I live on less than 2/10th of an acre in a small town, however, my wife and I enjoy growing our some of our own fruits and veggies. We don’t feed the world out of our small raised beds but we can make a couple of salads, a few quarts of pasta sauce and some super amazing zucchini bread. Thanks to its small size, our garden is a bit more of a hobby than a main staple of our food supply. We enjoy it and it’s fun to grow our own organic veggies. Is this beginning to sound to back to Mother Earth brother to you yet?
Anyway, because we plant in small areas and plant several things nearby it’s nice to be able to identify them as they are coming up. Previously I tried using the tops of the seed pouches stapled to small stakes. Well as you might have imagined, they lasted about as long as a Corn Dog at a tractor pull. This year I decided to incorporate the most technologically advanced material that I know of: wood.
For these signs I used a quarter inch piece of hardwood plywood and a cedar fence slat. The cedar fence slat was used for two reasons. First, cedar is weather resistant and does not contain harmful chemicals that might leech into the soil. Second, I had it lying around the garage from a job I had done a couple of years back. Oh, by the way, if you decide to try your own, the cedar fence slats are cheaper than regular 1×4 cedar boards because of the cut and quality of the board.
First, I ripped the plywood down into 2 1/2 inch strips on my table saw. Use what you like; circular saw, band saw, hand saw, teeth, just keep in mind you want to have the board cut before it rots away. Then I cut these strips into 5 inch lengths with my miter saw. Initially, I thought of using a scroll saw or band saw to cut out shapes of the plants I was staking. But I have a toddler, one on the way, and well, I am terribly lazy.
Next, paint these signs with an exterior grade paint. Be sure to seal the edges in with paint to keep the lamination from coming apart (or just use solid wood for the whole thing). While you could sit there and watch paint dry or the Jersey Shore (whichever you find more mind numbing), a more productive option is to rip the cedar down into strips. I ripped mine into 3/4 inch squares but between you, me, and the untold trillions of people who are reading this, they look a little on the husky side, just like me. You could get away with 1/2 x 3/4 inch strips and have a better proportion when you compare it to the sign board.
Cut these strips into 8 inch lengths and cut a slight angle on the bottom. I tilted my miter saw to 45 degrees and then lopped off the edge leaving about a 3/16 inch flat edge. This helps drive/push these signs into the garden bed with less effort.
When the base layer of paint has dried, it is time to paint the letters on. I used a black latex paint and small 1/8 inch brush but I leave color and style of brush to you. I also free handed all the letters while watching Julie and Julia. Let me tell you a little something about Julia Child. She may have seemed sweet and dear on TV, flipping crepes or roasting deboned ducks but she was a bit wild and worked with OSS (pre CIA). I could tell you more but then Julia would have to kill you.
Anyway getting back to our signs – if you have stencils and prefer to be completely anal about your work, then have at it. These are merely suggestions from someone incredibly talented (check out the intense craftsmanship in the article photo if you don’t believe me), just simple suggestions.
After the paint is dry, attach them to the cedar post using a few brads. I used 5/8 inch brands in my Paslode pneumatic nail gun but hand-nailed will work too, it’s just harder. Small screws, glue, lashings, duct tape are all viable options at this step. If you make the signs ugly enough, you’ll deter neighbors from stealing them.
Finally, hit the signs with a coat of clear gloss spray paint. This seals the lettering and the whole sign once more and with it attached to the stake you can twirl it around to hit everything in one shot. And viola you have your own sweet signs. If all this sounds like entirely too much work, you can always buy these simple Garden Plant Tags on Amazon. As Julia would say, Bon Appetit.