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plant label ideas?  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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There are many levels of labeling plants.  Coming up with something that lasts one season seems really easy and not worth talking about. 

And then there are different levels of labeling.  Sometimes you just want a word or two to last for ten years or more.  And sometimes you need a page or two. 

My starting point is a fiberglass fence post with an aluminum tag.  You write on the aluminum with a ball point pen and it dents the tag. 

I recently read something about taking old venetian blinds, sticking them in the ground and writing on them with waterproof pencils or pens.  That sounds like something that might last only one season - anybody tried it?

As for a page or more:  I've had success with getting some plastic buckets for free (with lids) and putting stuff inside the buckets.  A sort of log.  I would prefer being able to keep a page in view, so if you stop by, you can look at the message without having to fish it out of the bucket.  But that solution seems to elude me so far.

Any other ideas?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Some Venetian blinds are aluminum.  Scraps of beverage cans might be better.

A diamond scribe isn't too expensive, and can write on glass.  Some pigment can be rubbed into the scratch marks to make them more legible, or to reproduce the text.  It's the most permenent sort of writing I know of, with that level of effort.

Speaking of glass, a pickle jar might keep a page of your log book legible despite the elements.  Maybe some way of wrapping the paper around a post, and fitting the jar over that, snug around a tapering part of the post, would be a long-ish lived device, if there isn't very large hail.

If you don't mind my asking, why keep the logbook outside, rather than just having durable labels outside that refer to a chronological series of logbooks kept indoors?  Are you imagining multiple log-keepers with a need for centralized records?
 
Leah Sattler
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I will be interested in ideas. many of my labels if I can find them, are so faded by the end of the season as to be unreadable. had that probelm with peppers this year. darn it. what variety was that! previously I always took my log book to the garden and wrote down what I planted where and any notes. just didn't happen this year. I use a permanent markers on plastic. I like the idea of somehow keeping some info right there in the garden. I very much need to see what I am dealing with and read at the same time. one reason reference books that have pictures on one page near the front and all the info at the back of the book drive me crazy. 
 
Brenda Groth
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i bought zinc labels from wayside garden in the spring, i got several packages and they are going to be enough to last me a very long time..they are permanent..they come with a oil based pencil but i bought a paint marker..

they are a long double looped wire with two holes in the labels that slide down the wires..

go to  www.waysidegardens.com
 
paul wheaton
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diamond scribe on glass!  I never knew there was such a thing as a diamond scribe!  Excellent solution!

If you don't mind my asking, why keep the logbook outside, rather than just having durable labels outside that refer to a chronological series of logbooks kept indoors?  Are you imagining multiple log-keepers with a need for centralized records?


This is mostly born from my unease at seeing the treatment of some apple trees once.  I think that if there is a log right there, then folks will develop more respect for the tree.  Plus, if you are looking at a tree, you can learn more about what techniques were used, what variety it is, when the fruit should be ready - and what it will look like. 

I suppose that in this modern age, if there is cell reception, you could put some sort of unique identifier on the tree, like xbq45xx - and then google that from a cell phone.  You should then be able to see a full wiki page for the tree which you can add info willy nilly.



 
Joel Hollingsworth
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paul wheaton wrote:folks will develop more respect for the tree.   


Oh!  So glad I asked.  That's very important.  And I can easily imagine trees that will outlive easy cell-phone internet access, so I might advocate a hard copy on site, if there's a practical way.

Depending on how public the space is, it might be worth the effort to design a plaque with the earliest part of the story (maybe automatically generated, from a database), once a tree has matured to a certain point.  This could be printed directly onto a thin aluminum sheet, as from beverage cans or maybe store-bought flashing or salvaged sections of disposable bakeware, using a cheap laser printer (my LaserJet 6L accepts crazy thick stock, and cost me $20 including a nearly full toner cartridge). A quick dip in an anodizing bath or an etching bath would make the print just about permanent.

I really like the internet idea, too...the last line of the plaque could be "I have a blog!  Dryad_xbq45xx.blogspot.com" or some such.  People have written mail daemon software, why not blog dryad/naiad software?
 
