Above, from left:
Erie 1035 Contractor Wheelbarrow
Without doubt, the Erie 1035 was the most versatile wheelbarrow that Judith and I tested. It's as much at home on a construction site as in a herbaceous border, which is probably why it's considered the crème de la crème by busy contractors and serious gardeners alike.
With just one wheel, it's perfect for rough terrain, and the extra-long (160-centimetre) handles guarantee maximum leverage, particularly when the 170-litre tray is full. Although this model may be better suited to burly gardeners, its design is ergonomically sound, and the narrow steel nose makes for easy pouring and unloading. And with 125 years of field tests behind it, the Erie Contractor wheelbarrow should last you a lifetime. $135
Yardworks Two-Wheeled Wheelbarrow
Having two four-ply tires instead of just one accounts for this wheelbarrow-cum-garden-cart's added stability. It's designed on classic wheelbarrow principles (apart from the extra wheel) and proportions. The 170-litre seamless tray with rust-resistant finish has a fairly wide lip, which made it more difficult to unload garden debris directly into baskets and bags, but the barrow itself was easy to operate in most garden situations. $140
Lee Valley Smart Cart
More garden cart than wheelbarrow, this highly adaptable, large-capacity (up to 270 kilograms) polyethylene cart weighs just 16 kilograms. Its box measures 112 centimetres long x 68 centimetres wide x 38 centimetres deep and is ideal for shifting everything from topsoil to turnips.
The tires (40 centimetres in diameter, 10 centimetres wide) are mounted on sealed ball bearings, making for easy navigation over rough ground. The box snaps easily into place and can be removed from the corrosion-proof, aluminum alloy frame for a quick hose-down or antiseptic wash. $379
Yardworks Three-Wheeled Wheelbarrow
With every extra wheel you gain stability but lose manoeuvrability, so models like this one tend to perform best on fairly smooth surfaces. Since both Judith and I garden on level terrain, we didn't run into any problems, although we found that the back wheels took some getting used to.
The rear axle can be shifted between two grooves, one for rolling and one for staying put. Positioned in the lower groove, the wheels contact the ground; moved into the upper groove, the wheels sit higher and the back legs are on the ground, preventing movement. Unfortunately this feature falls short of its original design objective, since the wheels tend to pop back into their stationary position with every lump and bump in the landscape, especially on a steep grade. The ergonomic handle does make it feel a little like pushing a supermarket grocery cart. Recommended for gardeners who want to avoid back strain. $150