Wheelbarrows and Garden Carts

Richard L. Parish  |  11/24/2004 10:16:02 PM

Figure 1. Large, construction wheelbarrow (6 cubic foot capacity).

Figure 2. High-wheel garden cart.

Homeowners and gardeners often use wheelbarrows and garden carts to move materials around their property.
 
Wheelbarrows and carts are very handy for hauling bags of fertilizer or mulch, plants, tools, trash or bulk materials like soil, sand, gravel or compost. Both types of conveyance are useful, but each offers certain advantages and limitations.

Wheelbarrows
Traditional wheelbarrows have a hopper, one tire and two handles (Figure 1). The hopper is located between the tire and the handles, so the operator must lift much of the weight of the cargo. The single wheel makes it possible to roll a wheelbarrow along a board over a muddy spot or up a narrow ramp; on the other hand, the single wheel makes a wheelbarrow somewhat unsteady. The operator must be careful to keep the load balanced to avoid tipping over.
 
Wheelbarrows are generally available in 4 or 6 cubic foot sizes. The smaller size often has a small, hard rubber (semipneumatic) tire, but the larger size usually has a wider pneumatic tire that rolls more easily. Some wheelbarrows now have two tires, which provides much better stability, but still leaves much of the weight on the operator and negates the ability to traverse a narrow board or ramp.

Small Garden Carts
There are many styles of small garden carts. The hoppers may be metal or plastic. They typically have two small tires. Load capacity is fairly small. They are often capable of tipping over forward so leaves can be raked directly into the hopper. These carts are useful for light loads in small yards. Some types will fold up for storage.

Large Garden Carts
Large garden carts with 20- or 26-inch bicycle tires (Figure 2) have become popular in the last 20 years. These carts typically have a tubular steel frame with a plywood body that is open at the rear. They are often sold unassembled, and, in some cases, you can buy a kit without the plywood. The models with 20-inch tires hold about 6 to 7 cubic feet, and the models with 26-inch tires hold about 11-12 cubic feet.
 
These carts thus hold twice the volume of a wheelbarrow and, because of the big tires, they roll much easier. They are best at hauling light, bulky materials like leaves, pine straw and compost. When hauling soil, sand or gravel, they should not be fully loaded or the weight will be excessive. With these carts, the hopper is mounted over the axle instead of behind the wheel like a wheelbarrow, thus more of the weight is carried by the tires and less by the operator.
 
Stability is excellent. When the carts are tipped forward, the front panel is flush on the ground, thus making it easy to rake materials directly into the hopper. On most models, the front panel can be removed or swung out for easy unloading.

Cost
You can get a small garden cart or a small wheelbarrow for less than $50. A large wheelbarrow may cost from $40-$100. Large garden carts will range from $60-250, depending on size and quality.

Special Uses
Some special uses favor a particular design. Mixing concrete, for instance, can be done in the bin or tub of a wheelbarrow or small cart, but not in a large, wooden cart. On the other hand, the large carts are handy for hauling small grandchildren around the yard!

In summary, a good wheelbarrow is a sound investment for home construction projects involving mixing concrete or moving sand, gravel, etc. A large garden cart is the best choice for serious gardeners. It is easier to use and will carry more of the type of things gardeners typically carry.

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