Shut Up and Dig

Gardeners, is your Car Filthy from Hauling Stuff?

Rarely, if ever, mentioned in gardening literature is the question of how gardeners get new plants and all the other stuff their garden needs home to the garden.  Some cities deliver mulch and wood chips directly to our driveways, but mostly we’re hauling stuff around in our cars.

So my big question is: Do the interiors of gardeners’ cars have to look like crap?  Most garden centers will carefully lay down plastic before loading up our purchases, and that helps, but if you need to haul mulch, as I do regularly, keeping a respectable-looking car gets difficult to impossible.

At least in my case it’s been impossible, or so I tell my occasional passengers.  I’ll never forget the moment my gardening idol, Paul James of course, stepped into my car and declared “Your car is filthy!” and what could I really say?  Because not only was the back, hauling-stuff part of the car dirty, but even the front seat area, where I really had no excuse.

These questions came up for me recently because my 15-year-old Honda CRV died suddenly on the Washington Beltway.  At night.  In the cold.  And I was alone.  That’s the scenario that scares the bejesus out of every D.C. driver I know, and I chronicled the event here.  (Bottom line: it went about as well as it could and I feel damn lucky.)

Here’s my filthy 15-year-old Honda, sporting a GardenRant sticker at the top, along with a few other identifiers.

Rather than pay good money to fix the old car, which had been worrying me for a while now (especially when I drove to Asheville last year for the Blogger Fling), I decided to ditch it and buy a new version of the exact same car, shown in the top photo.

The sad thing about that photo of a spanking clean car is that on the very first day I owned it, it’s already there at the local mulch pile, ready for its first load.  Below you see it loaded up with containers on a dropcloth, my attempt at keeping the interior clean.

So gardeners, will this work?  Vacuuming the interior after every load is NOT going to happen, though  I just might be willing to have the interior detailed at the dealership when I take it in for its regular maintenance.   What works for you?

Sidebar: What do you Drive?

I’m curious to know what other diehard gardeners use for hauling stuff, whether your own car or something you borrow.  Honda’s smallest SUV has been perfect for not just my gardening stuff but for every piece of furniture and hardware I’ve ever had to move, so my new-car search was pretty narrow: another CRV or the Toyota RAV-4.  The CRV’s mileage has gotten better but it’s still not great, so my car is my biggest source of eco-guilt.

Posted by on February 15, 2013 at 9:43 am, in the category Shut Up and Dig.
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88 Responses to “Gardeners, is your Car Filthy from Hauling Stuff?”

  1. Karla says:

    Too funny. I drive a similar vehicle–a Subaru Forester selected specifically for hauling plants. When my old one hit 13 years old, I went out and replaced it with the newer version, which incidentally has way more cargo room. I’m delighted.

    As for keeping it clean, well, we do what we can, don’t we? Plastic, vacuuming, cargo bed liners and not being neurotic all help.

    • Mike C says:

      I also have a 1999 Subaru forester which I use foe hauling …. well…..crap! Horse, sheep and whatever I can get my shovel on.

      What do you do if you are not neurotic but you wife is?

      Btw, I am trading in my 14 year old Forester for a shiny new outback……. with a hitch and a trailer!

  2. Gee, is my car (a Subaru Forester, official car of biologists every where) filthy from hauling garden supplies and plants? No, it’s filthy from doing field work. By the way, the plastic cargo bay liner, easily removed and hosed off, is a great invention, up there with rear window wipers.

  3. Suzanne says:

    My car is always dirty…inside and out. Added to the normal dirt from my garden stuff, is the yellow dog hair from hauling my Labrador retriever. The car, a 13 year old VW Jetta, is black which shows an incredible amount of dirt–mainly paw prints from the cats sitting on it in the warm sun. It is a hopeless cause to keep my car clean and I don’t even try. With that said, I might vacuum it out in the next few days so I can at least pretend I clean it up sometimes. Dirt happens, life is too short to worry about it.

  4. Pete says:

    Our solution was to buy an old 4×8 utility trailer and then put a trailer hitch on my 2003 Mazda Protege. It holds as much as a pickup truck. It’s especially nice when I haul manure for my vegetable garden.

  5. Dave says:

    Susan, you need a trailer! That Honda will happily pull a 4×8 open utility trailer and it beats trying to cram everything in the hatch. That said, my primary work car is a Subaru Forester (is there a club going?) and I can tell you that an ’05 Forester holds exactly 34 one gallon perennials one level deep in the hatch. I will also say that hauling large boxwood in the back on a warm day will have you craving Sauvignon Blanc like no one’s business.