Dave Boehnlein
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Leah Sattler wrote:
many of my labels if I can find them, are so faded by the end of the season as to be unreadable...I use a permanent markers on plastic.


Beware the folly of sharpies & plastic tags! Especially if the tags are exposed to sun. Double especially if you use a color other than black. I've seen red sharpie fade from a plastic tag in two weeks. It may sound counterintuitive, but plain old pencil will outlast permanent marker when you're using plastic tags.

We've found that the 'push-in' style plastic tags are inherently a problem for labeling perennials. Eventually they always get lost or get brittle & break. For labeling woody species out in the field we use an embosser (http://www.rooversonline.com/). We emboss aluminum tags & drill a hole in them. Then we strip the copper out of old romex house wiring and use that to attach the tag to the tree loosely. Since we're using copper & aluminum there is no danger of rust or degradation over time. In combination with a map, I think this is a pretty good way to go.

Dave
 
Leah Sattler
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I will try pencil next time! I guess I got suckered into the "permanent" part of the permanent marker  .

at this point I am mostly just labeling annual garden vegies so I can keep track of what is carefree or productive . since I mulch very heavily anything wood tends to dissapear pretty quickly hence I use plastic.

if I could somehow get writing on a rock that would be perfect. I have tons of rock available...even moreso than at my old place......and they don't get pushed around so easy as the plastic, sometimes even the plastic markers just seem to vanish into the soil as the mulch breaks down. I use rocks to mark location and protect and help mitigate temps for seedlings but I haven't figured out a way to easily make clear marks on the actual rocks .
 
Dave Miller
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:I really like the internet idea, too...the last line of the plaque could be "I have a blog!  Dryad_xbq45xx.blogspot.com" or some such.  People have written mail daemon software, why not blog dryad/naiad software?
Perhaps you could record an audio log for your tree - http://www.mobitour.co.uk/ashridge.mp3 (from http://www.mobitour.co.uk/audio_ashridge.html)
 
Dave Miller
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Leah Sattler wrote:
if I could somehow get writing on a rock that would be perfect. I have tons of rock available...even moreso than at my old place......and they don't get pushed around so easy as the plastic, sometimes even the plastic markers just seem to vanish into the soil as the mulch breaks down. I use rocks to mark location and protect and help mitigate temps for seedlings but I haven't figured out a way to easily make clear marks on the actual rocks .

How about this?  http://www.labsafety.com/DREMEL-Variable-Stroke-Engraving-Tool_24537266/?CID=9PP001
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Leah Sattler wrote:
if I could somehow get writing on a rock that would be perfect. I have tons of rock available...even moreso than at my old place...I haven't figured out a way to easily make clear marks on the actual rocks .


Post some photos of the varieties of rock you have!

Some thoughts off the top of my head:

A diamond scribe for hard, polished rocks
A center punch for softer rocks (scratching out deeper grooves)

Graphite or grease pencil for light-colored rocks
Chalk, followed by a spritz of water glass, for dark-colored rocks

At a former job, we would use this sort of thing for marking on rough surfaces, but they certainly aren't sustainable:

http://www.markal.com/productDetail70.aspx
 
Brenda Groth
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permanent labels with information DO bring more respect for the plant..i can say that for sure..i put zinc labels out this spring and a lot of things were moved and trampled..but the things that were labeled were clearly seen as good plants..

i would like larger labels..but for now the zinc ones will do..i think for larger plants like trees having a very large label with more information would be really good though..as Paul said..to gain respect for the plant and making people aware of what is there..

 
Ken Peavey
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I've used miniblinds.  New one goes in the window, old one gets put on the chop saw to give me a couple hundred labels. They are PVC and will take the weather for several years before they become brittle.  Being white or almond color, light will pass through.  Sharpie ink breaks down and fades away in just a few weeks.  Pencil holds up.  I use these labels in the greenhouse.  I can rub off the pencil, reuse the tag. 

