DIY Potting Bench in an Hour for Under $5

Potting Bench Header

As I am sure almost everyone out there knows from experience, it is hard to keep going when your back hurts. And even if you force yourself to keep going, at the end of the day it is hard to have a smile on your face and even harder to sleep. So, I am hugely in favor of creating work spaces that are back savers. If that can be done quickly and at little cost, then that is even better.

After one sleepless, painful evening following one full day of bending over transplanting, I had a greenhouse full of beautiful plants and the determination to not do that again. As it was in the spring, with loads more plants to transplant, I needed a quick (and painfree) solution.

So – you guessed it – I headed to my pile of pallets. As you know, I use those babies for everything.  Such a beautiful solution for so many things. I found a pallet that was (dimensions here).  Wow – that would be awesome space for a potting bench, I decided.  The slats were nicely spaced apart so pots could be set on it. No adjustments or additions to the slates needed.

The Pallet for the Potting Bench
Making the bench was easy as pie. I cut four 2×4 boards 32″ long. Then I used two 3- 1/2 star-headed screws to attach each leg at the corner. From previous work on greenhouse benches, I knew I had to attach a cross brace on the legs to stabilize the bench and I did so using scraps I had in my lumber pile.  I wanted to make things even easier, and since I made the potting bench lickety split, I decided to make a smaller one to put pots and supplies on. Now I can plant and transplant and work with plants all day long and my back is happy.

Potting bench
While this bench is in a temporary location, it will find a permanent home when things slow down. I will probably seal it so that it lasts longer, but for now, I am loving every sitting down moment with the plants and my potting bench.

I had spare 2x4s that I used for the legs, but if you had to buy the wood, it would cost around $5.00-10.00 depending on the type that you get.  The screws are about a dime each.  I used 16, so that would have been a total cost of $ 1.60 for the bench. Even if  you had to buy the screws and the 2×4 lumber, the cost of the potting bench would be less that $10.00. What a back saving deal that would be!!!

I hope this encourages you to come up with solutions that will make your life more enjoyable and your gardening less painful. You don’t have to build something complicated, expensive and time consuming. Problem solving can be as simple as slapping four legs on a pallet for a new potting bench. If you want to take the time to paint it – then by all means, do so. But, look for solutions that will allow you to re-use and re-cyle. It makes for a better life, better world.  Let me know what exciting solutions you have come up with re-using and re-cycling. And, if you make a potting bench, let me know how much you love it!

As always, be sure to use pallets that are safe for you and your environment. If you are not sure how to make sure your pallets are safe, this post is short and very clear.  In a nutshell, look for pallets that have the “HT,” heat-treated label.

Three Section 10′ x 33″ Compost Bin for Next to Nothing

Completed Compost Bins

Compost bins can be beneficial in so many ways for your health and the health of the world. I looked at all the models out there, and most were too expensive for me to justify purchasing. But, the plans all looked pretty similar. I mean, basically compost bins are boxes – right? And a highly functional one is three compartments so that you can more easily turn the composting piles regularly.

The compost bins basically look like the below diagram:

Compost Bin Diagram
Now, what does this diagram remind you of?  Yep, me too! It looks like seven pallets put together.  So, I went out to my trusty pallet stack and looked for seven pallets that were the same size and hauled them to my “compost pile home” and began assembling them as per the diagram above.

The pallets that I use often for projects come from an office machines company that sells those big copiers to businesses. These pallets are great because the nails are easy to get out and the wood is hard and durable. And heat treated – so they are safe to use.

Pallet

I wanted the sides of the compost bins to have more gaps to allow air into the composting materials.  So, I knocked two of the slats out.  This is where it comes in very handy to have pallets that have “easy to remove” nails.

Slats Removed for Air Circulation

I used those two slats from each pallet to secure the pallets using 2 1/2″ exterior star-headed screws and my fav Makita impact driver to attach the pallets.  The pallets were attached at the top and on the back of the pallets.

Attached Pallets

After the pallets were attached on the top and the backs, it was a very secure compost bin that should last for some time. I even use it to make my hoops out of electrical conduit – and it doesn’t even jiggle.  All told – it took me about two hours and cost less than $5.00 since my only cost was the screws.

Pallets Nailed at Back

I have been considering fixing something to go over the front – but haven’t really needed it so far. The compartments are big enough that the piles work with the front open.

Ain’t she a beaut? Does anyone out there have any other ideas for a quick and inexpensive compost bin?

Finished Compost Bin

 

Build SUPER EASY, super FAST greenhouse benches for less than $5.00

 

Greenhouse Bench

An open greenhouse area with plants on the ground can work fine, but the addition of benches increases usage tremendously and can be a real back-saver, too.  If they cost next to nothing to make, then you have a real winner. My car garage/pallet greenhouse has been in place for several months and I decided that benches would facilitate watering (my back) and give me more space for organizing plants.  To save money, I went back to my stack of pallets and fashioned all the benches that I needed using pallets and scrap wood. For all the benches, the total cost was less than $5.00 (for the screws).