  6. allan becker says:

    You may find that the cost of frequent or even regular detailing at the dealer is rather high. Some gas stations offer the use of a coin operated industrial vacuum that one can use for a modest fee. That option has proven to be the least expensive way to keep the cargo area of my car clean. However, at the end of each gardening season, I do indulge in one detailing; it makes me feel better to know that my car will remain clean until the next season.

  7. A tarp or big sheet of sturdy plastic put over the seat and sides of the cargo area will really help. Leave a “flap” at the back too, as you want all of what you’re hauling to stay in the tarp. Then always keep that tarp/plastic in the car, and never use it for anything else (keep the clean side clean).

  8. boZannical says:

    I don’t own a car, by intention, so am fortunate to not have to deal with that! I live in a bigger city (SF), so it’s not a problem for me here. Have a personal issue with burning fossil fuels for personal use, since I think of gardening as a green business and cars are the opposite of that. I bus to jobs and only take those that are accessible to me. If I can’t take it on a bus, it has to be delivered (or the client has to pick it up). It takes some planning ahead, usually, like bringing smaller loads of things on a regular basis, often a week or two ahead of when I’m needing to use them, but has not been difficult yet. I practice permaculture techniques and only mulch my clients’ gardens with what’s onsite naturally, make and use compost, repurpose branches as borders, etc. Nothing leaves the garden (except ivy, which goes in the municipal green bins), and little has to be brought in.

    But yes, I’m often the dirty, tool-laden, fantastically aromatic guy on the bus! ;)

    • boZannical says:

      It’s worth mentioning, too, that our Mediterranean climate means I don’t have the same issue with plant that y’all do in other climates. Everything lives all year ’round. I might have a different story if I had to replace annuals and that sorta thing!

  9. Thad says:

    We drive an old beat-up hand-me-down QX4 which carries (sometimes at the same time) plants, mulch, manure, dogs, furniture, friends, and family! Definitely love having a vehicle that I care little about keeping clean.

  10. Monish says:

    What you all need is a truck! I had a classic car that I used to put a tarp into the trunk and tell the tractor driver to unload in my trunk!!
    I quit driving cars around the month I went professional in my gardening endeavors. Just makes sense.

  11. I drive a 2005 Honda CRV. After my granddaughter was born and one half of the backseat became reserved for her car seat, I invested in a hitch and a small trailer. While I can’t haul around really heavy stuff, it is good enough for manure, straw, peat, furniture, appliances, bikes etc. If I have a lot to haul, I borrow my good neighbor’s pickup truck.

  12. Susan says:

    Well, we have an old truck that I use to get compost and mulch from the City of Ann Arbor (so cheap and so good!), but I still am always putting plants in my car so it is always dirty. We also live on a dirt road, so unless I am going to be driving someone in the car and the shame will be too great, I don’t even bother to clean it.

  13. val says:

    Boy does this ever relate to me! I am also in the DC area, so I rarely use my car–and never having been a car person. I just don’t care if it is filthy. One of its few uses is to the garden center, where the compost bags always tear, and I often think to get a bale of straw at the last minute. The only thing that has helped is to use a real tarp, generously spread in the trunk and over the back seat.

  14. Stacey says:

    I have a 2002 Jetta Wagon which is a piece of junk so I don’t mind getting it dirty. It does have quite a bit of space to haul stuff so I can’t complain too much

    I also vacuum it fairly often

  15. KathyG says:

    Oh yeah. My 12-year old Audi Quattro station wagon hauled many a dirt. I found out a couple of years ago that I could even fit a bale of hay in it. However, even with a tarp draped over the back seat, I was vacuuming hay for weeks. We recently got a Mini Cooper Countryman (4WD) and it has less useable space in the back. It is still winter and I haven’t tried to haul anything in it yet, but I am nervous. My plan is to invite friends to accompany me to the nursery in their car, or borrow a friend’s truck for massive plants. Being in the ‘burbs of a small town, there is no bus service. And I am saved from too much husbandly criticism by the fact that my husband keeps the outside of any car dirty for much of the year, himself. Fall/Winter he drives across the mountains for cyclocross bike races. Winter/Early Spring he drives up to our local mountain to coach nordic skiing. He can hardly complain about a few bits of mulch, now, can he?

  16. I am a GardenDesigner in the Midwest who works only with native plants. My clients have 3 choices–design only, design and I supply them with the plants, which I deliver and place, or have another company furnish and install the plants. I have an 8-year old Ford Taurus wagon that I use to deliver plants–the backs of the back seats push down to make a large bed that I cover with old moving pads that I can shake out after delivery. There is a gap between the folded down seats and the back of the front seats, however, into which dirt regularly falls from the pots that invariably tip over. Well, one day, I left the windows open and it rained–a few days later, seeds sprouted in the dirt on the car floor and I had a car garden! Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos. At the end ofevery season, I take the car to the car wash, tip the guys that do the vacuuming heavily, and once again, I have a clean car.

