I often times chuckle at my husband when he professes great pleasure at having or using some inexpensive simple item that performs its task just perfectly, like that perfect cheese knife that we bought while picnicking in Napa years ago, no other cheese knife in his oversized collection can compare.
So, in that vein I have to confess that I take great pleasure in having had the wisdom to spend $37.87 (that included shipping) on a box of 1000 5-inch plastic plant labels seven years ago. Are you kidding, you ask, nearly 40 bucks for a box of plant labels? Well, that's only 3.8 cents per label, and it's been seven years since I bought them, I still have 135 virgin labels in the box, and 343 used ones that I've rounded up recently, plus I don't know how many that are still in service in the garden. Most of the losses are either from breakage, they snap when clumsy gardeners step on them, or have accompanied various plants that I've given away over the years.
Yeah, so what's so great about labels? Well, I don't know about you, but I like to know what is growing in my garden. How many times have you sown a bunch of seeds in various pots, not labeled them because of course you will remember what you sowed in which pot, right? Ah, the frustration, and trust me, my memory has not improved over the years! I've lost track of what's what too many times for lack of having a label handy. Thus my purchase of 1000 labels so that I could have labels to hand at all times because if they ain't handy I won't use 'em.
I really believe that keeping track of what you do when in the garden will help you to become a better gardener, thus my love of labels and of blogging. If you remember to put the date on the label you will have a handy record of when you sowed the seeds. I try to keep a planting chart that a) shows when I should be sowing seeds and planting transplants and b) when I actually get around to doing it. The chart also shows the variety names and where the seeds came from. I don't always get around to filling out the chart, but I am 99% good about filling out a plant label, which is so easy when you've got hundreds of them. When I cleaned out a couple of my beds this spring I rounded up all the labels that I could find and was able to use them to fill in some of the blanks in my planting chart. One of these days I'm going to use the information from my planting charts and my harvest records to figure out the time from sowing to harvest, but that's a project and post for another day.
Now, I am a bit fussy about my labels. They shouldn't be too large or too small. Flimsy is bad. Special writing implements get lost. And they must be reusable. This is one product where I definitely prefer plastic. The labels that I found are sturdy, they don't bend or warp, and if you don't step on them they will last for a few years in the garden before they get brittle. They are 5/8-inch wide and 5 inches long, just big enough to be able to write a couple of lines along the length, I can record the date, the type of vegetable and the variety name on one side of the label. Sometimes I'll use the reverse side of the label to record additional information as well. What I really like about them is that all you need is a #2 pencil (or softer) to write on them and the writing stays, it doesn't fade or rub off (unlike those so-called indelible markers) until you choose to remove it with an ordinary pencil eraser. Rub, rub, you've got a blank marker. I've been using my labels over and over and over. They may get soil stained and yellow with age but that doesn't affect their usefulness.
So, in preparation for my spring seed sowing I got out the collection of old labels and a sturdy eraser this morning. It is a bit nostalgic going through the old labels, they are like little messengers from gardens past. But ah, the blank marker, time to dream of new goodies in the garden, like Kamo eggplant and Apollo Broccoli...
What about you, are you a faithful labeler? What's your favorite type of label?
Oh, by the way, that box of labels that I spent $37.87 for 7 years ago (31.09 plus 6.78 shipping) will set you back $44.50 plus shipping today. I'm really feeling good about my label stash now.