Looking for somewhere to sow seeds, transplant a few plants or maybe just putter about? Working with a potting bench during gardening season is pure luxury and you’ll find yourself looking forward to keeping all your tools and supplies organized at your very own little garden center.
You can have everything in one location including bags of soil, empty pots and containers, hanging tools, plant food and fertilizers (just make sure to store them in airtight containers so the rain won’t get in) and even a bucket for garbage storage or compost bin collecting if you like.
Here are over 20 free plans for you to review, they offer either complete tutorials or enough details showing you how to make your own. Many provide cutting lists, diagrams and lots of pictures too. Pick one you like and you can build it over a day or two then enjoy it during this year’s season.
The projects below vary from beginner to advanced woodworking skills with both simple and elaborate designs offered–a little something for everyone.
Bonus! Once you start using the bench, you’ll realize how nice it is working on a near-waist high surface, no more constant bending over while filling your pots with soil (priceless!).
Everything I’ve posted below should have free instructions available without fussy registrations or sign-up dues and I’ve tried linking directly to the directions/plans page itself, so this list is definitely a useful collection that can get you started without fuss.
Tutorials & Instructions
Tip: Even if something doesn’t meet all your needs, spend some time reviewing a variety of plans for ideas and inspiration to customize your own design…this collection is loaded with them. Have fun!
|Simple Plans Suitable For Beginners: Here’s a nice & easy one to start off the list, it’s the design my husband and son built for me for Mother’s Day one year. Suitable for beginner carpenters. I find there’s plenty of workspace and I like the roomy storage shelf underneath. I keep a big plastic tub there (with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage) to keep assorted pots and seedling trays in. A big bag of potting soil sits on the the other side. Along the edges of the top workspace you can add hooks to hang garden tools. Even if you are planning to build something with more features, this is a nice basic design that you can build tweaks onto easily. And yes, I chose the same beautiful red paint, it looks gorgeous in the yard!|
|Two Pallets & Wood: (website MIA, link is to web archive page) This is an easy DIY repurposing a couple pallets and some spare wood. You can see how the two pallets are utilized as the top work surface and the back wall. Hooks are attached along the top of the back slats and around the work surface edge. Notice how both the bottom shelf and the top surface are stained with outdoor stain rather than painted, really makes the whole piece pop.
Each leg is made sturdy with a couple 2x4s then each side has another board running across to fit slats of wood on top to act as a shelf for supplies. Easy DIY, but wow, the finished product sure does the trick!
|Sturdy & Backed With Wire Mesh: If you’re looking for something a little more advanced to build, this would be a good choice. It’s sturdy and will surely last for years. Still, it’s not too complicated and I would say Intermediate Level woodworking skills are all that’s needed.
This one has a top shelf, wire mesh back to hang garden tools from, sturdy double legs and a spacious bottom shelf. The site has broken pdf links for the printable PDF cut list but it’s still available on page along with basic instructions and diagrams showing how everything is pieced together.
|Repurposed Dresser: This is a neat idea and pretty easy to pull off. I would keep my eye out for a dresser with at least one deep drawer at the bottom to hold assorted pots and a bucket of soil. Disassemble first then paint or stain each piece to protect it from the weather.
Notice the sides have plenty of room for hooks to hang tools, a nice finishing touch would be to fit a piece of painted peg board or lattice along the side so you can move the hooks around as you like. I would also consider removing part of the back (top half) and replace with lattice or even fit with peg board to hang items.
|Potting-Bench Perfection: Wow, this one’s great. It features a couple shelves and a bin at the bottom, slatted wood work surface and a wire mesh back with a shelf running across the top. They recommend using pressure-treated lumber with high moisture content rather than ordinary framing and trim lumber. If you’re going to build something this grand, it’s a good idea to use quality materials that will last for years and years. The skill level is rated as “Intermediate” with both a Project Diagram and Cutting List available to download via PDF and print. There’s also a quick video showing the seven elements that are taken apart then put back together. It’s an interesting way to help you conceptualize the project.|
|Two-Pallet Bench: This one looks kinda short but the details indicate it will finish at 37″ which is a decent height for the average person. Materials needed are very basic (another repurposing project so that’s nice) and very easy to put together too. Notice how charming it can be with just a bit of paint!
