If you're hardening off plants in your basement or taking up garage space with old pots, dangling hoses and bags of mulch, consider a potting shed.
Both functional and decorative, these outbuildings are where America's love affair with gardening intertwines with a gardener's need for organization. As gardening continues to grow in popularity, potting sheds are becoming a key feature in the backyard landscape.
Carolyn Hinkle considers her potting shed "gardening central" at her Independence, Mo., home. It's where she harvests the perennials she raises for her garden club's plant sale; last year she potted 750 of them.
"I do utilize my shed a lot," says Hinkle, whose husband, Larry, designed it after the two spotted one they liked at a home show. The couple had the structure built by a local company four years ago. "We used some of their basic plans but told them how we wanted it to look," said Carolyn Hinkle.
Hinkle wanted her 16-by-10-foot potting shed to face the back of her house. From that position, she says, "you're looking toward your house so if someone is trying to get your attention, say, for a phone call, you'll see them."
Many potting shed owners say two elements are important: light and water. Hinkle says of the two, water is more critical. "You want to have water access. Now I have electricity because [starting] the first of April, I'm out there many times till 9 at night," she says. "But you can get by without electricity, not water."
Hinkle's husband designed the shed with a pitched roof. "My husband and the builders got to thinking it could get hot with a little old short roof."
Besides the front door, the shed also has a large side door where a concrete ramp allows Hinkle to run a cart in and out.
"Maybe I have a big wheelbarrow and I'm mixing soil and it starts to rain. I can run the barrow right into my potting shed."
The shed's floor is concrete as well. "I wouldn't be without it," Hinkle says. "You'll [store] bags of soil or fertilizer, and they can take on moisture. Plus, you can get critters, especially ants, in there. You're lessening that if you have concrete."
For most of her gardening work, Hinkle uses a potting bench under one of the shed's two overhangs. She stores her hand tools in the bench, keeps her larger digging tools on hooks inside, devotes the shed's shelves to gardening work and hangs her 23 soaker hoses across the boards in the pitched rafters.
But one piece of landscape equipment has been banished from the shed: "We don't use it for storing lawn mowers. If you do, you'll have a storage shed."
Andy Newcom's potting shed was designed by intuition -- with his parents' help. A photo stylist for Hallmark for 20 years, he says the 8-by-8-foot outbuilding in his Kansas City, Mo. back yard has evolved into less of a gardening work station and more of a home for his collection of photo props.
"I didn't have an overall grand plan when I started working on the yard, but one thing led to another," he said. "I started by building a fountain with Mom and Dad, and we thought a potting shed would be great back in the corner."
Newcom's shed won a national contest for Country Gardens magazine. "And it's because we did it completely out of our love for creating. These things are all things I like to do: the flowers, my gardens, and building with Mom and Dad. You follow your passion and when you do that, you're successful."
Building a Shed, by Joseph Truini (Taunton Press, 2003, $19.95)
Ortho's All About Greenhouses (Ortho Books, 2001, $11.95)
Start-to-Finish Sheds & Gazebos (Ortho Books, 2003, $11.95)