I ran into a small problem in the greenhouse this summer in NY.  I would use 1 tag for a tray of a dozen plants.  Customers always took the plant with the tag.  This left me with mystery tomatoes.  Are they Purple Russian?  Red Fig?  Amish Paste?  I had to put the mystery plants in groups for production not seed saving.

Out in the field I have used a 3 ring notebook.  Make a map of what is growing where, cultivars, counts.  Some details don't need to be listed.  I can tell if the stuff is ripe.  If I want to record start dates, its usually in the greenhouse section.  The notebook stays indoors out of the weather, away from the bugs and wild beasts.  In the greenhouse is a good spot.

I usually keep on planting vegetables and herbs without end.  Volumes of data serve no use as I don't have time to go over it to draw any conclusions.  What kind of plant, how many went in, when it was started.  If I can record how much came out, I can determine production rates for that cultivar.  Am I going to add up columns of figures, hack on a calculator or spreadsheet all night to figure out Tomato A produced an extra 1/4 pound per plant than Tomato B?  I can't be bothered with that.  Either I could/should have sold/produced more or less.  I can see how many I started with and make a crop plan from there.  They really like the green arrow peas but didnt touch the golden peas, I won't plant any more golden peas.  I sold a bunch of kale, still had some untouched, I keep the production the same.  I started 30 white cucumbers this spring, could not keep them on the vine.  I'll be starting twice as many next time.

Information has its place and can be an especially useful tool. 
 
paul wheaton
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Ken Peavey
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OUCH!
sometimes the simple answers jump up and slap you in the face.
 
                    
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It certainly isn't the on-site sort that people have been discussing (and I really like that idea) but I've found, as some others have said, that a map can be a great record keeper.  After you have the initial map, tracing paper (I bought some in a roll, $13, it lasts almost forever) can be laid over it to record what you've done where and to which plant.  Can help with annual garden rotations too. 

We named our old apple trees by their elevation in relation to the spring box, because it varied well enough to be practical, and we don't have information about names of varieties yet. 

I used split straight grained wood sticks with crayon pencils to label seedlings and young annual things last summer.  Worked well enough for my purposes, I don't have a big quantity of scrap metal around (at least that I want to cut up) it didn't require any off site materials.  I used cedar and cherry because they're here, they split pretty well, and don't rot quickly...didn't notice any blatant damage to the seeding by the stick being in the same soil. 
 
                              
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Not as permanent as etching on glass or rock, but I wood-burned garlic names on to oak stakes. Absolutely readable after several years. Then again it may be that the garlic was repelling anything that would try to decompose the wood. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Wood burning is a great idea! And I bet there are often scraps of rot-resistant wood (cedar, black locust) lying around that aren't large enough to become much more than a stake.
 
                    
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ooooh!  Wood burning!  Me likey.  Did you use one of those little wood burner electric pens?

My sticks were definitely only good for one season.  I think I might attempt to use generally larger sticks of soft wood and press the word into the wood with some kind of blunt but thin tool, then use a flat crayon to make the depressions appear clearly. 
 
Ken Peavey
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I took down some old fence last summer, used some boards to make a sign.  Put a round bit on a router, cut half inch deep grooves, then painted the grooves.  Makes for a rustic sign, not sure if this is what you are looking for as far as marking your plants.

EVF.jpg
[Thumbnail for EVF.jpg]
 
                    
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Awesome sign, Ken!  And awesome - er - exceptional farm name!  I made a wooden "welcome" sign with a chisel.  My first attempt at carving lettering, it went ok.  Not all smoothy round like the router makes though. 
 
Pat Black
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Leah Sattler wrote:
I will try pencil next time! I guess I got suckered into the "permanent" part of the permanent marker 


At some office supply stores you can fund "sharpie industrial" pens. They look just like a sharpie but have an oval reverse type "industrial" on them. they are good for a full season of new mexico sun! I make tags out of old quart yogurt containers. Also good for a season.
 
tel jetson
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I like the woodburning idea.  definitely going to try that.  would an old soldering iron work?  the not electric sort of soldering iron?  I've got some tung oil and linseed oil around that I could treat the wood with afterward to make it last.  a whole page of info might be impractical to burn, but it also might be a pleasant way to spend evenings.
 
