Garden Design: Transform your Wheelbarrow into an Herb Planter

Planting choices for this kind of garden seem infinite.

| August/September 1996

  • Try planting different lavender varieties in your new garden wheelbarrow.
  • Freshly planted parsley, basil, mint, rosemary, and lemon balm make a tiny, touchable, very fragrant garden.
  • Try planting different lavender varieties in your new garden wheelbarrow.
    Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

Do you have one of those squeaky, creaky, rusty little red wagons—a useless childhood remnant gathering dust in a cluttered storeroom but nonetheless too loaded with memories ever to discard? Or perhaps an old wheel­-barrow that delivered good service for many years but now sits neglected in a corner of the garage, long since replaced by a newer model? Bring them out of retirement and give them a second life as pretty little portable herb gardens.

Consider the practicality of a traveling garden that takes very little time, money, or space to set up, yet can ­provide a steady harvest of clippings for ­salads and garnishes. You can plant a lot of herbs in an average-sized wheelbarrow. Perfect to park on a porch, deck, or patio, it’s always maneuverable. Wheel it into the garage during hailstorms, or into the house when a freeze threatens, or onto a porch to protect it from a downpour. Push it around the yard to find exactly the right sun ­exposure from one season to the next or to give the plants a cool respite when the weather reaches fever pitch in early August.

A roving garnish patch? Just roll your wheelbarrow over to the picnic table and let guests clip their own choice of fresh herbs to toss into their salads or on top of their hamburgers. Pull this garden over to the faucet when you ­misplace your watering can. If no stairs stand in the way, you can even wheel it right into the kitchen when you’re ­fixing a big salad or having friends over to build a pizza. Wherever you end up parking it, it’s sure to make you smile.

Imagine It

Planting choices for this kind of garden seem infinite. Try an assortment of the classic, indispensable, utterly snippable culinary herbs that you want to have close at hand, such as ­parsley, oregano, rosemary, chives, ­marjoram, thyme, sage, and others. Many herbs lend themselves nicely to container gardening, and the ­diversity of their shapes, textures, and colors combine wonderfully in one compact garden like this. If you park the garden where you’ll use it often, the constant harvesting will keep the plants healthy and limited to a manageable size.

Or how about a bright and cheerful wheelbarrow full of edible flowers, ready for the picking? Nasturtiums, ­pansies, chives, basil, ‘Lemon Gem’ marigolds, violets, and lavender are only a few of the possibilities. Plant a wagon with a variety of tender lettuces; by ­moving the wagon to a sheltered spot to avoid extremes of blazing sun, hail, or hard frosts, you can extend your ­harvest season. Or try a collection of exotic flavored basils, which love warmth but are highly sensitive to cold. They’ll benefit from your careful attention as summer wanes; move your wagon or barrow to a sunny spot inside at the first hint of temperatures below 45°F.

You could make this garden on wheels home to a favorite mint that you harvest for tea. Growing mint in a ­container will keep it from running rampant in the garden bed, reason enough to fill your wagon with an ­entire spectrum of mints, including familiar spearmint and peppermint as well as every citrus variety, mints with smooth leaves and those with crisped ones, green foliage as well as variegated leaves. To prevent the most vigorous growers from overrunning the more timid ones, a separate container within the wagon for each kind will ensure ­harmony among the root systems.

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