  17. NC gardener says:

    Well, I used to have a clean car, until it got co-opted by hubby and kid. The sheddiest dog on the planet is the least of my dirt issues (in the car, anyway!).

    On the flip side, hubby came with a big old diesel truck that he runs on waste vegetable oil from a local restaurant. He put a second tank in the bed to hold the veggie oil, and a switch on the dash changes between the diesel to grease fuel lines, so we can choose our fuel source. Pallets of mulch, bags of topsoil, flats of new plants or trees all generally go in the bed of the truck. We hose out the bed a few times a year.

  18. Kat says:

    Besides the typical muck from gardening, my Forester has pre-composted goat beans from hauling my la manchas around.
    Also good to note, one bale of hay or straw fits perfectly into the cargo area of a Forester without having to fold the seats down.

  19. Linda B Secrist says:

    i had a 1995 toyota Previa van and was asked by some of my guy friends if i was doing mobile gardening in it. My reply that this was my country car and had my city car[2000 Black BMW] that i kept clean. THe van died and it’s replacement is a 2007 BMW X3 that doesn’t stay clean- still have the 2000 as my city car

  20. Hoov says:

    Saturday saw a guy loading bags of chicken manure into his silver Aston-Martin DB9, which starts at $170,000 for the bare-bones model. He did not have the bare-bones model, and he was already married. :(

  21. Tracey says:

    2004 Pontiac Vibe just turned over 100,000 miles. Bought it for hauling crap and yeah, it gets filthy. But I enjoy getting the shop vac out and giving her a good vacuum; there’s a sense of satisfaction from a just-vacuumed car!

  22. Marlene says:

    A timely question! Last night we sold our Mercury Mariner to my nephew, and I now am officially SUV-less. My options for plant shopping are a Toyota Prius or a Nissan Leaf, neither of which hold a lot. It will be an interesting plant shopping season for me!

    I keep an old bed sheet in the back of the Leaf, which helps a little but not a lot. I also have a little whisk broom, which works pretty well for cleaning up small messes.

    Now, hubby has a brand new car with lots of storage, but this is the midlife crisis car, and I suspect that I will not be allowed to get a plant anywhere near it!

  23. Laura Bell says:

    I haul what I need in my 6-year-old Corolla. We bought it for a commuter car, but since it’s the only vehicle I have, it has to work for everything else, too. Without the kids in it, and with the back seats folded down, I have hauled wood for making both raised beds & shelves, 20 cf of garden soil in bags (because delivery of the bulk material ate up the savings I could’ve seen), landscaping bricks … Cleanliness? I vacuum about twice a year & usually end up emptying the car of equal parts dry cereal/spilled snacks, spilled mulch/garden soil, and plant parts (mostly leaves). If I’m going to drive for a school field trip I’ll sweep up the big stuff. I feel like there are much better ways to spend my time than cleaning something I plan to dirty up again as soon as possible.

  24. Lisa-St. Marys ON says:

    I have a 2004 Honda Odyssey. It can hold a lot of mulch. Actually I have to cut myself off because I get a little concerned about the shocks. I also wheel the mountain bikes into the van, muddy dog after a trail run, muddy kids after their trail running program (which sometimes takes them through a course that leads through a river and knee high muck). Occasionally my father will visit and be disgusted and vacuum it out, and take it to the car wash. Other than that, the only time I wash it is if I am going to a funeral. There really isn’t any point, I live in a small town and I’m constantly on dirt roads.

  25. tropaeolum says:

    I drive a 2007 Toyota Matrix. The back seats fold down flat so you can haul an amazing amount of stuff. And, yes, it is always filthy. I gave up trying to keep it clean years ago. There’s no use stressing out about dirt.

  26. Chad B says:

    I’m amazed at all the gardeners that don’t have trucks! I sold my Toyota Tacoma a month ago and I miss it like crazy already. You can just hose out any mess that is left behind in the bed of the truck. Plus, if you want to buy a tree, you don’t have to worry about how tall it is and whether you can squeeze it in back.

  27. donna says:

    we got hammock for carrying the dog that hangs from the front seat headrest to the backseat headrests, with most of it draped over the seat. I discovered that it was also very effective for carrying all my garden stuff. Now we have to shake out the hammock before the dog can ride in it; the hammock is usually much dirtier than the dog.

