it in the drawer and forget about it - and when I do remember that's the first place I look.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench
  36. 36

    The finished project, ready for potting plants and any other gardening work.

    How to build an Outdoor Potting Bench

Tips and warnings

  • Materials for the construction of this project are treated (pressure treated lumber) take appropriate precautions (respiratory mask, goggles) when working around or handling these materials.

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