For as long as I can remember, I have not had what is commonly referred to as a “green thumb.” Even as recently as a few years ago, my mother-in-law was known to bring me a plant as a gift whenever she came by, only to exchange it for the now shriveled-up specimen from her previous visit. It really wasn’t until I became a homeowner that I finally felt ready to expand my gardening skills.
With this newfound interest in planting came tools, pots, and bags of soil that quickly piled up. To give them a designated home, I built a potting bench made from cedar that could withstand the elements—and my mess— while providing a convenient work surface and storage with some decorative X-bracing for
style. Joining almost all the parts with pockethole screws made the bench strong, sturdy,
and easy to assemble.
And while I can’t promise this project will turn your thumb green, a little organizational help never hurts.
DIY Potting Bench: Getting Started
When choosing the material for this bench, I opted for rot-resistant cedar. Even as it weathers to gray over time, I know it will hold up outdoors and in constant contact with damp soil and water. Finding 2×2 cedar boards may require a trip to a specialty lumberyard; you can also rip them from a 2×4.
Alternatively, you could use less-expensive kiln-dried Douglas fir 2×2s, readily available at home centers. Protected with an exterior-grade finish, they should hold up to the elements just fine.
- 7/8-inch x 6 bench top: 3 @ 42 inches
- 7/8-inch x 6 top shelf: 1 @ 44 inches
- 7/8-inch x 6 bottom shelf slats: 6 @ 14 inches
- 2×4 front legs: 2 @ 35 1/8 inches
- 2×4 back legs: 2 @ 53 1/8 inches
- 2×2 crosspieces: 5 @ 33 3/8 inches
- 2×2 crosspieces: 5 @ 14 inches
- 2×2 side “X” detail: 2 @ 31 inches (Cut to fit at parallel 24-degree miters.)
- 2×2 side “X” detail: 4 @ 15 1/8 inches (Cut to fit at opposing 24- and 41.8-degree miters.)
- two 2×4×8′ boards
- three 2×2×8′ boards
- three 1×6×8′ boards
- 2½” exterior pocket-hole screws
- exterior pocket-hole screws
- 2¼” stainless steel wood screws
- exterior wood glue
Step-by-Step Instructions for Building a Potting Bench
Step 1: Prep the parts and drill the pocket holes
With the pieces prepared following the cut list above, use a pocket-hole jig to drill two holes at the ends of all the 2×2 crosspieces and shelf slats. Drill two more holes at the top of the tall 2×4 legs and along one edge of the two slats that will become the ends of the bottom shelf.
Step 2: Build the sides
Mark the height of the 2×4 front legs on one side of the taller back legs; mark the height of the bottom shelf on each leg, 6 inches up from the ends. Using wood glue and long pocket-hole screws, attach two 2×2 crosspieces to each set of front and back legs below the marks and flush with the legs’ outside edges.
Step 3: Join the sides
Set the sides on their back legs so the pocket holes on the crosspieces face inward. Using glue and long pocket-hole screws, attach two crosspieces between the front legs, and two between the back legs at the same height as the sides’ crosspieces. Center and install the final 14-inch-long sup
Step 4: Install the bottom shelf
Glue and screw the shelf slats flush with the tops of the front and back crosspieces, using four short pocket-hole screws and leaving a 7/8-inch gap between them. Screw the slats at either end to the side crosspieces as well.
Step 5: Add the bench top
Center the bench-top boards lengthwise on the upper crosspieces; drill pilot holes through the side crosspieces and partially into the board ends. Drive the wood screws up through the crosspieces to secure the boards.
Step 6: Install the top shelf
Using glue and long pocket-hole screws, add the top crosspiece between the back legs, flush with their tops. Center the top shelf on the crosspiece so it overhangs the back edge by 7/8 inch. Drive long pocket-hole screws through the back legs and into the top shelf. Drill four pilot holes up through the crosspieces and into the shelf, then drive the screws
Step 7: Cut the X-braces
Hold a 2×2 diagonally against the side of the bench; mark and cut the top and bottom at the inside corners. Dry-fit the leg and overlay the second 2×2 going in the opposite direction, and mark the top and bottom at the inside corners as well as at two points where the legs overlap. Cut that leg into two pieces at the marks. Repeat.
Step 8: Add the X-braces
Place the three pieces of one “X” flat on a work surface. Drill pilot holes though each half leg into the long leg. Apply glue to the half-leg ends and reposition, then drive wood screws into the pilot holes. Apply glue to the four ends of the brace, and fit into one side of the bench. Repeat.