Over the years, I have tried many methods to help me keep track of which plant is in which container. The good news is that fully-grown usually plants aren’t too hard to tell apart. But keeping track of which seedlings are which can be a challenge for even the most experienced gardener. True story, I once mistook weeds for bell pepper seedlings and then gave them to a bunch of friends. Talk about embarrassing! The answer to this problem is obviously to get some garden markers. However, the ones you buy in the store can easily be $3 a piece or more. It’s not a lot of money if you only have one or two plants but for plant enthusiasts, the costs can quickly add up. So here’s how to make your own garden markers.
Basic Garden Marker Supplies
Wooden Craft Sticks
These can be found in the craft section (obviously) of most stores. You want ones with the flat sides. They may also be sold as tongue depressors in the pharmacy section or popsicle sticks in the paper good section. Since the plain ones and the colored ones were about the same price, I opted for the colorful ones, so I didn’t have to paint them later. At about $3 for 75 sticks at Wal-Mart even the largest collection of plants to label won’t break your budget.
You probably have a few floating around your house. The trouble is that they can sense impending projects and inevitably pick that time to vanish or dry out. You can get ordinary black Sharpies or a multicolored pack. I’ve also seen brightly colored ones that were individually packaged at craft stores, but it’s always less hassle to get all your supplies in one place. The dark colors will show up better on the brightly colored wood.
Optional Garden Marker Supplies
Clear Spray-on Sealant
Although I’ve found these markers are the cheapest and most effective way to label plants, they also don’t last for more than a season. Using spray-on sealant is a good way to extend their life at least a little longer. A regular sized bottle will set you back about $3. (Are you sensing a trend here, yet?) I picked the glittery version sold in the craft department, but the paint department has other options. Just get a translucent variety so that you don’t have to relabel them.
Liner / Surface Protection
You need something to line the ground/floor/whatever, so you don’t get the sealant everywhere. This could be newspaper, old grocery bags (paper or plastic), or even an unused garbage bag. Use whatever you have on hand. In fact, the plastic bag you carted your supplies home in works just fine unless you’re making a whole bunch at once.
Assemble Your Garden Markers
I’ll be the first to admit this project is fairly idiot proof and you could figure it out on your own without these steps. But because we’re thorough here at HomeFixated:
1. Take out a Sharpie, uncap it, write the name of your plants on the wooden markers, and put the cap back on the marker. Otherwise the fumes might get to you!
2. Sealant users should put down a liner in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors on a sunny day, to avoid inhaling seriously noxious fumes.
3. Arrange all the markers on top of the liner and spray them with sealant. Pro tip: make sure you’re pointing the round hole in the nozzle towards them, not you. Let dry. This takes about 30 minutes to an hour.
4. Flip them over and spray the backsides. Let dry.
5. Either put your markers directly in the garden or in plant containers. Or, you can store them in a plastic sandwich bag for use in the spring.
Total Project Cost: around $9
Per Garden Marker: 12 cents
These would only cost about 8 cents per plant marker if you had one of the supplies on hand or you chose not to use the spray-on sealant.
Other Garden Marker Making Tips
This is a great project to do with kids during the winter months when they’re stuck indoors, underfoot, and possibly driving you bonkers. If you’ve got small fry in your life, you might want to add things like googly eyes, paint markers, and stick-on rhinestones to your shopping list. In keeping with our on-going cost trend, each of those extra costs about $3. Just be aware that only adults or responsible teens should be operating the spray paint and should follow the directions on the label to avoid any unpleasant side effects. Also, be aware that the glitter takes a while to come off your hands. (The porch might not be so lucky.)
These markers work great for labeling small to medium sized plants. But for larger specimens like fruit trees or clump-forming perennials, writing the name on a brick or a rock with the Sharpies might be a better option. If you don’t have any on hand, bricks normally cost a couple of dollars each and are available at most hardware stores. However, I didn’t have any luck finding a decent-sized, pale rock to use for this project. As always, happy gardening!