I had the option of building individual benches from each pallet and setting them up in a row, or attaching all the pallets together and then adding legs so that I had two long benches. I opted to make individual benches from each pallet for two reasons: 1) Wrangling the smaller units was much easier and more manageable for me. I simply don’t know how I would have moved a 12 foot long bench and 2)  Building individual units allowed more versatility for rearranging the benches in the greenhouse.  So, I built eight benches  29 inches deep and 32-33 inches wide.  Five benches were 32.5 inches high and four were 23.5 inches high (for the taller plants). I haven’t decided what to do for the “floor” of the greenhouse yet – but the plants are quite happy up on the benches now.  My back is so much happier, too.

I had one very large pallet made of varying widths of 2×4 boards – on the top as well as the sides.  I had never seen one quite like it – so I wrestled it onto my truck bed. I do mean wrestle, because that dude was incredibly heavy. Totally worth it, though. I found that I could make the legs for six pallet benches from that one pallet alone.  If you ever find something like that sitting around, grab it fast.

Pallet

The pallet above is an example of the types of pallets that I used for the tops of the benches. I found this incredible source for pallets from a large supplier of commercial copiers as I was driving around an industrial district looking for another pallet source I found on Craigslist. When I saw the pallets stacked up at the copier sales store, I asked some guys standing out back if I could take them. They were delighted. (So was I). Anyway, if you can find this type of source, grab all you can. They are heat treated – and HUGE bonus, they are super easy to take apart with just a  hammer.

BUILDING THE BENCHES
Building the benches was quite simple and we ended up building each bench in about 20 minutes. To begin, there was a large space in the middle of each pallet – which would not be good for the top of a bench because the smaller pots would just fall through. So, I knocked out one of the slats and screwed it in about midway between the gap.  Voila – the top of your shelf is done.

Each pallet had little pieces of wood on the top – I believe they were used to hold the office machine in place because they didn’t serve any other purpose that I could see.  Here’s my mom (she’s 93) removing those little pieces of wood.  Before you get upset at me for being a slave driver – she wants to help. And I like to keep her busy so that she is part of the renovating.  And – hey – if a 93 years young lady can do this, so can YOU!!!!

Preparing Pallet

While she was busy taking those wood pieces off, I had to figure out how high I wanted the benches to be.

In full disclosure, I grabbed four of the 2x4s that were about the same length and measured the shortest one. It was 32.5 inches, so I used that as the height for the taller benches. As it turned out, it was a perfect height to work with.

So, for the next step, simply measure and cut four legs the same length.

Legs added to bench
After the leg boards are cut, screw the legs into the sides of the pallet using two 3.5” screws on each leg.  The good thing about pallets is that they have that 4×4-ish brace at each end, so the legs were very secure when I used the 3.5″ screws.

Once the legs were attached and I stood it up, I noticed the shelf seemed to wobble a bit. To eliminate the wobble, I cut two scrap boards and attached them to the legs – as seen below. I used scraps that I had around for the side braces, and with one on each side, the bench was quite stable.  Whether I used a piece of a pallet, a spare 1×3 or 1×4 for the side brace, I aligned the tops at 10.5 inches (from the bottom of the leg). I did this so that if I later decided I wanted a second shelf, I could just slide a board onto the cross braces and have an instant shelf.

Side Braces on Benches

Wobble gone, shelf built in a very short period of time.  Ain’t she a beauty?  OK, I think all the varying looks of the wood  legs and braces makes for an interesting look. If you don’t care for this “eclectic” look, the benches would look nice and probably more “together” if painted one color. Or perhaps, the legs and braces one color and the top wood. I just needed them to be there and functional – so I will let you know later if I decide to paint them.

Finished Bench

Depending on the wood for the legs and the side braces, some of the benches ended up being fairly heavy. The greenhouse isn’t terribly far from where I was building the benches, but since I was trying to save my back, I decided to upend them on my wheelbarrow and take them to the greenhouse. I mention this because I want you to be able to do these projects, even if you are not terribly strong. Making the benches individually and using the wheelbarrow to move them means that I did not have to have a stronger person do the heavy lifting for me.  I am woman, I am strong. . .

Moving Bench to Greenhouse
In one day, I was able to build the benches (with the help of Mom), put these babies in the greenhouse for less than $5.00.  These are the deals that I like.  And, I had very happy plants and a very happy back.Yes, I think plants appreciate these little things we do for them.  See them smiling?

Shelves in Greenhouse
One last suggestion. As always, when you use pallets, you want to be very careful to make sure they are safe. Make sure that they are not coated with chemicals and don’t have chemicals spilled on them that would harm you or your plants.  For a comprehensive post on identifying your pallets and making sure you are using safe wood, go here.  In a nutshell, if they have an HT stamped on the wood, they are heat treated and safe to use.

Building benches for your greenhouse really makes them more accessible and usable. If you can build them quickly and inexpensively, that is even better. This quick project will provide you with an easy and cheap solution. What do you think of the benches? Do you have any other benches you have built? Share!!!