In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
November, 2001
Regional Report

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My prairie style garden shed has become a haven as well as a storage shed.

My Garden Shed

Although I've always wanted a garden shed, my practical side knew I didn't actually need one. After all, we have plenty of garage space to store tools, and several places where I can repot plants or start seeds. But last autumn, serendipity gave me a shed.

An Old Tree House

Constructed of painted plywood with a flat roof and plain windows, my shed was rebuilt from an old tree house that had been lowered to the ground when the supporting posts rotted. The little house was designed in the same prairie style as our main house, nothing like the picturesque cottage of weathered red barn boards with a sharply pitched roof and lots of small-paned windows to fill with hanging herbs to dry. But it would do.



The rebirth of the tree house began when my husband, a great scavenger, brought home a huge framed window with a broken storm window and an old jalousie storm door. These gave us the impetus to convert the old building into a useful shed.

Modifications

We cut openings and installed the window and door; we painted the outside to match the house, and installed an old workbench. I can open it wide to enjoy the air and I've hung the hammock between the shed and an old shagbark hickory. When the potting gets too tedious, I can laze awhile with a garden catalog and glass of iced tea.

I now have a garden shed par excellence. It's not the design I had in my head but that's okay. When I step inside, I'm just as colorful as any elderly British gardener in Wellies, a jaunty hat and jodhpurs. It's time to put my tools away for the season, and having this wonderful shed to put them in actually gives me the impetus to get it done. I'm cleaning and oiling everything, and even pulling out the whetstone to sharpen my pruners. I've made racks on the walls so that everything has a place, and I'm even getting my flats and pots ready for seed starting later in the winter. I've never been so organized!

I've moved in a small electric heater and it's still warm enough to spend time in my shed organizing my garden for next year. I can stand in there with my seeds spread out on the bench and let my imagination take light. Aside from the mere function and practicality, the shed is part of the landscape. It has a solid, grounded feeling that gives the garden a sense of permanence. Next year, I'll grow vines on trellises around it to make it a more intrinsic part of the garden architecture. And, who knows? Perhaps I'll just move in a comfy chair and my laptop and make it my own private writer's retreat!


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