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The Ultimate Potting Shed

A veteran Minneapolis garden writer transforms the breezeway between her house and garage into a dream potting shed. Read her tips and ideas for organizing the perfect potting shed.


By Rhonda Fleming Hayes, Midwest Living

I’m a California native, so when my husband and I built our home in Minneapolis, we put a shiver-free path from house to garage high on the wish list. I envisioned a simple covered walkway, but my architect had a better idea: a breezeway you could call “potting shed-plus.” His design took the concept literally to new heights by raising a pavilion-style roof—complete with a rustic chandelier. We found the star of the space by chance in the basement of the property’s original home. What I thought was a concrete laundry washbasin turned out to be a triple-tub Alberene soapstone sink. (These days most soapstone is imported, but Alberene soapstone has been quarried in Virginia since the late 1800s.) We hoisted the sink out with a crane during demolition, restored it and gave it a place of honor between open hickory shelves. On the walls at either end of the breezeway, two ample closets give me room to stash containers, tools, fertilizer bags and other supplies out of sight.

I was able to build new, but maybe you have an underutilized mudroom or three-season porch that could be upgraded with thoughtful storage, a deep sink and a table. All I thought I wanted was a pass-through. Instead, I got an inviting, sunny way station between garden and kitchen, a place to organize seeds and dream up new planting schemes, shelter seedlings in winter, and sort through produce when summer finally arrives.

Here are 12 of my tips and ideas for creating an inviting potting shed space:
1. Open shelves displaying vintage pots and glass cloches make a useful space feel pretty and pleasant to work in.

2. A wall-mounted tub faucet and extra-deep sink help with potting plants, rinsing carrots and beets, or scrubbing muddy wellies.

3. The beadboard backsplash? It’s actually a ceramic look-alike that’s waterproof and easy to clean.
4. Placing these tall, lidded domes (called forcers) over young rhubarb makes the plants stretch to the light and form a longer stem—but I mostly adore them for their old-world look.

5. Wide doors open from the breezeway to a patio, where a fountain pours over the steps. When friends come over, we have a buffet in the breezeway and eat at the patio’s picnic table. Fill one of the sinks with ice, and it’s a cooler for drinks!
6. Too many French flower buckets? Never. Beyond holding blooms, these enamel or galvanized tubs are handy when I’m picking herbs, celery, rhubarb or kale.

7. We opted for neutral hues and natural materials to keep the breezeway serene: creamy walls, whitewashed hickory cabinetry, slate tiles and granite counters with a smooth finish (called “leathered granite”) that hides smudges and water spots better than glossy polished stone.
8. My mother and grandmother inspired my connection with nature and all things plant-related. Their California-style Bauer and McCoy pots, artists’ brushes, and palette are reminders of why I garden and write: to share that passion with others.
9. I rarely need all three of the sink’s tubs, so two teak covers expand my work surfaces. One is solid, and one is a grate that allows potted plants to drain after watering.
10. Sandwiched between the garage and the house, the breezeway opens onto a small patio that steps down into my kitchen garden. (You can see the steps behind me in the photo above.)
11. Out here, my motto is “bountiful and beautiful.” Flowers, herbs and vegetables spill out from oxidized corten steel raised beds, and gravel paths make maintenance easy.
12. I can’t do without my dibble. I call it my “speed planter,” because I can go down a row and quickly poke just the right-size hole for any seed, transplant or bulb I’m sowing.


Take a Peek: Garden Tours

Since I published my book, Pollinator Friendly Gardening, our home is a popular stop on local garden tours. I open the breezeway as a bonus and set up a dispenser of garden-grown cucumber water. Visitors can enjoy a cool respite from their garden tour schedule while I sign books. If you’re in the Twin Cities, look for events calendar.
Garden, Spring gardening



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Home Magazine: The Ultimate Potting Shed
The Ultimate Potting Shed
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