I've been doing a lot of cuttings and growing from seed over the past few years. My labeling system frankly stinks, though. I had been using tape on the pots and a sharpie and now have 1/2 a greenhouse full of mystery pots.
How does everyone else label? Anyone out there have a good labeling system that will last 2-5 years until these guys start flowering, seeding or fruiting so I don't have to keep ending the relabels with question marks or maybe (as in: Date Palm - (maybe))?
I have found that a good quality white stick label written on with a #2 lead pencil or a lead pencil made for labels will out last the sharpie many times over. The ink in the sharpie will fade quickly when exposed to the sun and weather. I quit using the sharpie for labels years ago for this reason. You can also purchase thin metal tags that can be "written" on with a pencil. These are not good for small plants, but for larger ones they work okay. They must be tied onto the plant with a small wire that comes with the tag. Hope this helps.
Whatever you use, cover the writing with clear nail polish - they last a lot longer. Personally, I use the plastic stick-in labels, using a paint pen or a lead pencil, then cover with clear nail hardener.
The greenhouse conditions (Florida sun and wet) tend to make even the pencil and paint pens fade on the white plastic labels, but with the varnish, i bet that will last. I'll try the clear varnish next summer.
I now use a scheme very similar to the one Blueberry uses. I use white plastic stick labels and write on them with Ebony pencil. Ebony pencils write very dark. Wooden stick labels seem to rot within months in my garden. Last year I had a debacle, using wooden craft sticks (like popsicle sticks) as stick labels. The pencil writing didn't fade, but the soil "ate" the sticks by mid summer.
The plastic stick labels don't rot and they are reusable, because the Ebony pencil writing can be erased. At first I tried using regular pencil erasers, but found that a cleaner like Bon Ami or Bar Keepers Friend removes the pencil writing faster and leaves a slightly ruffed up surface that accepts pencil writing better the next time.
I use and re-use hundreds of labels each year, because a hobby of mine is breeding zinnias, and each of my "breeder" zinnias gets an individual code name that stays with it on a label from seed to seedheads. I keep a notebook with detailed information for each of the codes. This year my codes started with E1, E2, ... up to E91. Last year my codes started with D1 and ended with D124. Next year the breeders will be named F1, F2, F3, ... and so on. The codes are almost a necessity, because I use rather small labels, and I discover a lot of different breeder zinnias that appeal to me. The labels stay with the plants in their starting trays and go with the plants into the garden, and stay with them until I gather seeds from them in the Fall.
I use the white plastic labels and HB (very soft, dark) leaded pencils for notations. When I'm ready to re-use the label I just rub the writing with a bit a damp potting soil - the pencil lead disappears like magic, no smear marks that erasers leave behind. For gallon pots I write on the pot sides using grease pencils (various colors) purchased from the local craft store (Hobby Lobby for example).
The cheapest labels to use are cut up Mini-Blinds...Any size or shape you wish.
Vertical ones work well also.
Go to your closest HD and ask them for the cut off ends of mini---or vertical blinds...
YES! Pencil writing will never fade!
You can also buy "Commercial Plant Marketer pens" available at
Office Supply stores. These are like Permanent marker pens--BUT---UVA resistant...
For my perm. plants I cut used soda cans into the length of the can into many tags.
I then use an old ballpoint pen that no longer works and push hard into the metal to create an indentation of the name into the metal, I can also use these as hanging tags for my vines on the fence with a zip tie, I just use a hole punch for the end to make the hole, they never fade and I rarely have an issue reading them. Only problem is they can be a bit sharp on the edges, but they never fade, easy to spot and if it's a bit hard to read like the first ones I made using a large nail to scratch the name into them I use a pencil to highlight the name into view.
I've never come across the marking pen you speak of, the regular sharpies fade the laundry markers fade, anyway while sitting in front of the TV I cut up the cans and haven't lost a tag yet to fading so it works for me and I can put them in the recyling bin if I need to if and when something goes to the compost...
I'm experimenting with a Sharpie industrial permanent pen, supposed to be more resistant to fading, etc. Just got it from Territorial Seed so not sure yet how well it will stand up to fading. Last year all of my white plastic labels with a regular Sharpie faded to nothing and couldn't keep my tomatoes identified. Also have a "grease" pencil to experiment with but won't be good for small printing.
I have Sharpie industrial labels that are three years old and have been outside and I can still read them clearly. Pencil washes off for me, but it looks like I might need a softer lead, I'm sure mine was a #2.
