Do you love to garden, yet frequently find yourself squeezing your hobby into an uncomfortable, ill-suited space in your home? Let your home reflect your passions by designating an area to pursue gardening. All those tools and seedlings take up space, after all! We don’t need a massive home to have a place of our own. We just need to get creative.
Examine your options. Take stock of the space available in your home. Is there an unused nook you could co-opt for gardening? Look for an area near a window and an electrical outlet. If that’s out of the question, don’t rule out the space: Plant lights and an extension cord can solve many problems.
If there is no unused area of your home, consider bumping something else out of the house. How often do you use the extra 10 blankets stored in that closet? Donate them to the humane society. Could holiday decorations be moved to a shed or storage unit? It makes more sense to prioritize everyday activities over seasonal space hogs such as Christmas trees or beach toys.
Give the spaces in your home a hard look (see “By Nook or Crook” later in this article for inspiration) to see if they are pulling their weight.
Get Organized. After you find a nook for your hobby, consider your gardening needs. First, identify the items you are likely to use indoors (seedling pots, a small trowel, twine, plant markers) and those strictly for outdoor use (hoses, large shovels). A wall-mounted tool hanger is convenient for keeping outdoor tools together. If you don’t have a garage or shed where you can mount the tool hanger, hang it on the outside of your house, near the garden.
Indoors, you’ll need a work surface. A desk or waist-height table is perfect—look for furniture with a second, lower shelf to maximize space. For smaller (and cleaner) tools, hang a short, wide Pegboard above your work surface so you can easily reach trowels, scissors, garden gloves and plant identifying tags. Many hardware stores stock a wide variety of Pegboard accoutrements that make hanging just about anything a breeze: dowels to hold spools of twine or string; small, lidded containers to hold tacks or nails; rows of metal hooks for small tools. Above the Pegboard, hang a wall-mounted shelf; you can store seedling pots here or keep bins with gardening items out of the way. Easy-to-clean bins (think wood, rubber or plastic over anything with fabric) are perfect for storing soil-covered garden gloves and the like. You might also want to put a garbage/compost bin in your garden station to make soil and other waste easy to sweep away.
A Spot for Seedlings. If you’re hoping to start seeds indoors, your No. 1 priority is finding a spot where you can keep your seedlings in optimal light. Because winter light is weak, this almost always entails mounting fluorescent lighting above seedlings. A popular way to make a light shelf on the cheap is to use a heavy-duty wire shelving unit (the big-box-store price is $65 for a four-shelf unit, to give you a baseline), and hang shop lights from the undersides of the shelves with wire. You might also consider building an indoor grow light plant stand out of a bookcase (see Build an Indoor Grow Light Plant Stand). If you have enough room to include a seedling stand in your garden nook, great. Otherwise, consider whether a seedling station might look nice out in the open in the kitchen or living room. Surfaces that can be stowed such as a wall-mounted drop-leaf table or secretary enable you to make your work station disappear when not in use.
Basements and garages are obvious spots to put a gardening station, but if you don’t have those options, find an unused corner to transform into your very own gardening space. Use these five ideas as inspiration in your quest to carve out a niche for yourself and your plants.
Under Foot: Maybe there is an awkward under-the-stairs nook somewhere in your home. The ceiling above it is low and sloped, its strange shape doesn't make it ideal for storage and yet, if you screw a tabletop to the wall and add a comfortable chair, voilà; it’s now the perfect place for you to garden.
Desk Job: Many modern homes have a desk in the kitchen—you know, the one that quickly accumulates clutter. What if you put all the stuff stuck in that area back where it belongs? Put loose family photos in albums, shred the old bills and recycle those old phone books. You may be surprised at how spacious this area seems once all the detritus is gone. With a little love, this desk nook can be your garden command center.
Corner Yourself: Look around your living room. Is there a corner that is forgotten? Maybe there is an unused dog bed in one corner or a chair you really don’t love. Perhaps you could tweak the furniture arrangement to steal a bit of space. A small corner desk and a few wall-mounted shelves could turn dead space into a well-loved gardening niche. A partition or screen can help separate the space from the rest of the room, if you wish.
Closet Case: Go through the closets in your home. Is the coat closet being used for its purpose, or do you avoid opening it because it’s crammed with stuff you don’t want to think about? Is the closet in the guest room getting daily use? If you have one closet that is not being used to store something you use as much as you garden, jettison the stuff in the closet (donate it or, if you really love it, move it elsewhere). When the closet is empty, set yourself up with a desk surface and shelves inside. You can keep the doors on their hinges if you want to be able to close up your gardening nook. Alternatively, you could remove the doors and keep your gardening out in the open.
Porch Perch: If your climate is mild, consider a gardening spot on the porch or balcony. Mount some shelves and a work surface on the wall, and you are ready to start repotting right away.
Allison Martin is managing editor at Mother Earth Living. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with her fiancé, two dogs and two cats.
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