  28. Deborah Banks says:

    I have a 2007 Honda CRV, and I really hate the mileage it gives. My previous car was a Honda Accord. So I hear you on that guilt. But I LOVE the space in the CRV. I can haul an incredible number of plants, and even shrubs in it. It easily holds all 3 of our Chesapeake Bay Retrievers for a trip to the vet (if the oldest dog is loaded last – otherwise he doesn’t let the others in). We do also own a Toyota Tundra pickup, and I use that for mulch or manure loads, when I’m not buying enough to justify having it delivered. But I prefer hauling plants in the CRV when I can, so I don’t have to worry about the wind and damage from the tarp flopping up on the truck. And the CRV is usually filthy even though I cover the seats and have a nice insert for the cargo bay. There’s dirt everywhere, plus dog nose prints on the rear windows, and it’s even dirty on the outside a lot of the time because we live on a dirt road. If it wasn’t for the rear window washer, I wouldn’t be able to see out the rear during mud and dust seasons.

  29. You’d be amazed what can fit in a second-generation Prius. I haul plants, soil amendments, lumber, tile, concrete mix, you name it. And like most everyone else here, I live with the dirt. I’ll clean up the car if I expect to have a passenger whose good opinion I wish to maintain. Many times I’ll simply pull the cargo cover over the back and attempt to forget about it. My family is accustomed to, and in fact contributes to, the debris and mess that accumulates. A few times a year, the whole family gives the car a good cleaning inside and out (“come claim your rubbish or I’m throwing it out!”) before a road trip so it will be bearable. Otherwise, the car is a means to an end. I’ll drive it until it falls apart.

  30. Gail says:

    My truck is the way to go for most of my needs. I also have a 12 ft tandem axle trailer that can hold a good 6 yards of mulch. Did get a flat though when the trailer was loaded. That was interesting. No men stopped to see if I needed assistance. Its a regular cab but i know how to use the front wisely.I do have a ford fiesta which can fit a lot of plants inside. I use a tarp to lessen the clean up. Several years ago I had a 300 pound pumpkin in the back of our Explorer.

  31. Yvonne says:

    I garden and I had a dog who practically lived in the car — especially after we moved. Plus we had a doggie friend who would come for walks with us. The only way to keep the car decent (I don’t vacuum it either) was twice a year detailing. Although with the dogs gone (mine died and the other one got banned from my favorite walking spot), I might manage with once a year.

  32. Carol says:

    I bought a truck as a second vehicle — 1997 Chevy S10 pick up with a long bed. It has a spray on bed liner so I can just hose it out after unloading a load of mulch or top soil or whatever. I love my truck and it keeps my car clean. Though, if I am out in my car and see some plants I want, I still buy them and haul them in the car.

  33. My old boss used to call my old Subaru impreza a “fire hazard” because there was always so much plant junk and debris in the back (and front.) When that died this summer I got a honda fit because with the back seats folded up (!) I can fit in tall plants and with the seats folded flat I can fit in half a nursery. It’s true to its name. And almost immediately qualified as a fire hazard again.

  34. A truck with a spray on bed liner. There is simply no other option when you are a peasant gardener by profession. Today I was hauling bales of pine straw. I have a small Ford Ranger on purpose. A bigger truck makes your clients think it is a dump truck and you can haul anything. This way I can say, no it has to be delivered.

    Now for more of my unsolicited helpful advice Susan. What are you thinking with that raggedy collection of tubs and containers for fetching mulch? Wrong.

    Find, save or steal a bunch of plastic bags that mulch from the big box stores come in that were opened at the top like a bag of potato chips so the bag is still good. One pitchfork. Fill them suckers near to the top and stand them upright in the back of your new car. You’ll bring a lot more mulch home in one trip. The bags can be used over and over til they wear out.

    This won’t keep your car any cleaner. Sorry.

    • Susan Harris says:

      Christopher, I’m busy researching “liners” whatever they are – thanks for the suggestion.
      Now about your dissing of my mulch containers – you’re wrong! Meaning, I can carry them, they don’t spill much, and it’s my system and I’m sticking with it.

      • skr says:

        I use plastic totes too, even in my pickup. That’s because I know I’m going tohave to load up plastic totes one way or another to hump the compost down all the gazillion stairs of our hillside proprty.

  35. Jim Hughes says:

    When I read your blog I got worried. I drive a 1997 Honda CRV which has 140,000 miles. It’s never been a problem and I hope to haul many more loads of mulch and manure for my garden. I’m shooting for 200,000 miles. I too live in D.C. and make many runs to the Rock Creek horse stables for manure. Mine always has a slight horsey fragrance……. but it really hauls alot.

    • Susan Harris says:

      Well, the distributor problem with my CRV was the first ever problem with the car, besides normal wear and tear (brakes, tires) in its 15 years and almost 140K miles. They’re made to last.