One other idea for this would be to tuck it in a sunny corner to hold seedling trays when you start herbs and veggies throughout the season (I find I need to start things like Cilantro, Basil and Lettuce every two weeks or so to always have fresh on hand). This would be a nice little piece of furniture in the yard to hold all the little pots.
|Simple One Day Project: Scroll down the page a bit to find the instructions but spend some time looking at the lovely ideas and additions she added, some great inspiration is to be found! She assures readers that this can be whipped together in just an afternoon. It features a back lattice wall, a recessed bin on the top work surface and a sturdy bottom shelf to hold supplies. I was initially thinking I’d prefer the shelf to be lower (check the project page to see what I’m talking about, it’s slightly different than what’s shown here) but on second thought, you can see that there’s plenty of space between the ground and the shelf to store bins and buckets so hmmmm, maybe I’d go with her initial design as-is afterall.|
|Old Bookshelf & Table: This one does not have a detailed step-by-step tutorial, but she shares plenty enough information so you can easily build this out yourself. She took an old, beat-up table, nailed on some wood slats across the top since the surface was so rough and damaged then painted it all and attached an old, painted bookshelf to the top. You can see the side hooks for hanging tools and a small window box attached to the other side that can hold more tools or wee potted plants. Very cute & charming and a super-easy DIY.
The trick is to find the treasures at a garage sale and this can be made for just a few bucks!
|With Back Hutch: (pdf download) Finished dimensions are: 73 1/8″ (Height); 20 1/2″ (Depth); 60″ (Width). I love the pigeonholes and wooden shaker pegs to organize small tools, while a sturdy shelf below holds weightier items. The lattice backing always looks so nice on a potting bench and suits the garden perfectly. The wee compartments keep small items and tools close at hand. They recommend attaching furniture slides to the legs to minimize the absorption of moisture from the ground into the wood. This will extend the life of the potting bench and delay deterioration. Great project sheet that has plenty of diagrams, detailed instructions and a cut list.|
|With Cubbies: Lots of nice features in this project including plenty of organizing shelves on top, a hatch with hardware cloth to give you a surface that allows excess soil to fall through to a bin on the shelf below. Measures approximately 6 ft. long, 2 ft. deep, and 32 in. high. If redwood is unavailable, consider cedar, another good weather-resistant wood. The overall directions for the potting bench are simple so you do need to know how to work with a plan but you can modify the design according to your needs or style.
Download the materials list, cut list, detailed drawing, and step-by-step instructions in pdf format here: Taunton.com.
|Mud Bar: This is actually designed for youngsters so it will have to be adjusted in height a few inches to be better suited for adult gardeners, but if you’re looking for something with a sink or two, you should check this out. It’s a simple enough design with the back wall loaded with hooks for hanging tools and plenty of space on the counter top to fit a sink or two (I like the stainless steel colander idea for easy drainage). I would add a slatted wood shelf along the bottom railings for extra storage. The instructions are nicely detailed with plenty of photos to help you build this. They used old deck boards to help keep the cost down. If it’s not quite what you want for a potting bench, this sure would be awesome for the kiddos!|
|Repurposed Sewing Machine Table: This is smaller than what most of us are looking for, but it can be a practical addition to the yard depending on what your needs are. If you have a huge yard, why not tuck something like this in a far corner with just the essentials stocked so you have a convenient spot to deadhead and prune a few potted plants. It’s also a great idea for children who are pining for a work bench just like mom & dad have. This is made from an old sewing machine table that has the machine and parts gutted, then painted and fit with a plastic sink. You can protect the top workspace with a cutting board. It’s really quite charming and may be just the thing you’re looking for.|
|Portable with Wheels: A DIY by Danny Lipford, this potting bench/garden cart has the added advantage of being portable. Features wheels on the front and handles on the back that allow you to move it outside when the weather is nice then store it out of the way in the garage when not in use. There’s also a nice side tray to hold tools (opposite side from the handles) and attached inside is a 5 gallon plastic bucket for soil (with a removable panel above it). This is made from pressure treated pine and you’ll need some woodworking experience to get this done. There are three free plan diagram sheets to download (Top View; Side View; End View), a cutting list provided and a quick video to help.|
|With Back Hutch: I had trouble with this page using the Internet Explorer browser, if you do too, try another browser like Chrome. Then you click on the blue arrows that are pointing down to view the “More Information, Tools, & Materials” and the “Project Steps” section. There’s a video available to help as well. The instructions provided are nice and detailed, I just found them fussy to access.
This design features a nice slatted wood back to hang sturdy hooks that will hold supplies, even a small bar to hang a towel if you want! Nice and functional, it’s similar in style to the one at the top but has extra hanging storage.
