Rethinking the Potting Shed

Photos by Brian Cruey of Berkshire Botanical Garden

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Working shed at the Botanical Gardens.

When we asked six architects to reimagine the traditional potting shed for our exhibit “Down to Earth,” we had no idea what we were going to get. Potting sheds are often flimsy, unsightly structures that a lot of people view as eyesores. But why does it have to be that way?

It doesn’t. A walk around the Berkshire Botanical Garden this summer proves that you can think outside the box, with sheds that are inspired by everything from the Asian gardeners at the Berkeley Street Community Garden in Boston’s South End, all the way to the surf shacks of Hawaii. In truth, a potting shed is a great opportunity to add something special to a garden that is both functional and a point of interest.

Here are a few things to think about when planning your potting shed:

DESIGN FOR FUNCTION

What will you be using the shed for primarily? If it’s propagating plants you’ll want to have plenty of south-facing light. If you’re using it to store tools, what kind and how big do you need the space to be? Will you require electricity? Water? Whenever you are building anything it’s always best to think through what you need before you start building. Remember: It’s always easier (and cheaper) to do it right the first time.

HAVE FUN WITH IT

Because potting sheds are usually smaller structures, they offer a great opportunity to do something creative and experiment with materials that might be out of your comfort zone (or price range) for larger projects. You might not be able to put a slate roof on your house, but a potting shed? Go for it! Have you been wanting to experiment with solar power? Now’s your chance! This is a lowrisk opportunity to give yourself free range over what’s possible. It can also be a great testing ground for DIY projects that you’ve always wanted to try, but don’t have the confidence to experiment with in your home.

THINK MULTIPURPOSE

It doesn’t have to be just a potting shed. Add an arbor or small porch for shade and create a sitting area to enjoy a cold drink on gardening breaks (go ahead and put a mini fridge in there if you want; it’s your shed, after all) or a destination for evening summer walks. Dig down and put in a small root cellar. Let it double as an art studio or even a room where guests can bunk. At the very least, potting sheds can serve as great extra storage space for things like patio cushions and other seasonal items in the winter.

BE INSPIRED BY YOUR GARDEN

The potting shed is an extension of the garden, which is an extension of the gardener. No matter what you build, make sure it’s what YOU like. After all, the whole goal of the potting shed is to create a comfortable and efficient workspace that enhances your time in the garden and makes your life a little easier.

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Shed designers (top to bottom):
Webster Landscape,
Jonathan Keep Landscape Designer,
Great Barrington Cottage Co.

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