The birds are back from warmer climates, the soil is thawing, and it's time to start planning for this year's garden.  When people think about gardening tools, they often conjure up images of shovels, trowels, and canvas work gloves. There is another often-overlooked tool, though, that few serious gardeners can get by without: the wheelbarrow.  This article will describe some useful tips to help you care for your wheelbarrow as you get ready to dig in--literally--to a new growing season.

Clean It

A regular cleaning with soap and water will do wonders for your wheelbarrow.  Not only will it look better, it will help you identify any areas in need of repair, keep the wheel free of debris, and prevent any chance of spreading contaminated soil from one plot to another.

Check Nuts and Screws

At least annually check your wheelbarrow for any loose nuts or screws.  Use a screwdriver or wrench to tighten any that have started to come loose.  This will help keep the weight of the loads supported how they should be.  Plus, it's much easier to tighten a loose screw on an empty wheelbarrow than deal with the inconvenience and mess of a loaded wheelbarrow that fails.  

Care for the Tires

There are two generally categories of wheelbarrow tires: pneumatic and non-pneumatic.  Non-pneumatic ones are solid rubber.  While non-pneumatic tires never go flat, and require relatively little on-going maintenance, they also don't ride as smoothly as their pneumatic cousins and are typically more difficult to manage.

Pneumatic tires have an inner tube that is filled with air, similar to a bicycle or automobile tire, which allows them to cushion the load for a smoother ride.  Unfortunately, pneumatic tires are vulnerable to popping.  They will also go flat over time.  Use a handheld pressure gauge to check the pressure at the start of the season and add air as necessary to reach the recommended pressure, which is generally found on the side of the tire.  Be sure to use a hand pump to inflate the tires, rather than an air compressor.  Because the tires are so small and designed for lower pressures than automobile tires, using a compressor can inflate the tire too rapidly.  This can result in the tire exploding--potentially damaging the wheelbarrow and injuring you.


Most wheelbarrows do not require grease because the wheel bearings are enclosed.  


Storing your wheelbarrow indoors will significantly lengthen the useful lifespan of your tool.  Prolonged exposure to sunlight can weaken plastic wheelbarrows, and cold weather can cause them to crack.  Metal wheelbarrows are susceptible to rust if allowed to get wet.  Moisture can also cause wooden handles to wear prematurely.  If you must store your wheelbarrow outside, lean it against something with the tray facing down, since this will prevent water from pooling inside it.  

Whether it's moving compost, soil, rocks, or large plants, a wheelbarrow can be an indispensable tool for a gardener.  Follow the tips in this article and your one-wheeled gardening wonder will last through many more seasons with you. Talk to people like Terpstra's Sales Service & Rentals for more information.