Practical and Decorative Wheelbarrows for the Home Garden
Wheelbarrows Aren't Just for Hauling Loads Around
Wheelbarrows are practical, indispensable tools for the modern home gardener, allowing a single person to move heavy loads or multiple items easily from one place to another. These ancient tools are as practical and simple today as they were when they were invented and will continue to occupy an important place among home garden tools for centuries to come. In recent years, these workhorses have come to have an additional purpose in the garden as ornaments and rustic containers for showcasing colorful displays of flowers and garden produce. Today, both the practical and the decorative wheelbarrow can be found in retail outlets and online in an amazing variety of sizes, materials, designs, and even colors.
Wheelbarrow or Wheelbarrow?
You've probably heard this tool referred to as a wheelbarrow and possibly even used the term yourself. But the word is derived from the Old English bearwe, a tool used to carry heavy loads, the modern form being barrow. Some speculate that the reason wheelbarrow is so commonly used is because the bucket part resembles a barrel. But there are other possible reasons for the barrel version, including that barrow is a less commonly known word and also has two distinctly different meanings: a carrying tool, and a mound or hill.
The Man-powered Practical Wheelbarrow
The history of the practical wheelbarrow goes back more than 2,000 years. Although historians don't agree about the exact date and time of its invention, they do provide us with some interesting material for future research. The oldest documented reference found so far appears in a Greek inventory of building materials dating from the early 400s BC. The next reference comes from China in 118 AD in the form of a tomb painting found in Sichuan province. The first reference to wheelbarrows in Western Europe appears in the early 1300s, and by the 1500s wheelbarrows were commonly used there in mining, construction, and agriculture. What historians do agree upon is that the origin of the wheelbarrow is still a bit of a mystery but worthy of continuing exploration.
Today's man-powered practical wheelbarrows are as varied in their designs as automobiles and as different in their features as smartphones, but what they all have in common is that they rely only on the human body to make them work. No fossil fuels, batteries, or cell towers are involved. In other words, the only reason a wheelbarrow won’t work is because you don’t take it out of the garden shed and put your muscle to it.
Here are some popular modern, practical wheelbarrow designs readily available online.
It takes a bit of practice to balance a heavily-loaded, single-wheel wheelbarrow.
I’ll never forget the first time I used one. It was a few years ago, and I had to move 120 pounds of mulch (packed into three 40-pound bags) from the back of my SUV to my garden. I slid the bags from the tailgate into the waiting wheelbarrow…no problem! Then I quickly found my balance as I lifted the handles and rolled the load from the car, across the asphalt drive, and then onto the lawn at the front of the house. But getting from there to the garden, at the back of the house, required traversing the side of a low hill, for which I was completely unprepared. In a split second of hitting the grade of that little hill, I dumped the load. My burly neighbor, from whom I borrowed the barrow, had to come to my rescue to reload the bags into the tub and take them safely to their destination.
Since then, I’m happy to say, I learned a few things about traversing that hill with a heavy load. That’s what I mean about practice.
Today's single-wheel, traditional barrow is undoubtedly popular. It comes in an extraordinary variety of capacities, materials and colors, and often with replacement kits to do your own repairs when a wooden handle needs replacing, a tire ceases to function, or a poly tub breaks. Most modern wheelbarrows will last for a long, long time with proper maintenance and the occasional parts replacement.
The dual-wheel wheelbarrow (or dualie, as some like to call it) is less likely to tip from side to side on a hill and is easier to maneuver than the traditional single-wheel design. I could have used this design when moving those 120 pounds of mulch!
Like the single-wheel design, dualies come in a variety of colors, like pink and ladybug, green and yellow, while, more commonly, the tubs are made of a poly material rather than steel.
Since we’re talking about the home garden here, and not about construction or mining sites, the dualies are designs that can be handled equally well by men and women slight or hefty, young or old. They are excellent for moving medium loads with stability.
A folding wheelbarrow is an ingenious invention for those who have limited storage space or need to carry a wheelbarrow from one location to another in a car.
The tub of a folding wheelbarrow is made of a heavy-duty, canvas-like synthetic cloth that rinses off easily with a garden hose.
The folding designs are more lightweight and have a smaller volume and weight capacity than the traditional steel or plastic designs; however, they may be the perfect choice for you and your garden if you don’t require a tub for mixing cement or hauling heavy loads of rocks and bricks.
It’s never too early to introduce children to the rewards and responsibilities of gardening. From the time my daughter could walk, she had her own child-sized trowel, bucket, and watering can to use while keeping me company in the garden.
As children grow, more age-appropriate, scaled-down garden tools become available, such as the wheelbarrow. A well-crafted kid’s wheelbarrow is durable yet light in weight, true to scale, and expertly finished to eliminate sharp edges and protrusions. It can be used not only for helping grownups in the garden, but for hauling all kinds of treasures and toys around as well. Kid’s wheelbarrows are available with either steel or plastic tubs.
When choosing a kid’s wheelbarrow, check the dimensions carefully to make sure the size is appropriate for your child’s height.
New Decorative Wheelbarrows
The Decorative Wheelbarrow
This simple and practical tool has proven its worth through time for at least the last 2,000 years. Assuredly, other ancient tools have survived as well, such as the shovel or the lever or the axe. But this one has taken on a decorative aspect when introduced into the modern garden as an art form.
Retired wheelbarrows showing their years and being beyond practical use have become popular outdoor ornaments when used as garden planters. They are so popular that newly manufactured antique-styled and rustic-styled wheelbarrows are readily available through a number of online sources.
A Prime Candidate for Natural Recycling
In the outdoor environment, when used as a planter, the retired wheelbarrow’s wood handles will weather, and metal pieces will rust and crumble. As time passes, this natural aging will lend even more rustic charm. As the wood eventually begins to soften and fall apart, no longer able to function as a design component of the wheelbarrow planter, it can be buried to integrate with the soil, providing food for beneficial microorganisms. As the metal tub corrodes, it will acquire additional drainage holes and can continue to serve as an excellent planter for a very long time. If the challenge of integrating a rusted tub into a garden design is not your cup of tea, you can take the tub and other metal parts to a metal recycling center. Needless to say, designs fabricated in plastic don’t have the same benefits.
Helpful Online Buying Tips for Selecting Practical or Decorative Wheelbarrows
- Compare online prices against brick-and-mortar prices. Online prices may be significantly lower, even with the shipping cost added.
- Look for free shipping deals. Amazon’s Super Saver Shipping is something very worthwhile.
- Read product descriptions and customer reviews carefully. Customer reviews give you real-life experiences from unbiased sources, some of which may be very appropriate to your own needs and expectations.
- When shopping for an antique wheelbarrow, read descriptions with skepticism. Some online sellers will use the word antique without explaining that the product they are selling is newly manufactured in an antique style but is not old enough to be called an antique.