Potting benches can make gardening more efficient, better organized

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One of Karen Angelucci’s favorite gardening tools is the wood potting bench her father made for her.

The big poplar bench has shelves for storing pots, nails on which to hang utensils, and a large work area, said Angelucci, of Lexington, Ky., an author of gardening books. “I have to have room to work and create,” she said. “Potting benches tell the character of a person. That’s why mine’s large and messy.”

Gardeners use the benches primarily for potting flowers and small seedlings.

They can help you become more efficient, said Robin Pokorski, secretary for the National Garden Clubs. She likes having all her tools within arm’s reach when she’s potting plants. “I wouldn’t do without it,” said Pokorski, who lives in Los Angeles.

Pokorski chose a plastic bench because she felt it would hold up better under the California sun. Potting benches are available in many materials from wood to vinyl.

Building one can be an easy do-it-yourself project, said Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s home expert, in Chicago.

Here are some things to consider before buying or building a potting bench:

• LOCATION: Put the bench in a shady spot so you’re not working in direct sun, experts recommend. Consider whether to incorporate the bench into the landscape or hide it behind a garage or shed. Remember that a potting bench can get messy and cluttered.

• SIZE: Think about what size plants and pots you will be using, and how much workspace you will need.

• HEIGHT: Make sure the work area is at a comfortable level. You don’t want to have to bend down or reach up.

• STORAGE: Some benches come with shelves, drawers, or utensil hooks for storing or displaying gardening tools. Consider hanging tools on hooks so they aren’t sitting in wet drawers after it rains.

• MATERIAL: Pick a material suited to your climate. Many benches are made from cedar or redwood, which can withstand the elements well. Plastic and recycled materials also hold up well in sun, rain and snow.

• WHEELS: Some benches have wheels so they can be moved around the yard. If you intend to roll yours around the lawn, make sure it isn’t too heavy to push.

• COST: Prices vary widely. A do-it-yourself bench could be constructed for as little as $30. A number of gardening websites offer plans for building potting benches. Store-bought benches start at around $100.

• APPEARANCE: Benches come in many styles, from rustic to country cottage to simple and functional. If the bench will be visible from a patio, deck or house window, you will need to consider whether it blends with the look of your house or yard.

• ACCESSORIES: Potting benches can be outfitted with many kinds of equipment. Some have sinks that can be rigged to outdoor spigots. Others have leaves or shelves that can be folded out to create extra work space. Some come with boxes to store soil or catch it while you work.