Garden Gear - Accessories

Garden wheelbarrows reviewed

Judith Adam and Stephen Westcott-Gratton
Photography by
Mark Burstyn and Roger Yip

Our contributors test drive the latest gardening pickups

There is no shame in relying on a wheelbarrow for the lightest of chores, such as moving grass clippings and collecting autumn leaves. Wide, high-capacity, flat-bottomed trays carry lightweight, bulky loads easily, can double as an impromptu potting bench in the garden or move potted plants without tipping them. New low-slung barrow models with fabric buckets carry the load just inches above the ground, with a back fabric section that can be unhooked to sweep leaves directly into the bucket-sling, eliminating the bend-and-lift back movement of leaf cleanup. The fabric sling collapses for compact storage-an important advantage, as wheelbarrows can occupy a lot of space in a garden shed. 

Scaled-down wheelbarrows with 85- to 125-litre capacities are sometimes referred to as garden carts, and if you require one for small chores (such as moving garden chairs and patio containers), a small cart with two wheels provides good service. A lawn mower-style handle bar instead of the traditional wheelbarrow handles will help gardeners with lower back pain and mildly arthritic hands. And despite back and joint infirmities, gardeners “of a certain age” can still tackle significant work with the aid of large, three-wheeled barrows with removable, flat-bottomed, plastic buckets. These are similar to the smaller garden carts but can carry more weight and volume while retaining helpful features, such as the handle bar. The third wheel gives extra security against tipping, and the bucket can be set on the ground for holding soil and mixing amendments. Lightweight plastic barrows are easy to handle, yet strong enough for heavy loads; plastic also washes off easily with a hose and won't dent or rust. Metal barrow buckets are heavier, and that weight can help anchor a small- to medium-sized load and prevent accidental tipping.

When garage space is limited, winter storage becomes an issue. Can a wheelbarrow be kept outdoors? Most have large nuts and bolts securing the wheels, which can be removed and stored indoors, where they won't be damaged by frost and develop leaks. The barrow (without its wheels) can be stood up outside on its snub nose and, making sure it's completely dry first, wrapped in a sheet of plastic secured with cord.

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