I use mini blinds for the actual label. Since I have cats, I frequently need to replace mini blinds. lol
I did read just recently that a paint pen with solvent-based paint is supposed to hold up well. Problem might be how fine a tip is available for writing on the tags/markers.
Thanks Celene for the encouraging comment on the Sharpie industrial. There may be hope that I can read the tags by August.
Kay - thanks for your input. Good to know for future reference if the Sharpie fades on me. I don't normally leave markers in the garden (they always get "lost" in the fall leaves) but it was frustrating trying to tell the tomatoes apart this past season.
I agree. I had the same problem with tomatoes last year. I bought some of the last ones from a grower and I know they were mislabeled. But, never did know which were which. So, don't know which ones I would like to get a repeat of. I like to try some new tomatoes each year.
I have been growing them since they were first introduced a few years ago. The seeds are expensive, and obviously you can't save seeds from them. Incidentally, you can grow tomatoes from cuttings rather easily. And some people graft fancy tomato varieties on specially powerful rootstock tomato varieties, that are bred especially for that use.
That is sort of like rose growers and many fruit tree growers do. I haven't tried it myself, because all of my tomatoes seem to develop awesome root systems in my sandy loam. Last year my Burpee's Seedless tomatoes grew much taller than the "normal" amount, and grew out the top of my 5-foot tomato cages. Of course, I had started them indoors under fluorescent lights, so they got a good long growing season here in Kansas. And they are indeterminate, which I guess means they could keep growing indefinitely.
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)
You want heirloom tomatoes--and you never told me that...I have 3 kinds. Bah--Humbug!!!
Could have put in some seed in the package i sent you.
You know how tomatoes grow 'suckers" between their stems and leaves--in the axils? The ones we are always told to pinch out?
Welll--Pinch away--and then root them. They are not, exactly cuttings, but they do all root.
Sort of, like, accomplishing two good things at the same time...
Besides--this way, you will get a later crop of Tomatoes...
In retrospect, sorry to have caused a tangent in a totally unrelated thread. Yeah, I figured it would have to be the suckers but later isn't always better here. If I had a longer growing season, it would certainly be fun to play with rooting tomatoes.
You know guys, that was exactly what I was thinking. What Cindy M (Just noticed both of you named Cindy) LOL, said about the short season. By the time I get the suckers we are well into our season.
Can't remember where it was, maybe Burpee's website some time ago, they were selling a lot of grafted tomatoes. I'm sure they were directing their sale to the folks in Texas and the rest of the Southern states. But really thought that interesting.
I just looked at the site with the seedless tomato Zen. They really look good. I bet it was where I saw the grafted plants. Have you ever gotten any plants from them? Are they good ones, and packaged good? Their growing time is about 2 weeks more than I normally shoot for to get a good crop. Might try the plants. Wonder what the s&h is? Probably expensive.
Will have to look into it when we get closer to planting time.
That is ok Cindy., It sounds like you sent me more than enough.
I would do that too if I had room for them. My kitchen is not that big. I can just barely do 8 or maybe 12 trays of 3 inch pots. But you see, I not only do tomatoes, all of the annuals for my containers on 2 decks have to be in that space too.
Gallon pots of tomatoes just don't cut it. Even tho I only do about 10 or 12 tomato plants. They would not get enough light and end up being very leggy.
Pam - my local craft store (Hobby Lobby) carries paint pens (even different colors and tip thicknesses). If you have a large craft store in your area, I'd try there. I didn't have much luck at our local office supply stores.
>> cut up Mini-Blinds
>> Pencil writing will never fade!
The only paint pens I've tried all had tips that were too wide, and were expensive.
But then, wooden pencils always seem too blunt to me, a few letters afetr sharpening.
I bought a 0.7 mm mechanical pencil, and a 0.9 mm mechanical pencil, to go along with the 0.5s I already had. and was delighted.
They're always sharp, even if you break the lead.
I use the 0.9 for bold letters, and if I want "fine print" I use 0.7 or 0.5
I can cut a mini-blind into 2-3 slices the thin way, and STILL get two lines of print if I want (e.g. for labelling rows in a propagation tray.
I've tried some extra-soft lead (BB), and it MIGHT be a little darker than HB.
But maybe it smears a LITTLE easier if I rub on it hard with my thumb.
