Garden Sheds: A place for everything

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
garden shed with wheelbarrow and tools

Garden sheds are where many a gardener’s best intentions are stashed away — just for the time being, of course — and most gardeners would probably be horrified if you asked to see their shed.

These backyard workshops tend to become the repository of odd flowerpots, half-empty bags of fertilizer, and miscellaneous supplies; in the midst of a busy gardening season they may get as messy as a teen-ager’s bedroom.

messy garden shed full of tools

You don’t need to hire a professional organizer to get your garden shed back under control; you just have to start by getting rid of all the clutter. Plastic flowerpots can be recycled, either at a garden shop or in a recycling bin. Broken clay pots, a tangle of beat-up old tomato cages, hoses that need mending, and old seed-starting supplies should not be allowed to take up precious space.

three-bay shed with louvered doors

Having a garden shed “is kind of like having a great desk,” says Helen Thompson, a garden designer in Kansas City. The shed and potting bench in her back yard “is where I create, design, hang out, and clean up,” she says. “I use it constantly.”

Pots, plants, bags of potting soil, hand tools, plant tags, and all the odds and ends of gardening projects are well organized in Thompson’s shed, tucked into a shady spot on one side of her garden.

garage shed

At the American Horticultural Society’s headquarters at River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia, tools and gardening supplies are organized in a repurposed garage in the middle of the garden. The fancy shed has large windows and a big door, but there is still ample space for wall storage systems. Just outside the shed, there is a comfortable patio with a pergola.

screwing in a hook

My garden shed is more for tools than for potting, and to make room for as many tools as possible, my husband and I attached a couple of 1x4 boards to the studs. You can buy pegboard or fancy tool brackets and hooks, but we found some simple screw-in hooks for less than $2 each at a local shop, and used nails to hang up tools with D-ring handles.

tools hanging on hooks

Now that every tool has its place, it will be easier to find the loppers when I need them, and it’s going to feel good to put things back where they belong instead of letting them pile up on the porch.

fiskars tools on wall

This year I have been using beautiful new Fiskars Quantum pruning tools with cork-cushioned handles: they are gloriously sharp. For months I kept them in an old wooden toolbox on the front porch. Now they have their own places in my tool shed. Quantum tools come with a protective case, so each can hang on a single nail. My Big Grip hand tools are also on nails, where they’re easy to grab when I’m on my way to dig or weed, and I added a hook for my Kangaroo garden bag, which holds 30 gallons of autumn leaves or garden debris but collapses into a tight and easy-to-stash shape.

Whether your shed is for potting or for tools, it’s a good idea to have an old flowerpot or a bucket for trash, and a pencil and a pad of paper on which to take notes. If you keep pots and potting mix in your shed, buy a big scoop at a feed store. It’s much easier to fill pots with a scoop than it is with a flowerpot. If you keep fertilizer in the shed, consider buying a metal garbage can to keep it in.

shelf close up

In my shed, two shelves give me plenty of room for gloves, twine, and other small essentials. To keep them organized, I bought a couple of baskets at a thrift shop, one for all my garden gloves, and one for a notebook. I took my toy tractor out to the tool shed, too, just for fun, and my husband suggested we put some chairs out there in the shade of our big fig tree. He’s on to something: part of the vegetable garden is right next to the shed, and we can sit there, sharpen our tools, and watch the beans grow.

shed exterior with flowers