  36. Jenny says:

    I garden for a living but even before I did, I drove a Honda Element due to the easy clean out having kids. The floor is rubber so I can bring it to those self car washes and just wash the whole car out after I have finished shuffling transplants from the greenhouses to the gardens. Spilled some comfrey tea in the trunk one year and my husband (graciously) helped me clean it out. Boy, that stuff smells so bad I wouldn’t wish it on my worse enemy. The interior is much bigger than it looks. We fit a whole tub in the back since the seats come out or can be repositioned in a whole bunch of ways. Used my car also to transport green roof baskets and we fit more in my car than my co-worker’s Forrester. Best of luck to you!

  37. Ellen Bender says:

    I too find my Prius holds a tremendous lot of stuff. I agree with getting the large bags and filling them with the mulch and soil… No one ever believes that I hauled all the plants and products in one trip after I have it unloaded, & no-one thinks I’ll fit everything in when I’m starting to pack after I hit a sale. I use it instead of my pick-up… just for the reason stated earlier… I don’t have to worry about the wind damage to the plants …. and I get 3-4 times the mpg….

  38. Stella B says:

    My father once suggested that I plant directly in the trunk. His car, of course, is immaculate.

  39. gemma says:

    My garden car is a bicycle! I’m still debating whether to get my 20-year-old Toyota fixed, but for the last 6 months I’ve been going back and forth to my gardens with seedlings, compostables, compost, mulch, plants, supplies, and produce. I can fit a lot in the baskets on the side, plus a plastic bin bungee-corded to the rack. I’ve even managed to haul some 6 ft. high wire cages on the bike that wouldn’t fit in the car. And there are no cleanup problems at all! The loose materials are hauled in reused white woven sacks that garden materials come in. But one of these days I’m going to get a cargo trailer, and then I’ll be able to haul more than 10g of compost at a time. The gardens are 3-4 miles away, so another alternative is to move closer. Or find a place to live where I can have a garden outside my door!

  40. Kaveh says:

    I have a filthy VW Golf that I vacuum once in a while when I bring it to the car wash but it is really a waste because I just mess it up again a day later. Since it is a hatchback it can fit a surprising number of plants for such a small 2 door car. I have refrained from buying something bigger for fear I will just fill it with even more plants and go broke.

  41. Sandra Knauf says:

    Most everyone who is gardening-mad has a dirty car most of the time. No big deal!

    I’m lucky to have a husband with a truck (he’s in the construction industry) but still, he certainly is not at my beck and call. (Darn it.) So I have plenty of grubby mulch, plants, harvest, pruning, hauling experiences in my Ford Taurus trunk and back seat (where I also haul my magazines around–not a great combination). Every year I long for my own truck, though I will never buy one as that would certainly be wasteful.

    But now I’m thinking . . . that trailer idea is SWEET!!!

  42. tara dillard says:

    Ford Transit, hauls client furniture too.

    Vacuum? I use my blower.

    Keep several oil cloths (bought at thrift stores) at all times, stops water too.

    XO T

  43. kermit says:

    Wait – there are people with clean cars?

  44. Chellie says:

    There is a cute older lady that comes to our barn every week for a load of manuer. She arrives in her super clean sedan, all dressed up in darling gardening outfits. from the trunk she pull out four purple plastic bins with covers, a small shovel, and a little rolling thing that you see at many dog shows. She rolls her four bins to the manure pile and lays down two mats for the bins. One for the empty and one for the full. She loads one by ever so carefully and wheels it back to her car to load. Before she places the bin in her car she gives the corners a quick brush off with her handy whisk broom. She’ll then go back for the next to to fill and then load and repeat until done. The tools are whisked off and placed in their own ‘under the bed’ bin that also fits in her cavernous trunk.

    She is the happiest, slowest moving person at the barn. Wonderful to chat with as she has a delightful German accent and will talk of the many things she does in a wonderfully slow and methodical way.

  45. Jason says:

    I recommend a late model Ford Taurus – they have really HUGE trunks. So my trunk is filthy, but the rest of the car not so much. Except for the fast food wrappers.

  46. Tomi Matthews says:

    If I really had to haul around a lot of plants on a regular basis, I’d get a Ford Transit. Saw these little vans everywhere in Europe before they finally got here in 2009. Now they are being restyled to better fit the American market and are becoming less utility i.e. yet more crossover. Too bad there are no more little pickups. Personally, I fit 2 flats of Annies Annuals in the back of my Mini Clubman, about all I should buy at one time for my own sake. Taller plants fit in the front passenger space. I opted for rubber mats not carpet mats, proving I am capable of planning ahead.

