Maintaining prized garden cart becomes a saga

In the early 2000s when my husband, Gary, and I lived in Slana, we would take turns going to Anchorage in the summer to buy groceries and other supplies. One of us always stayed home to mind our bed and breakfast business and the generator. Gary returned one trip with a surprise gift for me-a shiny yellow metal garden cart. Although I was delighted with his thoughtfulness, I wasn't excited about the color. I must have made some comment, because the next thing I knew, he'd painted it green. What a guy!

For the next 20 years, I loved that cart. I used it to haul plants, soil, sand, pea gravel, large pieces of wood, brush, cement pavers, lumber, deck furniture, whatever. It was also a useful potting "bench" and every fall it was especially handy for working with my carrot harvest.

Fast forward to spring 2021. I went to get my cart from winter storage under the carport and noticed it had two flat tires. I wanted to take it out into the cul-de-sac (which I do every spring) to haul home the sand and fine gravel spread on icy winter roads. Using a push broom, I sweep the asphalt, making piles. Then I shovel the sand into a tub on my cart and haul it home to help areas of my landscape. Otherwise, the street sweeper machines come along and sweep it all into the ditch by the sides of the road. I aired up the flat tires, but they wouldn't hold air long enough for me to get a load of sand home.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I went to get my second choice (my wheelbarrow) only to find it also had a flat tire and wouldn't hold air. I went into the house and asked Gary for advice. He always took care of these things in the past, but after breaking his hip, he could no longer do the physical stuff. We decided it was time for some new garden cart tires. I removed the wheelbarrow tire and one tire from the cart and took them to Alaska Industrial Hardware. They didn't have any tires to fit my cart, but the guy showed me options for wheelbarrows. In an effort to simplify my life, I decided to spend additional money for a tubeless tire for the wheelbarrow.

Then I took the garden cart tire to my favorite tire business in Wasilla and said I wanted four new similar tires. Learning they would have to be ordered and the price was more than the garden cart I'd just seen at AIH (same tried and true design as mine), I decided it was time for a new cart and backtracked to AIH. Gary was quite surprised when I came home with a new cart, rather than new tires. Then the "fun" of assembling began. No instructions-just an illustrated diagram with lines and arrows between individual parts and the main frame. Gary could have assembled it in a fraction of the time it took me.

By this time, I'd missed out on the road sand, but was just in time for the annual picking up of litter

in my subdivision. After enjoying my new cart all summer, I parked it under the carport for the winter. That January we had an unusual weather event and the two back tires became frozen in a water puddle. When the spring thaw arrived, I quickly saw that the rubber on those two back tires had deep cracks. The inner tubes wouldn't hold air, so I ordered four new inner tubes. Late in the summer, a friend dropped by and installed them for me, so I was able to use the cart the last part of the season. Before winter, I placed it on 4x4 inch wooden blocks under the carport, but (of course) no water puddles developed.

The next spring (2023) all four tires were flat and I again ordered four more inner tubes, but I had other more important priorities and they never got installed. I grumbled through a whole summer of having no garden cart and when spring 2024 arrived, I was absolutely determined to get it up and running. Since the tubeless wheelbarrow tire had worked out so well, I decided to purchase tubeless garden cart tires from Amazon. I did the research and ordered size 13x5.00-6 tires-the exact numbers printed on the tires that came with my cart. They arrived while the ground was still covered with winter snow.

A couple of weeks later, I set about to put the new tires on my cart. It didn't take long to realize I had a problem. Even after removing the "spacer" on the axle, there was not enough axle sticking out to secure the nut. Perhaps it had to do with the tubeless feature. I asked my neighbor to come check to see if I was overlooking something. Another neighbor saw my garage door open and he stopped by. Neither of the men could figure out a solution, so I decided to load the whole mess into my car and take it to my favorite tire business the next day for their advice.

I will spare you most of the frustrating details of the next week. It involved returning the first set and after more careful research, ordering a second set, with inner tubes, only to find they also would not fit. Desperate, I dug out my old cart from the equipment graveyard behind Gary's shop to see if I could rob the two best tires from that and combine them with the two best tires from my new cart. In the process, I realized that the tire width of the second set was exactly the same as the tire width of the old tires on my old cart.

A solution came to me. What about putting the new tires on the old cart? The old cart had sat out in all kinds of weather for three years. The paint was peeling down to the yellow in some places and the white tire rims were rusty. I could hardly contemplate it, but I was desperate. I assembled one tire, but used the bolts and nuts from the new cart because the bolts were longer. Then, before going any further, I took the whole mess, including three sets of tires, to a different tire business for a second opinion. When he confirmed I was headed in the right direction, I assembled the remaining three tires and attached them to my old cart.

After two weeks of hassle and delay, on Saturday, April 27, I finally had a working garden cart. Although it was too late for getting the road sand, I promptly used it for two other jobs. And, I was very thankful that the old cart was still available to be resurrected.

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan currently residing in Palmer. Email her at

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Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer.

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