Allotment wheelbarrows are an essential piece of equipment. They are worked hard on an allotment, carrying heavy loads over rough ground.
Allotment sheds are sometimes too full, so allotment wheelbarrows also need to be strong enough to survive all four seasons outside from freezing winter to baking summer.
If that is not enough, there is the extra consideration of theft. If allotment wheelbarrows are left outside, it is best that they do not look too pristine and re-saleable. A similar dilemna to bicycles!
Choose a wheelbarrow to cope with whatever you are likely to use it for, I have listed things to consider below. The biggest and strongest wheelbarrows start at around £50, and some are over £100.
This is a significant investment, so I suggest that you choose one of the following approaches:
- Buy it cheap
This can be a good option if you are not buying a wheelbarrow for strength (ie building work). If you need a barrow occasionally simply to move weeds around your garden, help you plant, tidy up lawn trimmings etc., then you may not need a premium barrow, especially if you are able to store your wheelbarrow in a shed where it will be protected from the weather (this will help slow down your wheelbarrow rusting through). In this situation the best wheelbarrows are no nonsense sturdy models at a low price.
- Buy it to last
If you use a wheelbarrow regularly you know what the frustrations can be. The squeak every time you take a step, regular punctures, handles that fall off, instability when loading, and frames rusting through. The best wheelbarrows for you will be ones that are well designed and strongly built.
- Buy it for strength
Not all wheelbarrows are built for heavy loads. The best wheelbarrows for this type of use will have very strong trays and steel frames. The best wheelbarrows will tell you how much weight they can carry in addition to their tray size in litres.
The following features are worth reviewing when choosing a wheelbarrow:
- The quality of the wheel
For my allotmenting I am an advocate of a solid, punctureless wheel, as I became very frustrated with punctures, as well as the need to keep pumping up my wheelbarrow tyres (see this article on puncture proof wheelbarrow tyres). These are an additional expense even on the best wheelbarrows. Pneumatic tyres are standard fit and they are good for heavy loads. The best wheelbarrows will have deep tread and durable tyres, including an inner tube that can either be replaced or mended if a puncture happens.
- The amount of litres it can hold
This is important as it is frustrating to be in a middle of a job, like weeding, and then have to stop to empty the wheelbarrow. A standard size is 90 litres, although some go up to around 150 litres and it is also possible to buy pull along carts that can hold much more.
- Tray material
I do not know many allotmenters that clean the tray of their wheelbarrow every time they use it. Metal rusts. Even wheelbarrows with galvanised coatings are prone to losing their protective coat and rusting. My suggestion is to consider wheelbarrows that have a strong plastic or polypropylene tray – perhaps in a horrible colour to make it less attractive to potential thieves!
- The weight it can carry
Wheelbarrows for carrying heavy loads can hold approximately 150KG.
Wheelbarrows can rust. The tray of the wheelbarrow is particularly vulnerable, especially if you use garden compost or manure as the acids can eat through the metal. Some of the best barrows are now made from polypropylene for this reason. The supports of a wheelbarrow rest upon the ground, where they get wet, and these can also rust. Some wheelbarrows add extra protection called ‘skids’ to stop this happening.
Some wheelbarrows have a neat trick of being able to stand on their ‘nose’. There are even fabric wheelbarrows that are foldable. If for reasons of space you need to store your wheelbarrow outside, either prop it up or turn it upside down to avoid rainwater pooling in the barrow.