I have tried a few different ways of labelling my seedlings over the years, and I am still on the hunt for my very favourite. In the past, I have splurged on those “reusable plant markers” from garden centres, that are like $5 for 20 little pieces of plastic, and while they are reusable, they have a bunch of drawbacks as well. So I tend to stick to a few favourite from the dollar store rather than spending my money on the fancy ones from the seed companies.
Clothes pins are pretty high up on the list. You just take a sharpie and write the variety and whatever other info you want/can fit on them (like name, variety, date sown, date transplanted, etc). Then you just clip it to the edge of the pot, or onto a skewer if you are using paper pots like I have been doing the last few years, and you are done. They last at least one full season living with the plant the whole time, and if you get the wood ones, you can chuck them in the compost bin (removing the metal spring bit of course). The problem with the clothes pins, is that when you are moving a bunch of things around and not paying attention to every little clipped on clothes pin in a seedling try, they can snap off. I had to guess on what a few of my tomato varieties were last year because of this. Ultimately these are pretty high up on my list of go-to label options.
Bamboo Skewers – Dollarama (a big dollar store chain here in Canada) carries these little bamboo skewers with a wide end for little hors d’oeuvres and they work quite well for seedlings. Like the clothes pins, you can also add them to the compost once they have served out their usefulness. The problem with them is that there isn’t a ton of writing space, so I tend to use them with abbreviations, or for things I am only growing one variety of. The sharpie also tends to run a bit, so you don’t get nice crisp lines in your writing. Its not the end of the world, but maybe you have a blog and want to pretend that you are fancy and neat when you present it on the internet. I must have chucked all the ones I used last year into the compost, because I couldn’t find any left over in my shed. Sorry for the lack of pictures of this one.
But this year, right next to those little Bamboo Skewers, I found these Plastic Skewers! They are bright colours, and have a bit more writing space than the bamboo ones. They also have a tiny little tip, so they wont be taking up a bunch of space if I use them in a little jiffy peat pellet thing. Downside – They are plastic and will ultimately end up in the garbage once they have labelled my little plants. They also may not hold up to all the sunlight, but for now, I am pretty excited about the bright colours. Especially for my different tomato varieties, as it will be easier to keep the determinates separate from the indeterminates, without having to remember every single variety’s ins and outs. I will likely combine these with my clothes pins for different applications.
Lastly, You can pick up some little labels to stick onto the pots themselves. I recommend finding a waterproof type pen for the writing, because you are going to be watering these plants, and you want to actually be able to read what you wrote on the labels that you so carefully made. This is a good option if you want to record the sowing date and other factors on your lables – then you can keep successional sowings separate if you have forgotten which is which… which can happen. As you see above, istead of labels I tend to just use pieces of paper with some gift wrapping tape over top. These don’t work long term for paper pots, but for anything plastic it is pretty great – especially in the clutz department.
A few other quick ideas from around the internet- Plastic cutlery; Wooden spoons (this wouldn’t be a great option for seedlings, but maybe in an herb garden, or similar, to mark what each plant is. Plus you would have room to write or paint, or even burn-in whatever you want onto it); Sticks (not from the dollarstore, but from a tree. I made some amazing Potato variety sticks that stuck up about the height of the mature plants, so you could actually read what each row was. Maybe I’ll do a tutorial on them again this year, as it was a fun project to do while waiting for Spring to arrive);Painted rocks (although the downside on rocks is that they eventually get covered with foliage). Use your imagination and get crafty. It is easy to think that you will remember what each plant is, but if you start growing different varieties of the same plant, or even some plants that look similar (like herbs), then marking each different variety becomes more important… And its better to make it a fun activity rather than a chore.
If you have any other label ideas, please share them in the comments! I’d love to try out any ideas that come up. I have one other “upcycle” seedling/plant marker plan that I am saving for its own little post, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.