Cleaning the potting shed, an excuse to be outside as spring approaches

I have a potting shed. It’s a small area, but I’m lucky to have it and would be lost without the space.

Now is the time of year, when I’m ready for spring but not quite ready to plant, that I’m happy to be outside puttering around my shed.

If you don’t have a shed, I’m sure you have space that lightens your mood and makes you happy to while away the time. Somewhere that welcomes potting soil and plant leaves on the floor, along with stacks of pots and buckets of tools.

There are a few elements all good garden workspaces need. The basic is a covered spot to store your tools.

The elements can be brutal on wooden handles and metal blades. Big tools, such a rakes, shovels and hoes are often hung on the wall to free up precious floor space. This also keeps the blades and sharp edges away from kids, animals and clumsy adults who might bump into them.

Smaller hand trowels, clippers and such can be stored in baskets, boxes or, in my case, a combination of hanging wire racks and cracked terracotta pots.

Speaking of pots, I have a few. OK, let’s be serious. I have a lot.

I love terracotta, but I also have ceramic, resin plastic and a few coco-lined wire baskets. The big ones are stored on the floor against the walls when I bring them in for the winter.

The smaller ones live on shelves and bookcases and just about anywhere I can find a place for them. Some have spilled over to a shelving unit in the basement and even a corner of the garage.

As a side note about pots, I do love aged terracotta, but they are fragile, and plants dry out quickly. Anything planted in terracotta will need to be watered often. The resin pots are lightweight, and although they come in a variety of colors, the outer layering of color will often peel as the pots age.

My collection of garden gloves is in a basket right next to a basket of twine, wire and scissors. I have a spot on the shelf for root tone, fertilizer, bug repellent, and other bottles and sprays I use throughout the summer.

There’s also a basket of broken pots and saucer pieces. I use these as filler and to help with drainage in new potted plants.

On the shelf, there is a metal tin full of seed packets. If I looked on a high shelf, I think I could find remnants of a badminton game from years ago.

I usually keep my potting soil in big canisters. It keeps the critters out and helps me be a bit neater.

I have a friend who keeps a bucket of sand with a bit of oil added to clean her tools. Yes, this is the same friend who has two garden plans. One for what she will plant outside, which she studies all winter, and one for the seeds she will start in her greenhouse and keep inside until the last frost.

What I don’t have in my potting shed is a table. Oh, I wish I had room for a table. One where I could start seeds, pot plants and, in a pinch, use as an outdoor catering and beverage station. But, instead I work on the floor or a makeshift table of sawhorses and plywood.

My shed does have electricity (which is really nice), but it does not have a sink. I have close access to water, so this is really not an inconvenience, but I wish I had a sink.

My pup has a water bowl close, and she often retreats to the cool shed floor and supervises my work as I toll away in the garden.

Every spring I do a little cleaning in my shed. I sweep out the cobwebs, hose the floor and clean the window. I take a quick survey of what should stay, get tossed or be replaced.

Really I am finding ways to spend time outdoors and creating a clean slate for the new garden season.

Jane Powell is a longtime West Virginia Extension Service Master Gardener through the Kanawha County chapter and has a garden with sunny spots and shady beds where she grows perennials, vegetables and herbs. She is also the communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits in the community. Reach Jane at