Wheelbarrows were designed to move heavy loads around the garden, but they also make excellent portable gardens. They are essentially big tubs on wheels, and they make great planters if you add drainage holes and fill them with soil. Plus, unlike most raised beds or planters, you can move this one around and even take it with you if you move. Here's how to make a wheelbarrow planter.
If you don't have a rusty wheelbarrow hanging around in your garage, look for one at garage sales or check online classifieds like Craigslist. If you plan on growing edibles in the wheelbarrow, make sure that there is not flaking paint on the inside, as older paint can contain lead and could contaminate your soil. You can also certainly use a plastic wheelbarrow, though they don't have quite the same rustic appeal as a metal one.
Even if the wheelbarrow is rusted out in spots, it is important to add drainage holes to the bottom, because plants grow best in well-drained soil. To add the holes, fit a power drill with a one-fourth-inch bit designed to drill through metal (like a titanium oxide bit). Flip the wheelbarrow upside down and drill holes all over the bottom in a grid pattern (space the holes about five inches apart). Prevent metal filings from getting into your grass or garden by drilling over a surface that can be swept up.
Flip the wheelbarrow back over. Wipe out any remaining metal filings. Then, remove any patches of flaky rust with steel wool. Rinse out the wheelbarrow and fill it up with potting soil, being sure to leave a 2-inch space between the top of the soil and the rim of the wheelbarrow (this ensures you'll have room to water your plants). Pre-moisten the soil by adding water and mixing it around until it has the same moisture level as a damp, wrung-out sponge. Don't be tempted to use garden soil. It may be free, but it does not drain well when placed in containers.
You can plant whatever you like in wheelbarrows, including annual and perennial flowers and vegetables. In 18th century France, the King's gardeners grew cantaloupes on trellises in wheelbarrows and moved them around to the sunniest spots in the garden. Consider growing cucumbers, melons or squash in the wheelbarrow and allowing their vines to scramble over the side-just remember you won't be able to move the wheelbarrow once the vines reach the ground. Crops that prefer some shade in the hottest parts of summer, including lettuce, arugula and radishes-are also good candidates for wheelbarrow planters. If the mercury rises too high, you can simply scoot the wheelbarrow into a spot that gets afternoon shade.