Back in 1992, for the first time ever, I set up a place to wash produce in my garden. I had become a market gardener and was washing a LOT of lettuce twice a week to deliver to local restaurants. Using materials I already had, I put an old bathtub on cement blocks and made a sturdy screen to go over it. I made a bench out of scrap wood to hold the washing buckets and produce trays. I painted the bench to make things look good. I positioned buckets under the drain hole of the bathtub to catch the water, which was then used to water the garden. I would keep changing them as they filled. That bathtub was rather unsightly. It was positioned along the fence between the garden and the backyard. About that time, my dear friend, Margaret, gave me a rose bush to thank me for helping her with her sheep shearing. I planted it on the backyard side of the fence. It hid the bathtub from view in the backyard and provided a wonderful screen for me to see as I was working. I don’t know much about roses, and I think it might have been because of how well watered it was with the buckets often overflowing before I changed them, but this bush certainly flourished in that location. Sometimes I had to brush the rose petals away that fell onto my workspace before I could get started. It was a wonderful reminder of our friendship each day.
The screen I made as a draining work table was made from half-inch hardware cloth stapled over a 2-by-4 frame. When I was selling at the farmers market, I would pick the carrots, beets, and bunching onions the last thing before heading out. I could put them out on that screen, hose them off and sort them into bunches. Each bunch was secured with a rubber band. It was quick and easy. To make it even easier, I usually planted the onions in bunches. I would start 10 seeds together and transplant the resulting bunch in the garden. When they were pulled for the market, the bunches were already there, I just used the 6 best onions for the final bunch.
I no longer sell for the market and that set-up is long gone. I still have a garden washing station and this one is just right for my needs now. Mostly I use it when I am cleaning and cutting vegetables for the solar food dryers. You really feel as if you are part of the garden when you are preparing food right in it. I have a stainless steel free-standing sink there that I found at a yard sale years ago. I have attached a drinking-water-safe hose to it so that the water comes out of the faucet. An old metal stand and a marble slab, things that have somehow found their way here over the years, provide a work surface to the left of the sink. I have a metal table frame, lacking its original glass top, that I’ll be using out there whenever I get around to building a wood top for it. Returning the wash water to the garden is one of the best things about a garden washing station. I catch the water coming from the sink in buckets, as before.
If you want to put together a garden washing station and don’t happen to have the same things I did in your resource pile, you might want to keep your eyes open at yard sales or visit places that sell used restaurant equipment. Building supply stores sell utility sinks that are free-standing and deep. Contractors who remodel kitchens could put you in touch with a sink and countertop that someone is getting rid of. Sometimes those things end up at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I’m not too familiar with it, but I guess you might find just what you’re looking for on Craig’s List. You can find more information about my garden washing station at Homeplace Earth. Adding a washing station to your garden will bring a whole new dimension to it.
Photos by Cindy Conner