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Construct a Potting Shed

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 6 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
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For the gardening aficionado, a potting shed is more of a necessity than a luxury. Potting sheds are used as an additional workspace, their function being more definitive than your average shed.

Whilst the more compact potting sheds are used as a place to store all things gardening related such as pots, tools and bulbs, larger potting sheds will also accommodate a potting bench and somewhere to grow on seedlings and plants.

A potting shed can also become a garden shelter and retreat. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for potting shed owners to also own a normal shed or garage primarily as a storage building.

So functionally, a modern potting shed seems to be a sort of halfway house between a shed and greenhouse, and this is also the case from an aesthetic viewpoint. A potting shed will commonly have a large glazed window on one side to maximise the area that plants and flowers can be grown on. Larger potting sheds may also have two doors at either end.

Choosing a Location for Your Potting Shed

Before you start to construct your potting shed, you should first select the best possible site for it in your garden. The best advice is to find a location that is mostly within a shady area, but avoid deep shade. Try and avoid siting the shed in the shadow of tall trees or buildings, as this can encourage damp and you’ll also need natural light for working in the shed. Remember that south facing potting sheds will receive more natural light throughout the day than a north-facing shed.

The shed should also be located somewhere that’s convenient – if you have a vegetable patch then having your potting shed somewhere between the kitchen and vegetable plot is ideal.

Don’t forget to take into account the soil type in your garden, as although a potting shed is lighter than a ‘normal’ brick-built building, it will still need a solid, level base.

Loamy and sandy soils may need additional structure, such as a layer of hardcore. Clay soils or sites that may waterlog easily would benefit from a layer of gravel to aid drainage. Sloped gardens may need a degree of landscaping (ideally undertaken by a professional) to create a flat, solid and stable site for the shed.

The base can be laid using concrete with damp coursing to avoid rising damp. Other alternatives include concrete paving slabs or perhaps the most ideal solution – stacked concrete blocks topped with damp proof membrane. As most potting shed floors are built with timber, this increases ventilation and avoids problematic damp and wood rot.

Choosing Materials for Your Potting Shed

Whether you chose to design and build your own potting shed from scratch, or construct one from a self-assembly kit, you’ll have a choice of materials to choose from. Many affordable potting sheds will be constructed using softwoods such as pine or hemlock.

Slightly pricier, more durable models may be constructed using a naturally decay-resistant wood called red cedar. The most expensive potting sheds will be constructed using extremely robust hardwoods such as oak or birch.

The windows of your potting shed will also be an important consideration. If you decide to install Perspex or Acrylic windows, make sure that the material is UV resistant to avoid discolouration and decay. Doubled glazed windows are an option, as they will be sturdier, shatter resistant and stop any draughts.

If possible, try to choose a window that opens to allow for ventilation in the hotter summer months. This is especially important if you decide to use your potting shed for storing bulbs and compost, which will quickly go off in hot, humid conditions.

Potting Shed Size

Potting sheds differ in size, from small compact storage units with shelves that house potting materials and equipment, to larger workshop-sized specimens. A good size is around 10ft by 8ft, as this allows ample space for a potting bench, shelving, storage and a place to grow plants on.

As long as the shed is not closer to a public highway than your house, not more than 10 cubic metres in volume, not less than 5 metres from your house, and no higher than 4 metres with a pitched roof (or 3 metres tall with a flat roof), you shouldn’t need to apply for planning permission. However, if you are in any doubt, give your local planning officer a call to be sure.

An additional consideration is whether you want an American-style overhang on the side of your potting shed. This is somewhere to grow on plants under a shelter, and is really only suited to warmer climates such as the south west of England.

Build Your Own Potting Shed

Of course there are almost an infinite number of ways to design your potting shed to suit your tastes and the shed’s surroundings. But the good news is that building a potting shed can be a relatively simple affair.

You’ll need 4 corner posts sunk into concrete, studded walls and floor that can be boarded and clad, installed windows, a pitched roof laid with plywood or other roofing materials such as board and felt shingles or metal, and at least one door. This should be a somewhat easy project for a keen DIY enthusiast to undertake. However, if you intend to install electric lighting and plug points in your shed, you'll need to get hold of a qualified electrician.

For everyone else, there are a whole host of pre-fabricated self-build potting sheds on offer, or potting shed plans if you’d rather make a few tweaks or source the materials yourself.
Whatever your choice, once your potting shed is constructed you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it!

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