Every gardener looks forward to the summer months as they know this means warmer weather and longer hours spent tending and enjoying the garden. But these long hours can take their toll – lifting compost for planting, moving grass cuttings to compost bins and the general to-ing and fro-ing that gardening requires – all these jobs can lead to fatigue and the dreaded gardening backache.
It's essential to have the right equipment and there can be no better back-saver in the garden than the humble wheelbarrow. The trouble is there are so many to choose from - so we have put together this useful guide on choosing a wheelbarrow that should help you select the perfect gardening buddy with ease.
Are two wheels better than one?
A single-wheeled wheelbarrow is the most common. It is easy to manoeuvre making it perfect for tight turns and small spaces. This type of wheelbarrow is ideal for lighter loads and perfect for moving waste from jobs such as weeding, pruning and grass cuttings from smaller lawns. Because a single-wheeled wheelbarrow relies on you to provide the balance when moving it, it becomes less stable when moving heavier loads.
A two-wheeled wheelbarrow, while a little less easy to manoeuvre, is far more suited to moving heavier loads and, because of their stability, are much easier to lift and put less pressure on your back. They can even be lifted and moved one-handed.
If you opt for a two-wheeled version, it’s worth testing whether two centrally-mounted wheels suit you better than two front-mounted wheels. The former may offer even greater stability for heavy gardening jobs such as soil or rubble removal and these types can be pushed and pulled, giving you even more options in the garden.
The type of tyre or tyres fitted can also make a difference to how easy a wheelbarrow is to push. Solid or pneumatic each have their advantages and disadvantages. With a solid tyre you don’t run the risk of a puncture, but the wheelbarrow can be harder to move over rough terrain. With a pneumatic tyre you will feel less of the bumps in the ground when moving from A to B which can be kinder to your back and knees, but thorns, rocks and rough ground all pose the risk of a flat tyre.
Get a grip
The handle length and composition is also an important consideration. Whether you plan to store your barrow upright or horizontally, ensure you check the overall length of it including the handles to ensure it will fit in your chosen storage spot when not in use. The wheelbarrow is a large piece of kit and takes up valuable shed or garage space.
Many modern wheelbarrows have a single closed or bar handle which offers greater stability over the more traditional straight two-handled models and makes it easier to move the barrow one-handed.
Traditional straight handles are good for tilting and tipping the load but do require more hand strength. Whereas closed handles and single-bar grips are more ergonomically friendly and make pulling easier.
Materials and size matter
Most wheelbarrow buckets are now made from either steel or plastic and each has its advantages depending on your type of garden and the jobs you need it for.
Plastic is easy on both the back and the pocket. These models will be lighter and tend to be less expensive than their steel cousins. Many horse owners would not be without their plastic bucket wheelbarrow as they are ideal for moving hay and bedding and won’t corrode from animal waste contact. They can crack and warp though either through too heavy loads or extreme cold.
Look out for single-skinned moulded plastic buckets on steel frames as these give an excellent balance of study construction and lightweight finish.
Steel buckets can stand up to heavier loads and are well suited to jobs such as brickwork and paths that require more weighty materials to be moved about the garden.
The bigger your wheelbarrow bucket the more you can move but bear in mind useable space and shape. A deep but steep-sided wheelbarrow bucket will have a large capacity but a smaller flat surface area, making it perfect for loading with compost or grass cuttings. Whereas a flatter trailer-type wheelbarrow is perfect for moving potted plants and tools or a tired grand-child.
Mind the gap
It’s happened to us all – you head off to your local garden centre to buy garden equipment or DIY materials only to find that when we get them back to the car, we can’t fit them in the boot!
It’s always worth making a note of the dimensions of your car boot and the boot opening before you head out to buy your new wheelbarrow. If it is box-packed then the dimensions should be printed on the box. Also, check whether the wheel/s are removable as this can mean the difference between a short drive or a long walk.
The simplest option is to order online – Henchman offers free next day delivery from stock to UK mainland addresses.
Similarly, check the width of your new barrow against the width of your garden gates, shed or side passages to make sure you will be able to wheel it through without obstruction. It’s also worth checking routes to compost bins and bonfire sites and round hedges, trees and beds in your garden to ensure you can get around the garden with ease.