  47. gina says:

    hahaha! love this post. i had a ’94 camry that i was always hauling plants in. (i loved going plant shopping on my lunch breaks.) the poor car was constantly filthy (even the passenger seat), so i rented a rug doctor machine a couple times, and it got most of the mud stains out. i’ve since got a new job in the city (no more plant shopping during lunch…sad), sold the camry, and bought a subaru legacy. i love that the subaru came with a hard plastic trunk tray! :)

  48. UrsulaV says:

    My Pontiac Vibe is filthy in back. I love it. I plan to drive this car until it keels over, so who am I trying to impress?

    My boyfriend did put a moratorium on getting groceries while there were bags of cow manure in the back. I pointed out that the manure was in bags, the groceries were in bags, bag touched bag, what’s the issue? But he stood firm on that one.

    I love the Vibe. It fits unbelievable amounts of stuff in the back. I am so sad they stopped making them–when this car dies, I’m gonna be sad.

  49. Melissa says:

    Call me a freak but I sewed a tarp into a giant bag and keep that in back of my hatchback. Anytime I haul stuff, I place it in the bag (mulch, soil, trees..). There`s also a spare, flat tarp lining the car interior in case anything tries to escape Mr. Big Bag.

    In case there`s one other person on Earth who wants to try this, just use a denim sewing needle in your machine and double stitch the seams with upholstery thread. I also sewed tarp slipcovers for my raised veggie beds to keep the crops protected in the winter.

  50. Tibs says:

    Ya’ll must live in other parts of the country. We all have pick ups. Whether we have any reason to or not. If my husband ever divorces me it will because he had it with walking out the door and seeing the bed of his truck piled high with tree trmmings to go to the dump. My 10 yr old accord which hauls the plants gets a fall trunk cleaning.

  51. Foy says:

    We are looking at hatchbacks because the two cars we currently have can’t haul enough. That and we have a kid now so it would be nice to have more than 2-doors. Currently we call the Honda Civic the “farm car” because I take it to the co-op a couple time a week and I use it to haul the compost in and the harvest out.

  52. Jeff Minnich says:

    2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It, too, is filthy. It’s my third Jeep Cherokee (the first was a Sport). Each has served me well, looks respectable when I pull up in front of clients’ houses (as long as they don’t look inside), and it has been jammed to the hilt (and I mean JAMMED) with everything even remotely related to gardening. The Grand Cherokees hold an astounding amount of cargo. One thing I did do: I special-ordered cloth seats (leather were standard) because I knew leather seats would get torn up. The cloth seats take the punctures much better.

  53. LynnT says:

    I started out with a Toyota Tercel wagon named the Guppy — it was the same pale gold and rough shape of a pregnant female guppy, and disgorged as great quantities of Stuff with as great regularity. When that died I moved up to a beloved Corolla wagon we called the Farm Wagon. Now I have a 2002 Subaru Outback Wagon and a 2007 Prius — I agree, in many cases the Prius holds more than the Outback. But I only get four tubs of mulch into either of these, where I used to fit six into the Corolla.

    I find that stomping mulch into those rope-handled plastic tubs gives me readily-stored readily-moved units. I know how much garden bed one tub covers; it takes 28 tubs to top-dress my beds each Spring.

    I cover the seats and back with those flocking-backed plastic tablecloths. Cheap, easy, and they don’t slide around. Better than shower curtains.

  54. John says:

    Susan,

    I drive a small Toyota, and it doesn’t have a hatchback. I have used the car to install lots of landscapes. I’ve put plants in the trunk and every other available space. Dirty shovels and other large tools are also a frequent problem. I don’t do as many landscapes as in prior years, but I still use my small car (it gets 34 MPG and it has always been reliable). I guess I don’t want to own a truck (or any second vehicle).

    Keeping plastic sheets in the car is a must. However, if you get a stain, the most important thing I can recommend is letting the dirt or mud dry completely. After it’s dry, spray the seats or other surfaces with Windex and wipe immediately with a clean cotton cloth. In nearly all cases, the spots are gone. This works on carpeting also (indoors).

    Loved the post. Thanks!

    John

  55. Karen Chambers says:

    I drive a Mazda Tribute. Love it ! I live on a farm so don’t have to haul soil and mulch but I use my vehicle to haul the produce away from my veggie patch which is about 2/3 acre in size and the equivalent of about 10 house lots away from my kitchen. My car gets filthy from just this too. Even though I take containers with me, it seems to be another Murphy’s Law that the harvest will exceed the number of containers. My husband thinks I am nuts to use my vehicle but working a garden this size requires energy so I am all for making life as easy as possible.

