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Wheelbarrows, carts, buckets and baskets make the home gardeners work much easier. It's easy to forget how much you rely on these basic tools, but try working one day in your garden without any of them.
Moving material from place to place is a pretty commonplace chore for most gardeners. Moving compost from the compost pile to the garden, moving harvested vegetables from the garden to the house, moving water to new plants, moving scraps, trimmings and waste back to the compost pile are all jobs that require some kind of vessel to move it in.
Wheelbarrows are great for medium sized loads that aren't practical to move by hand. They use the basic physics principles of levers and wheels to allow you to lift and move heavy loads. A good wheelbarrow should be stout enough to handle the heavy loads like soil, sand, rocks or cement.
At the same time, the pan or "barrow" needs to be big and deep enough to handle light but bulky loads, like grass clippings, mulch, straw and leaves.
Don't go cheap - you'll be disappointed many times over. A good but more costly one will last you for many, many years to come. Make sure that you select one with a pneumatic tire, not a solid plastic or metal one.
Narrow hard wheels cut into the soil and can sink. They can't easily navigate rough or uneven ground. They are less stable and more prone to tip over when moving. Shallow pans and small narrow wheels are nearly useless for moving heavy loads.
As a teenager I had a lawn mowing and landscaping service, and often used my client's tools and equipment. I can tell you from personal experience that a cheap wheelbarrow is more of a hindrance and aggravation than it is a help and in fact is nothing more than a good way to make a mess and a way to get hurt.
There are all kinds of carts on the market, some powered by hand, and some that you hook up to and pulled by riding mowers and lawn/garden tractors. A good pull behind cart should follow the same basic principles of a wheelbarrow - big, wide pneumatic wheels, sturdy construction, and a deep large bed capacity.
You can select a cart based on the size of your garden, yard or farm, but I recommend getting a size bigger than you THINK you will need. Of course you have to consider the size of your mower/tractor as well.
Another important consideration is the ability to dump. Often carts are hinged on the wheel axis and have a spring loaded latch mechanism on the tongue. Being able to dump instead of shoveling the load off is a very handy feature - especially when you already have to shovel the load on to the cart to start with.
Buckets are such handy items to have around for the smaller jobs that don't necessarily require pulling out the wheelbarrow or cart. Having a few buckets of varying sizes is a really good idea.
Buckets are handy for carrying water and mixing fertilizer. They are also handy for weeding and cleaning out flower beds where larger containers aren't practical and would only get in the way - you know - hands and knees work.
If you have lids to go with them, they are great for storing granular fertilizer and similar items.
If you live near a commercial bakery or superstore with a bakery, you can often get buckets for free or very cheaply just by asking. I can get 5 gallon icing buckets, often with lids, at the local Wal-Mart bakery for a dollar each. They usually require a little soap and water when I get them home, but they work just fine.
After these buckets are cleaned, they can not only be used for gardening work, but since they are food grade you can use them to store dry goods like flour and sugar in them as well. Someone has even invented a threaded sealing lid that fits on a 5 gallon bucket called a Gamma Seal Lid. I own several of these items. and love them.
Baskets, especially wooden slat baskets are my favorite containers when it comes to harvest time. It's a good idea to keep bushel and half bushel baskets, as well as a few smaller ones on hand.
Pint sized "berry baskets" are ideal when it comes to picking berries and small fruit like cherries. Medium sized baskets like peck size (a peck is a quarter of a bushel) are ideal for leafy greens, beans, peas, broccoli, and medium sized fruit like plums. Larger sized baskets, like a half bushel and bushel, are great for bigger stuff like potatoes, tomatoes, apples and corn.
The main benefits of using wooden slat baskets are that they allow air circulation, dissipate heat and moisture away from your valuable harvest and hold up well even if they get wet. Not to mention that they just look cool. Little Rock Crate and Basket Co. makes baskets of all sizes.
Every gardener needs a wheelbarrow or cart, some buckets and baskets. They seem like such simple things, but imagine how much harder gardening would be without them!