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Tim Engbrecht 's Profile
Tim Engbrecht
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Joined:
12/07/2014
Last Updated:
27/07/2014
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Kelwood, Canada
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Cold Temperate
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Garden Cart vs. Wheelbarrow: The Right Tool for the Job

Posted by Tim Engbrecht almost 7 years ago

Brilliant DIY Garden Cart Dramatically Increases Efficiency, Saves Back Muscles, and Provides a Superior Alternative to a Wheelbarrow for Many Moving Tasks.

Bill Mollison once said something about the inherent inefficiencies of moving materials around.  One of a Permaculture design’s central functions is to address these inefficiencies—typically through appropriate “zoning,” adjacencies, and strategic planning. 

So for example, rather than hauling heavy fuel-wood out of the bush, if coppice stick-fuel can be grown and harvested roughly where it will eventually be USED (say in a highly efficient “Rocket Stove”), there are tremendous gains in efficiency—never mind that small diameter stick-fuel dries more quickly and burns hotter than large fuel-wood, doesn’t require splitting, and can be harvested without a chainsaw!

Nevertheless, there will always be times when moving various materials is necessary, so it is worth considering what the most efficient and sensible method might be for such moves.

Most of us rely heavily on wheelbarrows—whether we are moving gravel, leaves, compost, etc…, and wheelbarrows CAN be great—especially for moving relatively heavy loads in very NARROW areas where hair-pin maneuverability is required.  But this technology has some rather significant limitations:

  • The wheelbarrow’s design does not provide adequate mechanical advantage to the operator to maneuver extremely HEAVY loads. This is because the axle is in FRONT of the load rather than centered under the mass—requiring the operator to lift a significant percentage of the load’s weight. (Anyone who has wheeled concrete knows it is best NOT to fill the wheelbarrow to the rim!)
  • Its single-wheel construction makes it unstable—especially with heavy or asymmetrical loads. Who has ever had their wheelbarrow tip over when filling it with soil…or has dumped a load during transport due to a loss of balance?
  • The relatively small tire-diameter required to keep the load CLOSE to the axle means that negotiating uneven/bumpy terrain can be a challenge.
  • Since the wheelbarrow is only stable when upright in its “tripod configuration”, loads must be LIFTED into the wheelbarrow for transport. I can rake material all day, but as soon as I start LIFTING, lookout lower back!

The so-called “Chinese Wheelbarrow”, with its large-diameter wheel centered under the load, addresses several of the limitations of the modern wheelbarrow, and certainly allows an operator to move more weight with less effort;  however its design is impractical for many applications, such as moving soil or gravel, or anything that is challenging to balance. (see images, below)

Several years ago I came across THIS brilliant design: https://www.familyhandyman.com/landscaping/diy-garden-cart/step-by-step and finally made a customized version for myself last summer (my version has ‘collapsible’ rear legs, and several other modifications). It has completely transformed how I move materials around my yard. Here are some things I love about it:

  • Its CAPACITY: for light loads like sawdust, leaves, branches, etc., I can move FAR MORE than with my conventional wheelbarrow—likely 2-3 times the volume per load!
  • Ease of loading/unloading: because the garden cart can balance with the front lip lying on the ground, items like leaves, mulch, etc., can be raked right into the cart with no lifting. Similarly, loads can be “raked out” a small amount at a time with little effort.
  • Balance & Strength: I have moved 300-500kg LOGS to my sawmill, and PLANKS to my solar kiln—balanced on top of the cart—though this likely tests the limits of the 18 inch plastic wheels it currently has.
  • Tool-rack and versatility: When planting trees, I can load the cart with compost, sheet-mulch, trees, wood-chips, rakes, shovels, water, and a radio—all in a single load. The cart is like a portable work-station in the field with me!

I am on the lookout for large-diameter pneumatic wheels—something like dirt-bike wheels—since this would add even more weight capacity to the cart, and would improve its function in very soft and rutted terrain. Finding good wheels is likely the most challenging (and the most expensive) part of this build.

All told, I suspect the cart cost me something like $200.00—with nearly $150.00 of this tied up in the wheels…

A huge “thank-you” to Spike Carlsen, who designed the cart upon which I based my own design, and who has made his plans available for free online!  Please take a moment to read his article in the link posted above. (the images of the RED cart, posted here, are taken from his article)

Perhaps this article will inspire some of you to build your own garden carts in order to improve the efficiency and ergonomics of moving materials around your own projects!

 -Tim

Chinese wheelbarrow grande Chinese wheelbarrow 6 grande Fh13may spcart 05 Fh13may spcart 03 Installing collapsible leg mechanism Reinforcement on leading edge Test driving the garden cart Painted cart

Comments (1)

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Robert Hones
Robert Hones : Ease of loading/unloading: Materials like leaves, mulch, etc. can be raked directly into the cart without lifting because the garden cart can balance with the front lip sitting on the ground. | fire restoration companies
Posted 5 months ago

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