Dirty Secrets: Gardeners Share Their Tips and Tricks for How Best to Haul Plants Home

Hauling the plants home. Photo by Dawn Pritchard, Silver Linings Lavender

Spring is hauling season for gardeners.

I rarely have a car full of plants and supplies myself these days as my garden is pretty mature now and I am in that giving-stuff-away stage of the gardening bell curve. So I asked several fellow gardener writers – many are also professional garden designers – to share with me how they get their plants hauled home with minimum damage to their vehicles and to their green passengers.

Professionals prefer a pick-up

Dan Vierria of Carmichael, CA, says, “A small truck is really just another gardening tool. I’ve hauled bark mulch, wood chips, compost, large containers, and straw bales in the truck bed. Plants ride in the back, too. I put them inside plastic and metal milk crates to prevent them from falling over. You can also use cardboard boxes for plants. Clean up is a matter of hosing or sweeping out the bed. Easy-peasy. And, my passenger area needs no cleaning and vacuuming.”

“I have driven a truck for the last three decades!” enthused Carol Allen of Germantown, MD. “I bought a mesh cargo tarp to cover plants and other loads that I carry as Maryland is a ‘covered load’ state by law. The mesh tarp lessens the effects of the dehydrating air on the plant leaves, keeps things from falling out and keeps the state troopers from pulling me over!”

One drawback though to pick-ups, Cenya Eichengreen of Eugene, OR, notes “it can be hard on the knees crawling into the truck bed to get the farthest pots.”


Some professionals suggest renting a U-Haul.

Rent a U-Haul

“U-Haul is your friend,” preaches David Marciniak of Culpeper, VA. “You cannot find a better-balanced trailer anywhere, and it’s only $19.95 a day to rent a decent-sized, open, utility trailer. We have a cap on our truck which really limits what we can carry, so it’s stupid-cheap money at U-Haul. Their 12-foot enclosed trailers are also perfect for hauling plants that you don’t want to get wind-burned. You can also rent a dump trailer, if you have something big enough to tow it. Just be careful – your vehicle may be rated to PULL the trailer, but that’s only half the issue. You need to STOP the trailer as well.”

SUVs are super gardening vehicles

“Our last two Subaru Outbacks came with removable cargo liners,” shares Lois J. de Vries, a garden writer in northwestern New Jersey. “Just pull them out and dump out the mess. Sweeping generally does the trick and the liners rarely need hosing down. I draw the line at bags of cement, however, and insist that ‘The Undergardener’ [aka Lois’ husband] put a tarp on top of the liner for that. We don’t get small loads of anything, so we generally have a truckload of whatever is delivered and keep a stockpile in an out of the way spot. The independent garden centers around here deliver trees and shrubs. You can fit a lot of perennials in the back of a Subaru!”


Handy cargo mat in the Subaru Outback keeps things clean.

Minivan maneuvers

Mia Knight Nichols explains, “In my Mommy Mobile (a Sienna minivan), we keep a roll of trash bags in the trunk for covering the cargo area or putting around tree balls or buckets. I also have an extra-long plastic under-bed box that I can set smaller pots in along with a bucket for plants that needs roots to stay wet. If my kids aren’t in them, the seats will fold down to hold lots of lumber and bags of garden goodies.”

Haul in a hatchback

“Hatchback for sure!” exclaims Linda Lehmusvirta of Austin, TX. “I’d love to have a truck but need a car, too and this works for me. When I found mine, the woman told me it could haul 10 bags of mulch at a time!

For most home gardeners, a passenger vehicle is just the “right size.” Beth Botts of Chicago, IL, told me, “In a Honda Fit, you can flip up the rear seats and have a good-size shrub or small tree standing up on the floor, which is nifty. I keep a tarp in the back of my 2010 model to spread on the floor of the hatch. Although personally, I’m not that tidy and I think a dusting of potting mix or compost adds character to a car.”

Beth further noted that, “For those without cars, Zipcar, or another car-sharing outfit is an option. Most of them have hatchbacks or small SUVs you can rent by the hour. Paying by the hour might be good for your garden. It forces you to plan your shopping trip and not keep dropping by garden centers to impulsively buy unsuitable plants.”

Ah, but Beth knows well that most gardeners come to a garden center with a shopping list in mind, that we never, ever obey! Do we?

“I just had to give up my old Volvo station wagon and I had two main criteria when buying a new car,” says C.L. Fornari of Sandwich, MD:

  • Really dependable in snow
  •  Large rear area for plants

Hauling the plants home. Photo by Dawn Pritchard of Silver Linings Lavender.

Transport tricks

Here are some additional tips for getting your plant and landscaping materials home:

  • “I cut a mat that goes under desk chairs to fit the back of my trooper,” says Jacqueline Soule of Tucson, AZ. “It’s so easy to slide the flats of plants, plus I can just shake it out if there are spills”
  • “I cut a board to fit over the wheel hubs and made a shelf so I could fit more plants in,” explains Dawn Pritchard of Sikesville, MD
  • “I never leave home without an old bed sheet under the deck on my Taurus wagon,” says Pat Munts of Spokane, WA
  • “Use a cargo bar for both trucks and cars,” recommends Megan Boone of Temecula, CA. “Keep those plants in place if you don’t have a full load, which rarely happens — LOL!”


A Girls Guide To Cars | Dirty Secrets: Gardeners Share Their Tips And Tricks For How Best To Haul Plants Home - Sbckathyjentzhs

Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener Magazine and is a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast. Washington Gardener is all about gardening in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US. She can be reached at @WDCgardener on Twitter and welcomes your gardening questions.