                    
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My partner said "magnifying glass!" in regards to wood burning.  We're going to try this.  I'll write the name in pencil as a guide first and wait til a sunny day. 
 
Ken Peavey
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with a magnifying glass, a piece of aluminum foil can give you sharper edges on your lettering
 
                    
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Aluminum foil stencil?!  Great suggestion, Ken. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Oh, cool...and since the stencil isn't consumed, you can have a set of them for various letters, maybe from the stiffer foil that disposable baking trays are made of.

When burning things with a magnifying glass, I really like the 8"x10" plastic Fresnel ones...I'm impatient like that.
 
Ken Peavey
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I like the idea of the thicker foil and reusability.  You can design your own font.

Take a minute to consider eye safety.  Focused sunlight reflecting back on your face while you take the time to scorch a letter is a considerable danger to your eyesight.  I don't mean to sound like an old hen, but if you can't see anymore, I'll be posting to myself in here.

Get some welders goggles.  Protect your self.
 
Alex Slater
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Does anyone have any tips for adding long term (ideally permanent) labels to their plants/trees? I'm after something that ideally won't cost the earth!

Ideas appreciated!
 
Kirk Hutchison
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This is not something I'm good about doing  . I think they make labels out of rot-resistant woods.
 
Ken Peavey
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I've used vinyl mini blinds with much success.  They cut with a chop saw or pair of scissors, will hold up the elements for several years.  Over time, ink will fade, but pencil stays.  In the greenhouse I've used these to label a dozen plants at a time.  The problem is when people buy a plant, the one they take has the label.  Now I label the container.

Wood will last for a while.  The-in ground post may need replacing.  Are you any good with a router?  Deeply grooved lettering won't fade.  

Aluminum
Soda cans slice easily enough.  The aluminum can be indented with shaping tools, much like leatherworking and allows fine detail, or cut out letters like a stencil.  Tacks hold it in place on wooden posts.



 
Leila Rich
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I do the mini-blind and pencil thing. Pencil seems to last better than any ink and you can wash it off with detergent too.
One set of blinds will provide an enormous amount of reusable labels. They're not that strong: cutting them on angle  makes it much easier to poke them into things.
The blinds also come with handy holes where they were strung. Ideal for looping around branches
 
Alex Slater
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Some nice ideas there  - thanks!

I quite like the blind idea, and I'm also curious about stamping letters into drink cans. Interesting stuff!

I wasn't aware that pencil lasted quite so well outdoors..  good to know
 
paul wheaton
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Moved to the organic forum (cuz it didn't seem so permaculture-ish) and merged with an older thread on the same topic.
 
Irene Kightley
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I use cut up white plastic bottles.

 
Tyler Ludens
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ajsl wrote:
Does anyone have any tips for adding long term (ideally permanent) labels to their plants/trees? I'm after something that ideally won't cost the earth!

Ideas appreciated!




Maybe used ceramic tile or plate shards written on with bake-on ceramic marker pen?  Anyway that's something I might try...
 
Benjamin Burchall
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This is something I've wondered about! When you're tying to make your garden accessible as a demonstration garden, I think it's helpful to have some kind of plant labeling for visitors to see. It's even better to have some recipes at hand for edibles that are uncommon in your location. Nothing I ever thought of satisfied my desire to do it sustainably. So I guess it's one area where I just have to compromise.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Seems like some kind of ceramic, maybe terracotta, could be sustainable, if you have a source of clay on your place and can build a little kiln, you could make small tile labels with the plant name incised.

Lots of work, but could be quite attractive!

I have some made this way except the name is glazed to be more easily seen, but I didn't make them.

 
Robert Ray
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I use brass shim stock and a typewriter, punch the keys a bit hard and it leaves a nice impression.
 
Casey Halone
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I have seen mini blinds cut up to give you lots of tags that stick right in the ground. i have some broken sets i am planing on using for this.
 
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