  56. Frank Hyman says:

    A small truck with a king cab and jump seats covers lots of bases and costs less than most cars and has better mileage than many. Kids, dogs or power tools will fit in the cab (but for many people–singles, retirees and childless couples–how often do you really have more than one or two people in our vehicle so that you need a car ??) The bed of a pickup truck holds half a yard of mulch or soil or compost easily. Spread a tarp before dumping a load in the bed and it’ll be fast to empty out and clean. Trucks, trucks, trucks. Gardening without a pickup truck is a choice that just makes your life harder. And dirtier. Good luck Susan!

  57. Lucinda says:

    Great topic! Who knew there would be so many comments and suggestions. I have a forester and was just wondering how I could haul compost I like the idea of reusing bags but don’t have any. Don’t think a trash can will fit and probably can’t lift it full. I’ll get some tarps as suggested and will let go of a clean car during gardening season! Thanks all.

  58. Susan Harris says:

    Everyone, thank you so much for your wonderful comments. Possibly my favorites evah here on the Rant! SO many different solutions and a few cars I wish I’d test-driven, at least. I also love how this topic brought out so many stories, with so many fun details.
    There may be another blog post here.

  59. CindyP says:

    I’m a little late to chime in here….but I drive a VW beetle convertible. In the summer with the top down I can carry a heck of a lot! I have to drive a bit slowly to not blow the plants apart, but it works. I cover the back seats with a tarp and load it up. I’m limited when it comes to bags of mulch or dirt, and can’t carry large quantities of either, but it works in a pinch. If I’m getting a lot I either bite the bullet and get it delivered or borrow a pickup truck from work. I was a big hit after a Master Gardener class, when they gave us all big plastic composters. While everyone struggled to get them in their cars, I put the top down, put it in the back seat, and drove away. Of course, that only worked because it wasn’t cold or raining.

  60. Colihan says:

    I’m surprised that no one else has mentioned an Toyota FJ Cruiser. It is my favorite vehicle. The entire floor is plastic/rubber and hoses down well. I admit I got it for the off roading capabilities but now that I garden more than anything else… it is the perfect vehicle. We have a steep hill down to our lake and I refuse to haul mulch by hand. To load the mulch we lay down a tarp in the back, fill 1/2 then shut the door, open the smallish back window and keep filling… it’s beautiful.
    I’ve been stopped by other gardeners when I’m getting plants and I show them the inside and they love it. It’s also a beast in the snow (never been stuck yet).

  61. I’ve been driving a Toyota truck for the past 30 years. The last 2 trucks have had extra cabin seats so I can seat 5 people in the truck if need be.
    The inside of the cab stay clean as can be. The back of the truck can haul a load of compost and be sparkling clean by the evening with a blast from broom and a hose.
    Wouldn’t have it any other way. The truck is comfy , has all the bells and whistles that other cars have and get great gas milage. I only wish Toyota would make a small hybrid truck.
    BTW, a small size Toyota truck can fit 80 one gallon size containers .
    Another nice thing is that you can depeciate it off your taxes as a work vehicle is self employed, as well as the gas, maintenance and other costs. – A total win win situation for any gardener.

  62. Wendy says:

    When I lived in Australia the high price of gas encouraged most people to drive small cars and sedans. Consequently 2-wheel utility trailers were ubiquitous. No dirt in your vehicle and you only pay for hauling the extra weight around when you actually need it. I’ve never understood why trailers aren’t more popular in the USA.
    Susan, this website offers a myriad of specialized trailers to suit every activity that may get your gears turning.
    http://www.trailers2000.com.au/

  63. John says:

    1950 Dodge pickup I bought over 30 years ago from a junk yard. 3 engines, 2 paint jobs, and it still gets the job done.

  64. Until a week ago my gardening car was my ’03 Honda Element. Best gardening car ever, other than a pickup. Back seats fold up, rubber floor, huge inside with tons of vertical room, too. Great for shrubs and mulch both, and the occasional load of pellets for the stove. Just sweep it out occasionally and wipe it down with wet rags once in a while (I never had the guts to hose it out.) But the mpg was horrific! When we downsized to 2 cars, it had to go, but I’m still heartbroken…I think it my favorite car I’ve ever owned.

  65. emily says:

    I have a Mazda MX-5 (aka Miata). The trunk is big enough to hold 2 gym bags. I go to the garden center and fill up the passenger side with plants. This helps me keep my gardening budget in check. In cases where I need more space I get one of my sons to drive me in his much bigger car.
    I happen to have a small shop vac. I keep it in the garage and use it to vacuum the car occasionally. Since I have the top down whenever possible, the car has a tendency to accumulate leaves, seeds and petals which blow or fall in.

  66. Sarah says:

    As a gardener who also has two large hairy and often muddy dogs, my investment in a WeatherTech cargo liner for my Rav4 was one of the best things I could have done. It was pricey, but good quality, custom fit and worth every penny.

