Thursday, April 25, 2013

Homemade Plant Markers

Yellow labels in egg carton seed starting trays

In the past ten years I've tried all sorts of ideas for homemade markers. I've had lots of failures. There have been semi satisfactory successes. I still haven't found the ideal marking system. So I'm open to suggestions!

Sticks painted yellow and red mark a planted row. 
My favorite and most successful marker isn't homemade. It's store bought. It's a yellow plastic tab about 5 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. It fits all my needs except isn't homemade. It is easy to see, it lasts a long time before disintegrating even out in the weather, I can write on it with a regular pencil, you can still read the writing even after a year in the garden. And I can keep reusing them over and over.

I've also bought a number of markers that I wasn't happy with, for one reason or another. Some you could only use once, some became brittle in the sun, some required a special pencil, some got lost in the mulch, etc.

Over the years I tried making plastic markers. I've ut up milk bottles, bleach bottles, styrofoam trays, old vertical blinds. Most wouldn't take a pencil for labelling. I had to use a marking pen. I don't mind the idea of a marking pen, but the writing fades away, even with the so called permanent markers. It's really annoying to check your taro 6 months later and find that all the names have faded away when you thought you were using permanent ink.

white tag made from styrofoam tray
I've used colored survey tape. This works pretty good, but alas, it is a store bought item. And the writing will fade away and the tape gets brittle though it takes a while. You just can't stick it into the soil and expect it to stay. You need to tie it to a stick. But it works fine for labeling pots that I intend to sell. I punch a tiny hole in the lip of the pot, thread the tape through, and tie it into a knot. Can't get lost that way, 

I've cut up aluminum cans, hoping to get something permanent for the orchard trees. But the metal oxidized quickly so that the writing became illegible. I even tried using an engraver to write the names with, but they also became unable to read in a few months. The vog here can get pretty bad 
and it damages unprotected metals quickly. 

Labels for trees I have made out of  wood. I have painted the names on. Very time consuming. But they last and stay legible. But this is not something I'd want to do in the veggie garden. 
wood stakes with aluminum name tag on top

Failures include: 
   Using wax pencil (aka- china pencil or china marker)
   Using permanent markers
   Using regular pens
   Making plant markers out of clear-ish or white plastic (they get lost out in the garden rows)
   Making them out of styrofoam (too light, they get blown away)
   Metal cans - they oxidize or rust away
   Popsicle sticks - the writing fades away in the weather

So it looks like I'm left with the yellow markers. I have been re-using them for quite awhile. At least I'm getting my money's worth out of them! To re-use, I simply erase the old name and rewrite on them. ...again and again and again. 

1 comment:

  1. Many mahalos for this post. I too had reusable sticks, but the sticks ran away over time. I still challenge myself to make a simple but effective label, other than the masking tape on the pot bottom (works semi-OK but you have to pick it up and avoid tilting it too much if there are unsprouted seeds...).