101amanda brownDIYdiy projectsfurnitureoutdoorUpholstery Basics

upholstery basics: garden cart

by Amanda Brown

Since mid-February (I’m in Austin, y’all), I’ve been elbow deep in garden soil planting my veggies for spring. With arugula, lettuce, and Swiss chard growing like weeds, my hands have been full trudging back and forth from the garden to my kitchen. This month on Upholstery Basics, we build a garden cart from the ground up, complete with cubbies for tools, seeds, and cuttings, and a padded top for sitting or kneeling. Don’t have a green thumb? Use this as a kid-proof toy box indoors.    — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump…


  • goggles
  • furniture dolly
  • 3/4″ thick plywood
  • scrap of 1″ x 2″ wood (we only need 6″)
  • 6′ of rope
  • 4″ diameter x 8′ long PVC
  • 1 3/4 yards of fabric (54″ wide)
  • 1 3/4 yards of clear plastic (I used 16 gauge)
  • white or yellow chalk
  • square
  • yardstick
  • scissors
  • pen
  • staple remover
  • pliers
  • wood glue
  • clamps
  • power drill
  • drill bit (slightly smaller diameter than your screws)
  • Phillips drill bit
  • 3/8″ diameter drill bit
  • 1 1/4″ long wood screws
  • measuring tape or yardstick
  • pencil
  • rubber mallet
  • sewing machine and thread
  • hand stapling plier or t-pins
  • Dacron
  • staple gun
  • 3/8″ staples
  • 2″ thick high-density foam
  • cardboard tack strip

Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


Photography: Mel Cole of Rollins Cole
Striped fabric: Kravet Esparto Stripe in Reef
Clear plastic fabric: similar to shown


1. Whether you have your own table saw or are having the hardware store cut your wood and PVC, use the diagram below to measure and cut all the pieces you need for your garden cart. Even though I have my own saws, I often have Home Depot cut large pieces of wood so they’ll fit in my car. It also keeps my workshop sawdust-free!

2. We’ll upholster the cart in fabric and cover again in plastic so it’s extra cleanable and durable. Use the diagram below to draw and cut the fabric and plastic pieces needed for the cart. Use a pen to draw on the plastic.

3. By using a furniture dolly, we start with a strong frame and casters ready for action. Remove the carpet and staples from the furniture dolly with a staple remover and pair of pliers.

4. Apply glue on the bottom bars of the furniture dolly and clamp the bottom piece of wood in place. Drill pilot holes through the bottom piece and bottom bars of the furniture dolly in the middle and corners of the two long sides.

5. Screw the bottom piece to the bottom bars of the furniture dolly through the pilot holes.

6. Now we’ll attach the short sides of the cart.

7. Place the cart on its side and repeat steps 4 and 5 to attach the short sides to the base of the cart.

8. Turn the cart upside down and repeat steps 4 and 5 to attach the long sides to the base of the cart.

9. At the corners, screw the long sides into the short sides where they touch.

10. Measure and mark a line 16 3/4″ from the left side on the front and back sides of the cart.

11. Insert the divider and line up its right side with the lines marked in step 10.

12. Double check the measurements inside the cart to make sure the bottom of the divider is 15 1/4″ from the inside left edge.

13. Clamp the divider against the sides to hold it in place and mark a vertical line on the outside of the cart even with the center of the divider.

14. Drill pilot holes and screw the divider to the sides of the cart.

15. With the 3/8″ drill bit attached, drill several holes in the sides of the cart so air can circulate through the padding and fabric.

16. For the fabric on the base of the cart, align the left side of one piece with the right side of the other (with good sides facing) and sew them together. Repeat this step to sew together the other two edges.

17. Using the diagram from step 2, fold the fabric along the dotted line (with good sides facing) and sew the cut out notch together.

18. Follow the instructions from Upholstery Basics: Boxed Ottoman to sew the kneeling pad fabric together. Since I’m covering this in plastic, I nixed the welt cord.

19. Repeat steps 16-18 for the for the plastic.

20. Staple Dacron to the top edge and sides of the cart.

21. Slip the sewn sides over the base of the cart and pull it into place.

22. With the corners snug and in place, smooth the fabric around the top edge and staple the fabric to the inside of the cart. Make cuts to release the fabric around the divider (steps 4 and 5, Upholstery Basics: Constructing Coil Seats – Part 2).

23. Smooth and staple the fabric to the bottom of the cart.

24. Refer back to Upholstery Basics: Boxed Ottoman to pad and attach the fabric to the kneeling pad. I used 2″ thick outdoor foam for mine.

