DIY Potting Shed

A rustic potting shed is made of weathered boards from a cedar fence, along with salvaged windows.
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Tony Fajarillo, DIY potting shed

Tony Fajarillo works on a 300-year-old mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) in his shed made of recycled cedar boards.

Tony Fajarillo has been fascinated with bonsai since childhood. A landscape designer in the Pacific Northwest, he incorporates the miniature trees whenever possible. When his collection had grown to over 120 specimens, he needed a shed dedicated to potting and pruning. After he replaced a cedar fence one spring, he found himself with 150 six-foot 1x4 boards. They were sound and gracefully weathered, so he bought the lot.

Building the shed

1. Site prep

Fajarillo leveled a 7' x 8' corner of the garden, then covered the soil with compacted gravel topped with a visqueen (polyethylene sheeting) to prevent moisture buildup. Heavy-duty pallets once used to hold flagstone pavers were laid for the foundation, secured in place with 1 1/8" recycled plywood flooring, salvaged from another construction project.

black pine, Pinus thunbergii

 A black pine (Pinus thunbergii) is a bonsai in the early training stage. Windows and doors in the shed are all salvage.

2. The structure

Walls were built with 2x4 wood framing nailed directly to the flooring structure with 3" stud nails. Simple OSB plywood was used for interior walls, nailed to the framing with 3" stud nails. The front wall is 9' tall, with a row of windows above; the back wall is 7' tall, a convenient height for hanging tools and equipment.

Tar paper was stapled to the outside of the OSB plywood, overlapped to keep water out. The old cedar fence boards were nailed vertically onto the OSB and tar-paper walls. Overlapping three layers of fence boards created a shingled roof—with tar paper underneath.

A circular saw and a nail gun made the job go quickly.

3. Inside the shed

The shed is deliberately rustic. The plywood floor is unfinished, so that soil can’t ruin it. Simple furniture includes a worktable and a bench, and a tool rack. Tony Fajarillo says his functional bonsai shed has also become a quiet retreat for contemplation. 

Shimpaku juniper, Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku

A Shimpaku juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’), underlaid with creeping stonecrop (Sedum humifusum), is planted on a red lava rock.

Bonsai Basics

Caring for a bonsai is not difficult if you follow a few rules of thumb.

  • LIGHT Strong light and natural sunlight are important; most bonsai do well with morning sun and afternoon shade.
  • WATERING Don’t overwater, but never let the soil dry out. Bonsai like humidity and do well if placed on a shallow tray filled with pebbles and water.
  • FEEDING Fertilize monthly with a general, all-purpose liquid fertilizer at half-strength. Spraying on the fertilizer also works well.
  • TRIMMING Pinch back new growth to keep the tree miniature, but always leave a small amount of the growth to keep it healthy.

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