Published on 08/26/99

A Gardener's 'Ode to the Wheelbarrow'

One of the essentials in the home landscape (which used to be called the yard back when we swept it clean with a brush broom) is the wheelbarrow (which is now given the euphemistic term, yard cart).

The first wheelbarrow I remember using was long-handled with a flat bed and a piece of wood at the front just to keep things from sliding off.

The wood was cypress and weathered gray. It had a metal wheel with spokes and probably would have made lots of noise for us children if we'd had concrete to run it over.

It served us well for carrying gardening supplies. It hauled fertilizers, tools, plants and even us kids at times when it was empty and Daddy would give us a lift.

A Fantastic Machine

When I think back on those early gardening days, I remember the hoes, because I became so well-acquainted with them. And I remember the small wheel plow, which I was too small to reach. And I can recall the rakes and harvesting baskets. But the wheelbarrow seemed a fantastic machine.

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Now that I'm older (though not necessarily grown-up) and putting to practice the gardening principles I learned from my father, I bought my wife a wheelbarrow. Yes, guys, there are women out there who want gardening tools and truckloads of compost instead of fancy things.

I bought her a large, plastic wheelbarrow. Now wait just a minute -- I'm not a big fan of plastic, but this is not one of your flimsy ones. It was a sturdy, heavy-duty, green one with an inflatable tire that rolls quite well.

Bricks, Plants and Children

The wheelbarrow she has and lets me use will hold quite a lot of material. It has doubled many times in moving timber, bricks, rocks and especially those plants that are never quite satisfied where they were planted (referred to as wheeled plants). It also makes a great place for potting plants, mixing soils and screening compost.

The wheelbarrow has seen 17 seasons come and go and doesn't look nearly the worse for wear as I, the gardener, do.

There have been replacements. It now has the third set of handles. And the tire has been fixed several times. But it hasn't a bit of rust and no dents, either.

It has ridden several children, too. Good tools become a part of the family.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.