25. Repeat steps 16-24 to cover the fabric in plastic.

26. Cut off excess fabric close to the staple line and staple cardboard tack strip on top of the cut edges. On the bottom of the kneeling pad, screw in the corner blocks on all four corners 1 1/4″ from the edges.

27. Staple both ends of the shorter rope to one side of the bottom of the kneeling pad. Keep the stapled ends 1 1/4″ inside the edge of the kneeling pad so the rope can lay inside the cart when the kneeling pad is in place.

28. Place a piece of PVC in the back right and front right corners of the cart and make a mark on the wood just inside the PVC. Staple the ends of the longer rope to these marks.

29. Insert the cut PVC tubes into the right side of the cart and place your kneeling pad over the cubby on the left side.

Garden Cart Tips

  • To keep your cart fresh for many seasons to come, use outdoor or marine grade fabric and plastic.
  • Use nylon thread for sewing.
  • Consider marine foam for better moisture resilience.
  • Store your cart in a covered area.
  • Wipe clean with a wet rag.




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  • This is great. I like the idea of the upholstered top covered in plastic and the cubbies. I might just varnish the wood and not upholster the sides for my garden purposes, and maybe add a handle somehow to tote it along like a truck cart. Thanks for the inspiration and thorough directions!

  • this looks great – what a great idea. Could you tell me – how do the dolly wheels work on grass/dirt as opposed to concrete/floors? Do they still roll ok?
    I’m ready to go shopping and make this – i’m tired of bending over and losing all my tools!

    • Gayle,

      The wheels work great on grass! I’ve already put mine to the test several times. One other tip: I slip a few sheets of parchment paper in the cubby under the seat and load it up with veggies. When I’m finished picking, I grab the edges of the parchment paper and carry all my treats into the house – my version of a garden sling.

  • How perfect! I hate bending over to do my gardening, it never occurred to me to take and handy toolbox/bench out to the garden with me. This is probably more complicated than I can build myself, but I have a friend who is perfect for the job. And, these instructions look pretty thorough for a capable person to follow.

  • Another great DIY from you! I love it and will be bookmarking this for when I have my own garden. Thanks! P.S. Where’s your dog? She didn’t help with this project?

  • Love this idea so much! totally getting my butt in gear and making one soon, mine will start off as a toy box and hopefully evolve into a garden cart when we have a garden! Thanks for the awesome instructions and pictures. The fabric you chose is wonderful and perfect for spring.

  • genius tip to add the plastic layer – it seems as though this would allow the cart to last much longer than without. PS – your swiss chard looks amazing! :)

  • Love how practical (and adorable!) this is! Obsessed with that fabric! I may be motivated to finally get outside and get the ol’ garden up to speed!

  • This is fantastic!! I am on year two of my garden and could use a new place to keep my tools. :)

  • If I used oilcloth, could I skip the plastic? Do you know if oilcloth stands up pretty well to weather and sun or does it break down pretty quickly? I’ve only used it for aprons and it’s great for that, but the coating seems quite thin.

  • Oh I LOVE this!! This is such a genius idea and is so adorable! It would be so nice to sit down when I pull weeds, and I always end up leaving my tools halfway across the yard, it would be so great to have everything in one place!

  • This is awesome! I love all of the step-by-step instructions and photography. You make it so easy to follow along that I want to go out and make one now! : )

  • This is such a fun idea! And the photos make it so easy to follow (high-five to the photographer!). I’m bookmarking this one for our garden project. :)

  • what i love most about this diy is seeing a beautiful woman in a pretty sweater with all of jewelry working with her power tools and creating a cool cart from nuts and bolts to the sewing machine. thank you for reminding us – yes, we can do it!

  • It’s so easy a woman can do it! I was surprised ,it looked a lot mote difficult than it was .

  • Great project and addition to your garden!!! How about calling it The Great Garden Buddy!

  • I Love IT! But WANT that apron! Did you make it?? Buy it?? I looked for a DIY apron pattern on here but haven’t ran across it yet!! just Love it!

  • This looks like if you: a) lined the side that currently has pvc pie with plastic sheeting; b) put a 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch pvc pipe up the one corner (away from the seat); c) then layered rocks, sand & soil like you do for other container gardens; d) finish off with plants of choice (succulants or masquito repelling plants?) … this would also make a great foot stool or mobile coffee table…or maybe I will skip the pvc & just put sand with potted plants, so I can seasonally change what is there on the front porch