  67. KathyG says:

    Several people have mentioned trucks. Our family has only one vehicle, and it has to be supremely multi-purpose. It needs to be a good road car for long trips, powerful enough to pull our tiniest-size teardrop trailer, around-town-running car, get decent mileage, have all-wheel drive and manual transmission. Thus our choices were few. In fact, there were only two — the Mini and a Subaru, but the smallest Subaru doesn’t fit in our tiny garage. One Truck To Rule Them All doesn’t exist for us. So our wee car has to do truck duty or we go borrowing.

  68. Jennifer says:

    We bought a Honda Fit largely for the amount of compost and wood chips that ‘fit’ in it. The seats in the back fold down flat so it has a LOT of space for wood chips, plants, etc. To keep it relatively clean we use a fitted trunk liner (made out of tarp material, I think they call it a “cargo liner”) from Lee Valley Tools. It works quite well. It would fit in the back of your CRV or a mini-van. I highly recommend it.

  69. commonweeder says:

    You’ve just inspired me to go out and clean the front seat of my old Subaru station wagon (at least 10 years old) but there is no way the back will ever be clean. I put plastic down, but shovel compost and woodchips onto it. It never stays completely on the plastic. I dread going to the annual inspection every year; what if I don’t pass and finally have to get a ‘new’ car. Doesn’t bear thinking of.

  70. Carol says:

    I have a Prius – I am amazed at how much I can fit in the hatchback – especially with the rear seats folded down. I line the back with a vinyl shower curtain when I am hauling anything really messy. That said, though, nothing helps when I bring home bales of hay or pine straw. Nothing. If there had been an option for a plastic or rubberized interior instead of carpet, I would have gone for it!

  71. skr says:

    our car is spotless. Our truck on the other hand, not so much.

  72. Julie Trayah says:

    When I had to retire my 2002 Volvo wagon, I couldn’t (read wouldn’t) imagine how I was going to make due with a Honda Accord. My husband just didn’t understand what the issue was that I needed more room for the plants I would no doubt purchase (en mass) and where will the dog sit? I have hauled hay bales in that old Volvo, hundreds of plants, trees (thank goodness for a sun roof) and countless other gardening adventures. I have little doubt that my new sedan (gasp!) will make me think twice about future plant purchases. I often wonder what “normal” people do… LOL

  73. Stephanie says:

    My little 13 year old Ford Focus can haul 4 bales of straw at a time–she’s such a good little (dirty) girl. My trick to cut down on the flying bits of straw is to first wrap each bale in an old sheet, tucking in the ends under the bale twine. It’s amazing what will fit into a hatchback and that one front seat!

  74. Ed says:

    Subaru Forester (just marked 222,222 miles!) and it is so filthy, that when offered plastic sheeting at nurseries, I decline by saying there is no point in dirtying up the plastic! Before that, I drove a Honda CRX for 16 years, and friends would marvel at how much I managed to haul in it, since I treated it as a small covered truck bed.

  75. Debra says:

    My Toyota Corolla will be 25 years old this year and I’ve found that the great part about having a filthy car is that no one ever wants to borrow it. I was taking a friend to a physical therapy appointment and since I live in FL we’re allowed to wear white all year. My friend (wearing white capris) took one look at my front seat and said “let’s take my car, shall we?” I was hauling some potting soil with composted horse manure in it. The car in front of me stopped suddenly and luckily, so did I but a 7 gallon nursery pot tipped over and it’s contents landed between the 2 front seats. It’s still there. I’ve often wondered if I dropped some seeds between the seats, given the humidity in FL, I might start growing stuff in my car.

  76. Carol Hassell says:

    My answer to this perennial issue is: a Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck with a tonneau cover. Drives like a car, not too big, easy on gas consumption, plenty of room in the bed to haul LOTS of compost — which I do — along with rock, fence posts, fence wire, plants and on and on. A perfect solution!

  77. Eric says:

    Great option for container gardening if anyone is interested.

    http://www.squidoo.com/whiskey-barrel-planter

  78. Stephanie says:

    It may not be the best liner, but I bought a section of indoor-outdoor carpeting from Home Depot. The green kind that comes on a giant roll. Cut to size, all I do is yank it out once in a while and shake it. Sometimes vacuum too.

  79. This story makes me laugh – I drive a Honda civic and i got a rack on top to carry surfboards.

    Well, i haven’t been surfing in years but i keep the racks because they help me transport wood for my home made garden beds.

    Besides that, the back seat is trashed from trips back and forth to the coffee manufacturer picking up sacks.

    So, yeah, i guess you could say my car is a big part of the garden success!

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