Have you ever planted a bunch of stuff then forgot what was where? Maybe not if you are new to gardening but that day is coming. I quickly learned the value of labeling everything that goes into the ground unless it is absolutely unmistakable. It’s also handy for when spouses or friends go roaming around so they don’t have to ask what every single plant is. In my case, I’ve got hundreds of things planted around three acres so there is no way I could remember everything.
The challenge I had was to find an inexpensive but durable way to label things as they went in. A lot of plants die off so the labels need to be able to be reused and easily changed. Metal and wood products are out, they simply don’t last very long in the ground here or are too expensive. Oh, and one more thing, my handwriting is awful so I want to be able to print them out.
The solution came bits at a time but I now have a system that works and holds up for years. I make plastic labels, print adhesive labels to go on them, then fasten them to plastic covered stakes (solid plastic or fiberglass stakes are very expensive).
For the plastic labels, I tried several different things and finally found what I believe is the best solution for the price. I use plastic rain gutters, they sell for around $5 at Home Depot or Lowes for a ten foot section.
These gutter sections are thick plastic and UV protected. They are designed to last for many years in direct sun and weather extremes so are ideal for this purpose. You can make around three hundred labels from a single piece.
It may be hard to tell from the photo but these are thick! They also have several flat surfaces which can be cut for the labels. I don’t like to waste but I think the longevity of these makes up for the plastic that will be disposed of. To make it easier to work with, I cut these into shorter sections first (around two feet) then use heavy tin snips to cut out label blanks.
The blanks are about an inch high and three inches long. Once I have a bunch of blanks cut, I use a soldering iron with a big tip to make a hole in one end of each. You could also drill a hole but I think melting one through keeps the label stronger.
The holes get a little dirty and messy from the iron getting crud on it but that usually scrapes right off.
I’ll prep a whole bunch of blanks at once then do the finishing as they are needed.
To finish, I print a label from a Brother label maker, I strongly suggest getting one that includes an AC adapter as these things can eat batteries.
I haven’t had any of these labels fade out from the sun yet, the ones that are two years old now actually look as good as the day they were printed. If you use the genuine Brother tape refills it would be expensive, I use a generic version of TZ tapes. Using a 1/2 inch tape holds two lines of text nicely.
As you can see above, for a finishing touch I like to clip the corners and trim the label. Trim it pretty close to the hole so when tie wrapped to a stake it doesn’t try to wrap around. I like to use the short plastic coated stakes from Lowes, the three foot ones are right at a dollar each. For temporary applications I’ll use bamboo stakes but they only last about a year.
Of course you can put several labels on each stake to save even more cost, I do this when plants are close to each other. I hope this is helpful for someone, if you have any other great ideas for labels please let me know!
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