Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Repotting

A Potting Bench Can Save Your Marriage

Things can get a bit messy when the kitchen counter is used for repotting.

When one partner in a couple gardens and the other doesn’t, there is often a hint of conflict, especially when it comes to repotting plants. After all, the most logical spot in most homes for repotting, sowing seeds, cleaning pots, etc. is the kitchen counter and adjacent sink. After all, you need a solid surface on which you can put pots, plants, bags of soil, etc. as you work, plus a ready source of water for moistening, rinsing and cleaning. What would be more logical than to set up shop on the kitchen counter right next to the sink?

Now while you, as a gardener, may not see soil as dirty (in fact, you are often offended when others refer to soil as “dirt”), most non gardeners have a totally different mindset. For them, soil is the epitome of dirt and they don’t want to share their cooking space with dirt of any kind. Since it is almost impossible to garden indoors without spilling a bit of soil on the counter or in the sink, even on the kitchen floor, conflicts often break out.

Or perhaps the non-gardener accepts the idea that, temporarily, the counter can be used for potting, but insists that you clean up and put everything away before lunch time. This makes no sense to the gardener who finds it practical to leave pots, soil, plants and tools out over lunch so he or she can rapidly resume work after the meal. Yet more criticism and recriminations rain down, if not an angry or even menacing silence.

A Dedicated Potting Area

Every gardener’s home should have a potting bench.

That’s why I put in a potting bench shortly after we moved to our current home some 20 years ago. A simple table with a few shelves for pots and soil would have sufficed, I suppose, but I wanted the real thing. I therefore converted an already present work bench into a potting area by installing a deep sink with hot and cold running water. As a result, I never need to dirty up my wife’s kitchen (yes, she claims it as her own: she always says “my kitchen”: non gardeners can be sooo possessive!) with potting materials. Over time, I even installed some old kitchen cabinets where I could store all sorts of garden products.

My wife never goes near “my” potting area and lets me manage it as I please. I can leave things out between sessions of repotting, cleaning pots, sowing seeds, etc. without recrimination. We now get along perfectly! Imagine: over 20 years of perfect marital bliss just because I put in a potting bench!

When Space is Lacking

A cart would make a good moveable potting bench.

Obviously you pretty much need to be a homeowner – and a homeowner with a bit of free space! – if you want to set up a true potting area. However, even apartment- or condo-dwellers could at least set up a potting table: some sort of cart on wheels you could set near the kitchen sink as you work, then quickly whisk away, out of sight and out of mind, at mealtimes.

Outdoor potting bench.

An outdoor potting table would be practical too, especially one with a chair where you could sit as you wash and rinse those stacks of dirty pots. Personally, I’m not there yet, but I know many gardeners who have one. But that’s not so urgent: there are no familial conflicts about how I garden outdoors… as long as I don’t leave the garden hose out for people to trip over.

There you go! If there were more potting areas in the world, there would be many fewer divorces!20161113a

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “A Potting Bench Can Save Your Marriage

  1. I have a large outdoor potting table but am challenged during winter months. I’ve been known to pot on my kitchen island, but I’m the same one who has to clean up the ghastly mess. 🙂

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