Thomas Jefferson’s love of gardening is well-known. In 1812, he constructed a pavilion in the middle of his vegetable garden at Monticello. The brick structure was a 12.5-foot square. It had arches on all four sides and a pyramid-shaped roof. In addition to vegetables, Jefferson also grew flowers, fruits and ornamental trees, but he considered his vegetable garden to be his crowning horticultural achievement. The pavilion was in a central location where he could spend countless hours enjoying his work. It was equally well-suited for quiet contemplation or stylish entertaining. Though not nearly as grand as Mr. Jefferson’s pavilion, Rachel and I use our garden shed in much the same way. Whether it’s just the two of us, or 50 of our closest friends, our garden shed serves as the focal point for all of our outdoor activities.       

No longer just a place to stash the lawn mower and power tools, a garden shed can provide a backyard getaway without having to go very far. Traditionally, a shed provides a convenient overflow for the basement or garage. Nowadays these small buildings are destinations on their own, providing a retreat from the stresses of everyday life. Like a childhood tree house, a garden shed can become a special place. The rules are different there. You can spread out your stuff and leave it there overnight, guilt-free. The next day, just pick up where you left off.     

Garden sheds should be functional as well as stylish and comfortable. The right size is most important. Once you’ve figured out how much space you’ll need, add 50 percent more. No one ever regrets having too much room. The longer you garden, the more tools you’ll acquire. There’s nothing more disappointing than outgrowing your dream shed too soon.          

Next, you’ll need a potting bench. The most basic potting bench needs to be high enough to work on comfortably while standing. If you use containers in your garden, this will make potting work so much easier. When you get tired of standing, just pull up a comfy seat. Lots of shelves and drawers are must-have items along with peg boards, hooks and handles. Organization is the key to finding things quickly and ramps provide easy access in and out. Don’t forget about the outside of your shed. Shutters and window boxes add a touch of charm and hominess. Some sheds have small porches, but extra wide eaves can provide shelter for rainy day barbecuing. Good lighting makes your shed more useful as the day winds down. Solar or battery powered options are widely available. If you electrify your shed, add as many outlets as you safely can.

A garden shed is to a gardener what a kitchen is to a cook. When your passion lies in both cooking and gardening, each one becomes an extension of the other. Thomas Jefferson spoke of the pursuit of happiness. Rachel and I find nothing more satisfying than growing our own food, preparing it in our kitchen and sharing it with family and friends in our rose garden.

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at