Garden Pt. 3 - The Garden Shed

My garden shed.

When we first moved to our house there was an area in the corner of our lot, behind the detached garage, that was a wild unkempt space. There were lilac trees, ferns, wild flowers and other woodland plants. We called it "the jungle". It was pretty but kind of a wasted space since we couldn't use it for anything, so one summer my husband built a little clubhouse there for our two boys to play in. They called it "The Eagle's Nest". It stood on stilted legs a couple feet off the ground, with a little ladder to climb into it. It was a fun spot for the boys and their friends for a few years. But, as boys will do, they outgrew their nest and eventually it became just a storage spot for junk and an unsightly one at that, as it was built out of unpainted particle board and reclaimed lumber.

I used to fantasize about having a little garden shed or greenhouse someday, a space for a potting bench, room to store my garden tools and maybe a spot to sit and read a book. It would be a place of my own where I could escape to once in awhile for some quiet and solitude, kind of a grown up version of the playhouse I had when I was a kid. I presented the idea to my family and finally managed to get them on board with the idea. The boys were ready to let their clubhouse go and my husband agreed to be the contractor/builder with the kids and I as helpers.

We based our plan on a mail-order kit I'd seen in some gardening magazines. It had a sloping wall of plexiglass windows, a hinged window on one end and split style barn door on the other. Inside the 8 x 12 shed would be a long potting bench under the windows, a wall of pegboard for hanging tools and operable vents in the roof for ventilation. The location was perfect. We were able to situate it with south facing windows that had a view of the garden. The lilacs were between the shed and garden and in the heat of summer would provide shade, but in early spring there would be plenty of sun for bedding plants. Building it took longer than expected but after a few months it was done. It's held up very well for a long time now.

At first it was just as I envisioned. I'd go out every day and open up the half door and window. I'd sweep it out and putz around. I gussied it up with some cute garden decor, a hanging plant or two. I organized the peg board so everything had a place. We found a remnant of vinyl flooring to put down to make it look a little nicer than just the rough plywood. We'd even sit in there sometimes on late winter or early spring days enjoying the passive solar heat that would warm it to a very cozy temperature, even though outside was still cold and snow covered. It was a great spot for a winter picnic of sorts.

But like all things go around here we started acquiring too much stuff! In the winter it was a great place to store the all the summer gear: bikes, the barbecue grill, the canoe paddles and life jackets, lawn chairs and whatever else. Eventually some of that stuff started staying in there permanently. I'd have to move a bike or two out if I wanted to work in there. Stuff started accumulating on top of the bench and underneath. There was always something to move in order to get to what I needed and I started losing interest in trying to keep it tidy. Eventually my cute garden house became just a shed.

Sure the garden shed still looks cute on the outside, but as a functional space to pot plants or easily access garden tools it fails. It's just a huge embarrassment. I've decided it's finally time to reclaim it as my garden house / retreat spot once again. That's my goal for the summer at least and it probably will take all summer. I've broken it down into a list of things that need to be done. Here's the plan:

  • I have several furniture refinishing projects stashed in there. I need to either get at those projects or get rid of them. Currently there's the Jenny Lind bed and typewriter stand to paint, a child's rocker and a slipper chair to reupholster, two x-benches to paint and recover, and four vintage folding chairs that need to be painted and have seats recovered.
  • Whittle down the number of flower pots that have accumulated.
  • Craigslist any lawn chemicals, fertilizers, etc. since we now are committed to going all organic, or mostly.
  • Move the bikes back to the garage (with some kind of hanging organization) and start using them! I still am holding on to my beautiful green 70's French Motobecane Mirage 10-speed. Maybe I can hang it from the rafters of the shed somehow?
  • Sand the cedar bench top to bring it back to it's glory after some water damage from leaking windows.
  • Reorganize the pegboard and add some new hooks and shelving.
  • Get rid of the light colored vinyl floor and replace it with something else more practical. 
  • Give the inside a coat of white semi-solid stain?
  • Replace both roof vents with new opening skylight versions. (Sourced from a RV center.)
  • Dig out the old crumbling bricks in front of the shed and make a proper patio and walkway with paving bricks. (Already have the bricks which we got from a neighbor.) 
  • Replace any cracked plexiglass window panes and add new weatherstripping.
  • Add a lock to the window.
  • Maybe make some mesh sunblock shades for the windows. (They'll be needed once we trim back our overgrown lilacs.)*
  • Possibly paint the door trim a fun color like lime green or periwinkle.
  • Add a trellis and window boxes of impatiens to the back of the garage.
(*I really love the gnarly twisted branches of the old lilacs but they've gotten much too big. We'll cut them back and allow the smaller shoots to grow.)

It's quite a tall order given the other home projects we have planned for the summer, not to mention a son's wedding, family reunion and helping our daughter move and get settled in a new city. Summer seems to fly by even without a long list of things to accomplish. I'm hoping that by putting it down here some of you will help keep me to my promise. Deal? Then I'll finally be able to show you the inside without cringing.

Anyone else have a garden shed or other special space that is your retreat?  Leave a note in the comment box or post a link to pictures you'd like to share. If anyone else is working on cleaning out a long neglected spot I'll happily be your task master if you'll be mine. If we get enough people we could form a support group! I know there are plenty of you out there who could use the help too. Hope to hear from some of you.

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