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A Homeowner’s Guide to Wheelbarrows and Garden Carts

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For anyone who does gardening more strenuous than planting a marigold in a pot, a wheelbarrow or garden cart is an indispensable yard tool. There will always be heavy things to haul, from large rocks and loads of compost to multiple flats of petunias. Every gardener needs some type of help – finding the right tool depends on the gardener and the job that needs to get done.

Wheelbarrow or Garden Cart?

Both of these garden helpers do the same basic job, hauling large and heavy loads. Each type has advantages and disadvantages. Wheelbarrows have one or two front wheels and sloping sides to the bed. You walk behind a wheelbarrow, pushing it to where you want it to go. The design makes it easy to tip and dump the load beside or in front of the wheel.

On the other hand, garden carts have flat bottoms, straight sides and two or more large wheels. They’re designed to be pulled behind the gardener. Garden carts are more stable than wheelbarrows, but can be harder to maneuver on rocky or bumpy ground.

Your Physical Needs

In choosing the tool that works best for most of the jobs you plan on doing, consider any physical limitations – they might be the deciding factor.

  • If you have a hard time walking, pulling a cart may be easier than pushing a wheelbarrow
  • If you have trouble bending, it may be easier to tilt and dump a wheelbarrow than to lift loads from a cart
  • If lifting loads is a problem, go for the lower bed of the garden cart for easier transfers

The size of the garden can also be a big consideration. While larger wheelbarrows and carts do the job in fewer trips, if the tool is too large to use, it doesn’t do you any good. Larger plots of land call for larger carts, but only as long as they’re easy to use.


Carts and wheelbarrows come in multiple material combinations, but the right one depends on how you plan to use it.

  • Metal wheelbarrows are strong and durable, but can be prone to rust. You can avoid this by painting the exposed metal once a year.
  • Wooden carts are strong and can be tossed around without damage, but if left outside, they can warp and splinter from the elements over time.
  • Plastic wheelbarrows and carts are the lightest, easiest to use and are weatherproof. Thinner ones can crack if loaded too heavily and plastic will eventually break down under long exposure to high temperatures or the sun.

Both types of tools have wheels in one of two varieties. Pneumatic tires have a tube inside, like bicycle tires. They’re easier to push, but can go flat if punctured. Solid tires, or tires filled with foam, are more durable but can be harder to maneuver, even over relatively level ground.

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