Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Label that plant!

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.

14 comments:

  1. I bought plastic markers once. I so hated them. I'd find bits and pieces all over the garden. I'm just not good about cleaning things up. I switched to Popsicle sticks. They were left over from my kids craft projects. I love them since they hold up for the season, but then break down in the soil. Occasionally they break down a little too fast, but usually not.

    And I'm not a faithful labeler. I try. But usually not. If I think I won't be able to tell the plants apart I'll label (like a new tomato or lettuce variety). But if it is a tried and true variety, I can usually tell it from the others even if I don't label. So I don't.

    This year I finally have a garden shed so can keep my sticks in the garden. It makes life so much easier. Sometimes I wouldn't label because it would me tramping back into the house again. Remembering to bring my labels with me was not something I did very often.

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  2. I'm fond of my 1/2" by 4" plastic labels. I buy them in bulk, like you do, and reuse them for years. I do use some 5" labels occasionally, but the 4" ones fit better under my lights.

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  3. I do the same but usually prefer the 4' ones as they fit in my seed sowing modules better especially if i want to use the plastic covers. Currently i use sharpies and then use nail polish remover (100%acetone kind) to remove and reuse them that way. I'll try the pencil as thats probably easier to remove.

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  4. Last year, I cut up white plastic milk bottles and used those for labels. They worked great!

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  5. I used miniblind once, this year i bought a box of wooden clothespins from dollar store and i write the plant name right on and clip it to the pot.

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  6. Funny. I just ordered about 500 plastic labels the other day. I got a mix of 4" and 6". I've used wooden popsicle sticks in the past but they start to rot and become illegible way too quickly. Nothing beats white plastic.

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  7. I use very similar labels but do you know I've never thought to rub off the writing with an eraser - I usually either wash it off or just use the other side. How silly do I feel now?

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  8. I also have tried popsicle sticks just because I had them and it was disastrous. The sharpie bled and they were illegible almost with the first rain. I have also recently gone over to the thick plastic ones and love them. I only use them once I plant things out in the garden but they keep me from accidentally pulling up the new seedlings that sometimes look like our most invasive weed (morning glory). Where did you get your 1000 order from btw?

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  9. Oh boy I need to get my hands on some of these labels!

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  10. I am definitely a labeler. I use plastic labels too and like you - I reuse them. I do use the permanent marker, but i don't date the labels and since I often grow the same tried nad true varieties, I just reuse them year after year. I did add a pack of new labels to my collection this year, as I had lost alot of them due to giving away starts to my friends, employees, and the Giving Garden.

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  11. I purchased a batch of labels a few years ago too and still am using them!

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  12. I'm useless with labelling. It's not that I think I don't need to because I'll remember what they are, I just forget to label and then forget what I've planted! I've got loads of pots in the garden with no idea what's in them.
    I'm new to gardening, only started late spring last year and I'm really trying to get into the habit of remembering to label!

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  13. I'm a bit of a skinflint and so I cut my labels out of white plastic ice-cream tubs, and if I write in pencil I can re-use them.

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  14. This reminds me I have to properly label my plum grafts!

    I was inspired by your blog to grow fava beans, and we're eating our first harvest today. Thank you! (They're delicious.)

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