Both kinds of lead look exactly the smae after being outside in the "sun" for two years. Of course, we have so much cloudy weather and we're so far north that our "sun" may be like your "shade".
I just bought some COLORED 0.7 mm mechanical pencil lead, but that seems like gilding the lily, and I expect they WILL fade in the sun.
At the peak of my enthusiasm, I tried throwing a free cheap mechanical pencil and some cut-up mini-blinds into seed trades, but it turns out that most people already have their own favorite method of labelling.
If I push enough short, narrow mini-blind labels into a prop tray or tray of 6-packs, they serve as tent-poles for supporting an 18" Saran Wrap humidity tent as if designed for the purpose.
Cindy thanks! I'm in NYC for the winter and it had never occurred to me to try an art supply store. Your suggestion nudged me in the right direction and thanks to you and Sam Flax I now have a good supply. I like pencil too, but it doesn't work on the smooth plastic labels that come free or bundled with some orders. Sharpies vanish by midsummer, so my plans to compare similar cultivars during the season have been somewhat thwarted.
Rick, a Magic Eraser is excellent to rough up a mini blind label. I use these for nearly everything, and when written in pencil, then covered with clear nail polish, they last a couple of years for me.
I'm midtown east. We're here for the winter- very old house, leaky insulation means it's
$$$ to heat. But I've been very busy already, 3 shelves up with lights in the kitchen window, all full. Next week 1 flat of various colors and heights snaps go to the country where it stays cooler, especially when we're not there during the week.
Someone told me that I could REMOVE pencil marks by just scrubbing vigourously with "green scrubbing pads", but for me that only lightened the pencil marks, I still had to use a pink rubber eraser to get the last off.
maybe "Mr. Clean" Magic Eraser will reomve all the old marks, and abrade it well for next year's marks!
>> when written in pencil, then covered with clear nail polish, they last a couple of years for me.
Cool! I had heard about spraying with a clear varnish, but never bought any. Nail polish sounds less messy!
I don;t think I've had any fade toi illegibility on me, and some have been outside for at least two years. if UV is a factir, we don;t have strong sun! I'm almost at the Canadian border, fairly far North.
Blueberry1264 wrote:I have found that a good quality white stick label written on with a #2 lead pencil or a lead pencil made for labels will out last the sharpie many times over. The ink in the sharpie will fade quickly when exposed to the sun and weather. I quit using the sharpie for labels years ago for this reason. You can also purchase thin metal tags that can be "written" on with a pencil. These are not good for small plants, but for larger ones they work okay. They must be tied onto the plant with a small wire that comes with the tag. Hope this helps.
True, a pencil works best. Sharpies just fade away then you forget what it was. I used to buy vinyl mini blinds for cheap and cut them up to make tags. Then I splurged and bought some white plastic markers from a greenhouse store. They've lasted me a long time now. I've reused the old ones by scratching names out and using the reverse side.
Dean - I do splurge on the white labels as well. Don't have miniblinds so that's not a source for me and I have to constantly edit all the stuff I collect for propagating in the name of recycling. As long as I can reuse the white labels, I hold on to them. Still experimenting with the Sharpie industrial strength pen but it's only been a month or two so no conclusions to be drawn yet.
I re-use the commercial white plastic labels by erasing the pencil, either with a pencil eraser or with fine sandpaper. I have many labels that have been refurbished and reused for as long as 7 years now. The sandpaper erasing technique has the added benefit of making the white plastic have more "tooth" to accept pencil marks better.
Zen, that's a great idea on the sandpaper. I think I'll try that whenever I trade plants. I certainly have a bucket full of white tags from buying new plants! For my own hostas, I'm going to have a go at painting river rocks with their names. That way, I can find them in the spring before they emerge =) Plastic and even wire labels don't work in my garden due to a horde of pernicious squirrels.
I used to label everything with those fancy zinc/wire labels but would curse myself every fall/spring when cleaning up leaves. Many have ended up in a compost pile. Now I only label when seed-starting or keeping tomatoes correctly id'd in the summer. Wonder if a Mr. Clean sponge would work as well as sandpaper.
I'm slowly switching to the plastic labels that are easily written on with pencil. Last fall i put dozens around after moving and dividing at least that many plants.
This spring they were all still perfectly legible -luckily, since some beauties have not yet condescended to show themselves, and could have been damaged without the trusty marker to protect their location. I also found a few from over a year ago, also still clear. To re-use, I erase them and rinse the dirt off.
