Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 4
   August 2011
   Wheelbarrow Basics: Choosing the Right One
There are many models of wheelbarrows out there; choose the one that's right for you.

One of the best tools you can have in your garden is a trusty wheelbarrow. I still have fond memories of my first one. It carried its final load sometime in the early '70s while on loan to a neighbor. Small and made of pressed steel, it was cheap and flimsy. Regardless, at the time of its demise it had moved considerable amounts of soil and other bulky garden material and proved itself far superior to the alternative — a yoke and two pails. It had already started to fall apart, but after the person to whom it was on loan left it sitting in the driveway behind the car, the inevitable happened, rendering it useless.

My current model has lasted much longer, nearly 20 years. It's also made of pressed steel, but better quality than the last one. Despite having been stored outside, it's held up remarkably well over the years. Apart from applying a few coats of paint and the occasional squirt of oil on the wheel bearings, it's been maintenance free. I did replace the tire last fall, but only after spending a couple of seasons re-inflating it every time I needed to use it, always mumbling, "I really should replace this tire".

Thanks to advances in materials and technology, wheelbarrows have improved considerably. No longer do we have to accept the rustic basics: a wheel, a tub and two handles. Some models actually have two, even three, wheels! Who among us hasn't cursed the unbalanced single-wheeled barrow after an accidental tip over? As for the tubs, many are produced from lightweight but rugged polypropylene, a vast improvement over the old, heavy, waterlogged wooden ones. Handles have advanced in both style and ergonomics, but it seems wheelbarrows are still limited to just two. I dream of the day when this final design challenge has been overcome; imagine how much labor and how many backs will be saved by a multi-handled wheelbarrow.

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