|The Workhorse: For the serious gardener who wants function over fashion, this one’s the ticket. The top workspace doubles as a soil bin and planting area. Finished size measures 48″ wide and 24″ deep, so this is nice and substantial without being too unwieldy. There’s a top shelf to hold smaller items and a large bottom shelf sturdy enough to hold heavy bags of soil, pots and other essentials. He recommends using pressure treated lumber and the project is reinforced with shelf brackets and corner braces. Nicely detailed tutorial with good instructions and photos. Don’t miss the video on the page where he shows off a super-classy outhouse potting bench that he built, lol. Nice job!|
|Monterey Potting Center (pdf): A good starter do-it-yourself project, this is constructed in simple sections, then fastened together with carriage bolts, washers and nuts for easy set up or knock down. There are plans on the back of this brochure that show an easy-to-build redwood can cradle (will hold a 30-gallon can at an accessible angle for removing soil or fertilizer) or a redwood storage bin (with casters so it’s portable) to complement your project. The bench features a 6 foot long roof, upper shelves, top work surface and bottom storage shelf. Instructions are available via pdf download and provided by the California Redwood Association [calredwood.org].|
|Cedar Bench: Nice tutorial showing how to build a handy bench in just a weekend. This project features two back shelves, a grate covered dirt catcher, a built in potting soil center, side hooks for hanging tools, a work space and a bottom storage area. Complete plans are available (4 pages of instructions), with an illustrated plan graphic that can be downloaded via pdf (found here). Complexity is noted as Moderate with costs from $100 to $500 to build (depending on the materials you have on hand already) and only basic carpentry tool are needed.|
|Gardening Work Bench: This is a simple design and perfect for beginner to intermediate woodworkers, nothing too fancy, but it serves its purpose perfectly! The project features a top shelf which has a bracket underneath for extra support, a large waist high work surface, plenty of room on the bottom shelf for storage and sturdy construction with notched framing. You can easily add side hooks for hanging tools if you like (I find that a handy feature). Plans are available via the sherrysgreenhouse.com website, parts list can be found here.|
|Work Center: A table project for the intermediate woodworker, this is another free set of plans made available by Sunset Magazine. The finished product measures a luxurious 8 feet long with a 5 foot tall back (has instructions on how to adjust length to something smaller if you prefer). Features plastic lattice insets that you can use to easily hang tools from (using J-hooks) as well as cover the bottom storage area. This also has something a bit unique: a sheet metal top work surface. The plastic lattice panels fit between the modules and are mounted to the framework with sheet metal screws. Update: The plans no longer seem to be available on the site (as a download), but the tutorial is still accessible.|
|Mobile Table: (all links point to web archive, website MIA) Make this move-around project in a single weekend and get set for a “blooming” Summer season! This 36″ tall station features wooden wheels and a convenient handle that enable you to cart around your table as needed. Offers an alternative solution of buying wheels and steel axle instead. Features 4×4 legs, 1 1/2″ thick top work counter and bottom storage shelf.|
|Sturdy Worktop Surface: Every gardener dreams about a sturdy worktop like this one. A simple design using pine framing for both the top surface as well as the bottom shelf. Tutorial is a free pdf download (includes step-by-step images). Supplies needed: dressed H3 pine framing, galvanized countersunk screws, galvanized flat head nails, a drill, saw, tape measure, pencil and sandpaper. This is one table that will last for years and years! Consider painting this in something bright and pretty and this simple project will be transformed into a show piece for the yard. There’s no back to this but one easy addition would be to frame some lattice and attach to the back, add some J-hooks for hanging items and it’s good to go!|
|Indoor/Outdoor Planting Bench: This one’s interesting, it’s designed to be used indoors during off-season and then moved outside during growing season. It features a couple of uprights that will hold a lighting fixture that can be raised or lowered at will using slanted notches on the inside of the uprights (the notches are made with a drill and jigsaw). The grow light enables you to start seeds indoors early so they’ll be ready to transplant when Spring arrives. This light will detach when the bench is moved outdoors. The instructions are good via video and a transcript, and project is suitable for beginners…but no cut list or measurements are provided so you’re going to have work that out yourself (this makes it easy to customize).|
- Feel free to substitute cedar and more expensive woods that are called for in many of the project plans for wood that’s more within your budget–you’ll want to make sure though to treat the wood well so it won’t rot or weather too quickly.
- Alter the measurements so the finished product is at the height that best compliments your needs, just be sure to adjust other component measurements if necessary. A comfortable working height is well worth the extra effort.
- If you’d like some pretty eye candy and display your potting bench as a charming piece of yard furniture, try stenciling designs with outdoor paint along the shelves or frame, I’ve seen some beautiful projects done this way.
- If your project of choice doesn’t include many options for holding tools, add hooks suitable for the outdoors along the top shelf or along the sides of the top work counter. You could also attach some pegboard, wire mesh or lattice between the bottom shelf and top work surface (along the sides), it’s great to keep the tools organized and you just reach over the side to grab what you need. Frame the added sides for a finished look, but it’s not necessary.
- If you plan on keeping it outdoors over the winter, clean it as best you can in the Fall then fasten a tarp or plastic sheet over it to protect it from the winter weather. This will help it weather better over time so you’ll be able to enjoy it longer.
- I find it’s a good idea to drill a few drainage holes in any storage tubs holding supplies (unless they are covered tightly with lids).