A Vegetable Cleaning Workstation for Your Garden

vegetable-cleaning-workstationOne day I was thinking how nice it would be to have a vegetable cleaning workstation in my garden. No more sand on the floor from tracking in and out from the garden, multiple trips to and from the garden and the compost pile, or mud in my kitchen sink! Not only that, but a place to keep my frequently used items right in the garden.

I use the wash water to throw back on the garden, and the vegetable scraps go directly to the compost bin. Ecologically sound, as well as time and energy efficient!

It took me several hours to design, and one day to build. My total cost was $45. I was able to use lumber that I already had. I planned to locate the workstation close to my water source so I wouldn’t have a lot of hose to reel up when I am done and I wanted it inside of my fenced garden so I was close to the vegetables.

I love to design things, so I tried to think about how I usually clean my vegetables, what things I need, and what kind of work space I typically use. Then I headed for Habitat ReStore, and picked up a stainless steel double sink for $15. I turned the sink around, because the sink I bought had a great rubber stopper for the incinerator side, but nothing for the sink side.

It’s a good idea to pre-drill your holes before you screw things in, so you don’t split the wood and you also won’t strip the screws – making them impossible to remove if you have to or want to later in the future.

I didn’t want to have to transport supplies back and forth between the workstation and the house, so I purchased the items I typically use for the vegetable cleaning workstation. Next I was off to Goodwill for knives, a vegetable peeler, a jar to hold my utensils, a colander, a cutting board, and a tray for carrying the goods into the house, or around the garden! I had gathering bowls already, and now I just leave them in my workstation instead of the house so I’m ready to prep vegetables right in the garden.

I assembled the workstation in my garage, close to electricity and tools, and built the two bases. The left cabinet is 15″ W x 24″ D x 37 1/2″ H. The right cabinet is 24″ W x 24″ D x 37 1/2″ H. Use two 60″ long 2x4s in front and back, to attach the two cabinets together. The middle space in between the two cabinets is where you will drop the sink in. I left a little bit of space between the sink and the countertops, just in case I need to change to a different sink at some point in the future, although since stainless steel doesn’t rust, it should last for a long time. Be sure to lay it all out in the garage, but don’t nail down the 2x4s that will join the two cabinets just yet.

Take the two cabinets you built and the two 60″ long 2x4s out to your garden. Put everything together here and set the sink in place. Then all you need to do is nail or screw the two 2x4s into place. As I was leveling the counter top, I intentionally made sure that I left it tilted slightly towards the rear, so spilled water will run off the counter top to the backside, rather than on me. Since the ground is never level, you should bring some shims out to the garden with you. You can make shims from your left over lumber if you don’t have any lying around.

The height is 40″, the depth 24″, and the total width 60″. I allowed 24″ to the left of the sink for room for my bowl of gathered vegetables, and space for chopping and peeling. The double stainless steel sink takes up 33″, and I left 15″ for placing the final product until I am ready to bring it all inside.

I used cedar wood for the top, rubbed with olive oil. I wouldn’t use polyurethane, because in the sun it might start to chip and mix in with your vegetables, making them toxic! Cedar lasts hundreds of years in the water, so it is a good choice for the top. Because I have a cedar built home, I actually had enough lumber to do the entire workstation in cedar. So it should last a long time! Using a paper towel and olive or walnut oil helps to clean, as well as protect the counter top. Do not, however, use walnut oil for cooking, as it is not edible.

I included two shelves on the right base to store my utensils when not in use. Consider making your shelves in the right cabinet at a height that will accommodate the size of the items that you intend to keep in the cupboard to protect them from water. Think about things that you usually use when cleaning vegetables, or while working in your garden. A little pre-planning on your part will ensure that the height and width of this cupboard shelf will accommodate the items that you will want to store in your garden.

I put my fanny pack that I wear when I am gardening on my top shelf – it has my kerchief for wiping sweat off my face, lip balm, a couple of plant markers (I use the metal ones from Paw Paw Label Company), a wax marker to write on the labels, a pair of clippers, scissors, a pad of paper for notes as I work, a pencil, and my phone goes in there as well when I am working in the garden.

I also store walnut or olive oil to clean my counter top before I get started, as well as paper towels in a plastic bag on one shelf. I left room for my knives and utensils when I am not using them on the counter – I wouldn’t want a strong wind to come along and knock my knives off to the ground. As I have sand in my pathways, a knife could get buried in the sand, and a knife in your foot is never a good thing! I also keep alternative hose sprayers on this shelf.

On the bottom shelf, I store my cutting board, colander, and gathering bowls.

I bought a sprayer that attaches to the hose and has an on/off switch. But since I also use a sprinkler and a different hose sprayer, I left room for those items as well. Under the sink area, I store a small folding, portable seat for sitting on while weeding. I also store my garden carts (in which I store numerous items) here so that the carts and their contents will not be harmed by water as they are located under the sink. The carts also serve the purpose of elevating the buckets for drain water, to avoid splashing when I am done cleaning vegetables and I want to drain the sink.

I keep ice in a bucket in the shade under the washing area, to keep drinks cold when I am working in the garden. I did put a wine bottle and glass in the photo for celebrating a job well done! I also keep a can for trash and a can for weeding under the sink.

Under the left countertop, I left an open area to dry herbs, hang my scissors and string, and to store the sprinkler, as well as trays for carrying items around the garden or in and out of the house. I left that area open in the front of the base, because that is where I will be doing my chopping and peeling, so I wanted to have “foot room” when standing in that area, as well as under the sink area.

I also store my supply of metal markers here. I hate to admit it, but even though I have been growing vegetables for years… I am still really bad at knowing which plant is which until they produce a vegetable! This makes weeding a little tricky as well, but I have found that if there are hundreds of them, most likely that is a weed! I use the metal markers to identify where I have planted, so I know I have planted that area, as well as what I planted. This spring, I also ordered the Vegetable Garden Planner from Mother Earth News, and I like it because I can have a copy of what I planted where. I can save the plan so I can rotate the crops the next year, and also make notes about what did well, and what did not.

I put a black plastic garbage can on wheels nearby. If you keep a lid on it, it keeps the rain water out, and the black color absorbs heat, which speeds the decomposition of the vegetable matter. Every couple of days I empty that garbage can into my compost pile and dig it in. The compost pile is not far away, but I am glad the garbage can has wheels for easy transport. I have found that if you leave any water in with the vegetable scraps, you will really regret it in a few days. So don’t wait too long, or it will really be fragrant, but not in a good way!

I have been using my completed vegetable/garden workstation for several years now, and I am thrilled with it. It has been so convenient – I am not running back and forth to the house for needed items, and there is no trail of dirt from the garden to the kitchen anymore. I just love it!

Thanks to Belinda for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest. We have over $1,500 in prizes lined up for the current writing contest, with more to come. Here is a list of the current pot of prizes:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $380 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $279 value
– 1 year of free membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $240 value
– A copy of The Summer of Survival Complete Collection from Life Changes Be Ready, a $127 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $60 each
– The complete 2014 Grow Your Own Food Summit interview series, a $47 value
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $42 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $40 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $32 each

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