The ultimate shed

7-25-2011-Allard6-MG

A good shed has a place for everything – no matter how many tools.

It wasn’t until I had my first home that I realized the important lessons my father had taught me as a teenager. “Clean the tools every time you use them,” he would always bellow! Wiping them to a point of shiny was, I thought, a little eccentric, but nonetheless I did what I was told.

The years had been good to these tools. On reflection everything had a place in my father’s shed, a long room as I recall. The size would be something like 22 feet by 14 feet, a large shed even for today’s standards. These tools had been passed down from my great grandfather and every one was immaculate. I recall odd-shaped spades, weird looking hoes, numerous different forks and rakes and each had a purpose. Tools hanging in one place, rafters full of this and that, different sized sickles, machetes, trowels, hand forks – so many. There was even a special place for shoes – in a shed!

What does this all lead up to? Well, my father would have enjoyed the vision I have for the ultimate shed, which I see as being much more than a shed or even a man cave! It would be a place to grow things, a place of relaxation, and a place for all the tools.

This shed would have to be 20ft x 16ft at the very least. The shed itself would have a seeding area, some place where there is lots of sun, with the added advantage of a sprinkler system; once those tiny little seeds have started to germinate they need to be kept moist. South-facing windows would be best as the little seeds, small plantlings, early baskets and pots need plenty of sun, especially when starting out.

To ensure that you get enough light you would need one side with glass, not to the floor, though. Regular-sized windows, incl-uding one at each end, are all you need. White paint can be used inside the windows to help moderate the temperature as the sun beats down more warmly the closer we get to summer. Ventilation is important. The perfect shed would have a large fan to help regulate the heat. We get very cold in the winter and very warm in the summer so heating for the early spring time would be necessary, but be careful when using heating appliances; think safety first, always. Cooling is typically the hardest, but a herb garden on the roof, which I will explain later, and windows that open for good ventilation, should help.

Positioning the Ultimate Shed, for me, plays a huge part to take advantage of the movement of the sun and moon. I know you probably think I am a little insane, but if my shed faces south for seeds in spring it must have one face to the west, featuring a relaxing deck with an awning overhead, for the lazy days of summer.

I see myself at the end of a day spent tottering around the garden. I remove my dirt ridden boots, pull a drink from the fridge and just want somewhere to relax without having to go through the house. A recliner or two on the deck of my shed would be perfect. In my mind, I can see the birds perched on the feeder enjoying their evening meal, whilst I relax in the warm evening breeze and sip a cold one.

All working sheds need a large area for tools; these come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It is most important to have a good-sized work bench with shelves underneath. The ideal height is a regular bar height of about four feet. In my old garden shed, I made one using two-by-fours, with ¾-inch plywood on top, attached a vice and a grinder at one end (to keep the tools nice and sharp), and had enough space in the drawers for all the other bits that one accumulates as the years flow by. The actual size was that of a single bed, six feet by three feet.

Remember to have lots of old rags on hand so that, after you use your tools, you can clean them, wipe them down, spray on a little oil (WD40) and the next time you need them they will be ready for whatever your plan is for that day.

Put a herb garden on the roof

A roof is a roof is a roof, but a roof can be more exciting when you play with it, so why not grow a herb garden on it? The plants will get lots of light and there would be plenty of space. Set up a border no more than eight inches deep, line the area with plastic sheeting. Assemble a framework of planting squares inside the frame to keep the soil stable and define the planting spaces, then add six inches of good potting soil. The pitch of the roof should run at 33 degrees, always with an overhang to allow drainage of rain for the odd wet day we might get. Make sure you attach a gutter to the edge of the structure to let excess water run-off.

Now the good bit; chose your herbs, from parsley to sage, thyme, basil, lemon balm, so many different types. My thoughts are that you put the herbs you use most at the front and those you use the least toward to the back; you have to pick them after all. One final thought though is if you do decide to have a herb garden on your roof think about the ground around your deck, you will need a ladder to be able to harvest your crop and safety is paramount.

All in all the shed is my fun place. If you build one, make it yours, too.

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