This year I also bought paint pens, which I've been using on some I bought by mistake that are too smooth for pencil. I'm not sure yet how that will work out.
Since I work at a HD---the Blinds Dept. saves me a lot of the ends they cut off
when trimming the blinds.
This is especially good when they trim off about 18" from the length of a vertical blind.
SOOO many pieces! A nice, mundane chore cutting these up as I watch TV.
Mini blinds are already the perfect width. Just cut and shape and you are done.
Someone told me awhile back, that they write on a label with a permanent marker and push the marker down under the soil line and it will not fade...don't know if this works or not but I will be trying it the year. I've been using the mini blinds for labels for a couple years now...I like how I can make they as long or short as I want. I will be making them longer, writing on both ends of the label and half will be under the soil line...see if this works. tish
I recently attended an apple grafting class, and one of the instructors had fashioned tags made from vinyl siding, with a hole punched for a wire. He used a soft graphite pencil to mark the varieties. They look good and he says they last several years, so I bought a pack of soft graphite pencils that also included a few 2B graphite pencils.
It just so happens I have a single hole lever punch, and a piece of vinyl siding that was left under the porch when a previous homeowner sided the house. It cuts just fine with tin snips. I just made a few tags for some elderberry cuttings I started this spring (and hope to sell).
Yes, that is it. They are also usually available in local arts and crafts stores. They are wooden pencils, so you have to sharpen them "the old fashioned way". I have never had Ebony fade on commercial plastic labels. If the plastic labels seem too smooth to take pencil well, I lightly sandpaper the label with a fine grit sandpaper. That, combined with bearing down hard, produces very dense, dark marks.
My major reason to like mechanical pencils is "they're always sharp". And you can get them sharper and finer than I ever want: 0.9 mm is good for a bold mark, and 0.7 mm is plenty fine for me. But you can buy 0.5 mm or even 0.3 mm if you have a light touch and a magnifying glass!
>> Rick, with a mechanical pencil can you choose the softness of the lead? Which do you select? How are the STAEDTLER drafting pencils from JetPens different?
I'ved tried HB and B (B is softer). The difference is slight and may even be imaginary! But I imagine that the B is very slightly darker, but also very slightly more willing to smudge if I rub my thumb on the wsiritng, hard. So now I don't care. (I never tried 2B).
I happen to buy a brnad that cliams it has "Super-Polymer lead". Who knows, maybe it does break less pften!
Here's another subtle or imaginary difference: I started with very old, rather dirty and greasy mini-blinds. I tried washing them with Comet cleanser, which is slightly abrasive.. I IMAGINE that makes the surface slightly rougher and slightly better for taking a dark pencil mark. Or you can scrub them with a green nylon scrubber, which by the way takes some of the pencil mark off, if you re-use the blinds. VERY slightly abrasive, maybe.
Or you can put them through the dishwasher ... but don't use the heated-dry feature! Even very hot water may encourage them to get twisty. I made the mistake of winding some through the "pins" in the dishwasher rack, then washing. They may have had a few m inujtes of heated drying as well. The bends became permanent.
I also finally found a source of COLORED leads for mechanical pencils (0.7 m m, not 0.9 mm). They break much too easily for my clumsy fingers, and the colored mark is faint. So I don't use those.
Staedtler (or any classy mechanical pencil) has metal parts and is just better made than the dozen-for-a-few-bucks plastic cheapy pencils from Wal-Mart. One batch I bought was so cheap that not all of them held the lead firmly ... when you write, the lead is pushed back into the tip, so you have to keep twisting it out every few words. So I threw half of those away.
Thanks, Rick. I wonder where I went wrong -- the pencil I used way-back-when definitely didn't last, so of course that makes me nervous to try again -- but it would be so much easier to use pencil! Maybe I'll do a controlled experiment and report back in a few years (don't hold your breath!).
Oh I've tried that -- I lose the map; I move the plants on the bed and don't record the changes; the plants on the bed seem to move themselves; I can't read the map; plants die; I plant more plants; plants reseed. Etc.
A guy helps me with outdoors stuff -- he's been painting our house, and mows, work like that. And he doesn't charge much, and he works hard. But he HATES the plant labels I labor over. I don't think he tries to up-end them, but every day a few more escape their rightful place. Sometimes he just sticks them in a nearby pot -- I don't think he realizes that I will know a hosta is not an astible, etc.