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Labels for seedlings (wooden is bad)

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Every year I do SOMETHING that was a bad call & would not repeat. I started twelve 72-cell trays over the last 3 weeks. All the trays were a mix of different annuals. I didn't do a very good job of labeling in past years, so I thought I would be diligent and label every cell this year. Since there are so many different things, I thought the cheapest would be popsicle sticks, cut in half. Almost everything is up and I have started to remove the domes. Although I have been more careful with over watering, the humidity got high with the domes. Now I have a mess with moldy sticks. Will the mold affect the seedling after the dome is removed and the stick wiped off?

Should I replace the sticks & rewrite on plastic boughten labels? Should I wipe them (wooden) off with a disinfectant wipe and hope the fuzz doesn't come back?
What do you use that is economical. I bought more plastic tags, but they get pricey when you need 1000. I have pre-labeled 5" plastic tags for the tomatoes, but they will not fit under the dome.

Thanks for your help.

Thumbnail by joannabanana
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

If you can clean the sticks with bleach then it's probably OK to stick them back in (depending on what you used for ink the bleach might take the ink off too), but otherwise I wouldn't, seedlings are so prone to fungal problems anyway there's no sense in adding another potential source. (As a side note, if there was enough moisture to make the sticks get moldy like that, things in there are probably too wet in there for the seedlings so really watch your watering)

For a longer-lasting but still cheap plant tag, some people take old mini blinds and cut them up to make tags, or you can use handles from plastic silverware.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Yes, way too wet. I was away for a few days, so my neighbor watered them....little too much. I will leave the domes off today and hopefully they will be fine.

Near Lake Erie, NW, PA(Zone 5a)

I second the mini blind slats as markers, I just write on them with pencil. The blinds are so inexpensive that if you don't have extra slats on hand, just buy a blind you'll be set for years of label making.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Another useful thing is inexpensive plastic knives- I but them in 100 packs- white , and I have a special plant marker that doesn't fade like sharpies do. Someone posted that mini blinds could contain harmful ingredients that may leach into the soil- maybe that is not true? I don't know- just a thought.

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

Cheap mini blinds had lead in them at one time. I've used popsicle sticks with good results. Sounds like way too much water.

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Here is what I did this year after reading that #2 pencil hold up pretty well out in the elements. After 10 days they look fine.

If the pencil doesn't hold up, I will try the Sharpie Rub-a-Dub before I go to a paint pen. I have several Rub-a-Dubs that were my moms when she was in an assisted living facility. The Rub-a-Dubs saw many washings and was still very visible. Now that I have remembered the Rub-a-Dub I will test it on one of the penciled tags to see if it makes it threw the season.



Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

The biggest problem with Sharpies isn't washing off, it's that they bleach out when exposed to sun. I'm not sure if the Sharpie Rub-a-Dub is any different than a regular Sharpie in that regard. The special garden markers won't fade out in the sun the way Sharpies do. For starting seedlings indoors you don't have to worry as much, but if you were planning to keep the tag with the plant when it moves outdoors that's something to think about.

Lubbock, TX(Zone 7b)

JB, I think you just solved the mystery of the fungus for me. I also sowed a couple of 72cell flats last weekend. Sterilized the water, flat, seeds,... but now the wooden skewers that I used to hold labels. I thought it was the peat pots initially because I didn't sterilize those, but now I see the skewer pieces are covered in fungus. I will never use wooden skewers again for labels. :( Stacey

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)


I have to laugh because this has been my standard procedure for three years straight - popsicle sticks. You can't get much cheaper than this. While I have never had fungal problems with mine, when they are in the humidity dome, the ink smudges. If items don't germinate quickly, I have no idea what they are because I can't read the writing.

This year, I decided to do something different, and try using the miniblinds. I didn't have an old blind hanging around the house. If it is broken, I get rid of it. I was surprised to find that I could buy a new one at Home Depot for $3.99 plus tax. I had no idea that they were so cheap. I was patting myself on the back, since I had almost spent $15 on Ebay for plant markers. Interestingly, they had a blurb on using blinds in this month's addition of Fine Gardening. I had already learned this from Daves Garden (another pat on the back)


I don't need labels for outside. By the time I am transplanting, I can tell what the plant is. My labeling is just for the inside, when all the seedlings look alike.

Galesburg, IL

IGC Megastore has rolls of 1000 4.5x1 inch stakes for $16.00.

I've ordered quite a few items from this company and am very happy with the prices on all supplies and their quick service/shipping.

NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

Vinyl mini blinds still can have lead in them if they are imported. The law we have only applies to U.S. manufacturers, so any blinds can be imported with lead. I have aluminum mini blinds that I use in my house.

Livermore, CA(Zone 9a)

I had fungal problems on the peat pods for my seedlings (too much water but I had to get them planted). I used hydrogen peroxide (2 T/qt of water) and it took care of the fungus. Plus, H202 is good for the plants. The little seeds are popping up nicely ;) Here's the mixing chart http://www.using-hydrogen-peroxide.com/gardening-with-hydrogen-peroxide.html. I too used popcycle sticks and they aren't showing any signs of fungus yet. If they do start, I'll just spray them with the H202. Hope this helps.

Livermore, CA(Zone 9a)

oops, resent message...

This message was edited Feb 22, 2009 8:53 AM

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)


I'm not sure that H202 will make a difference with the popsicle sticks. That's what I use to water all of the time, but the sticks still end up looking grungy. I think it is because they are thin pieces of wood that are up to constant moisture. By the time they come out of the humidity dome, they are fairly wet. The constant contact with moist soil is also is also not good for the wood.

Near Lake Erie, NW, PA(Zone 5a)

Sunny, I booked marked that page, thank you. I always forget the ratio. I have also used H2O2 on my seedling soil. Thanks for the link.

Livermore, CA(Zone 9a)

Ladygardener, you are welcome. Pennefeather, this is the first year to use the popsicle sticks. Your explanation sounds right - I'll keep an eye on them. Too good to be true - cheap labels. Sounds like the plastic ones are the way to go. Or maybe I'll try the plastic knives. Thanks JoParrott for that great idea.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Great Link. thanks. It took a few days, but finally replaced all the popsicle sticks with plastic tags.

This message was edited Feb 22, 2009 10:14 AM

Beebe, AR(Zone 7b)

I couldn't find window blinds.I always had trouble with popsicle sticks. You just have to eat all that ice cream and popsicle to get the sticks it. It's just so harddd. We had colored pipe cleaner lying around so we made twists of different colors and made little tiny candy canes and stuck them in. In the picture attached it is 60 of our hierloom tomato seeds. The purple blue twist relates to "Brandywine" and the Yellow Green relateds to "Bloody Butcher". So far it works great. Great Days----G

Thumbnail by gerryd41
Napa, CA

I've cut up the flat side of milk cartons, made them with one pointy end to stick in the dirt--it's water proof and fungus can't find anything to eat on it. I write on them with Sharpie's, but I have the same sunlight fading problem there.

Lubbock, TX(Zone 7b)

I'm convinced Joanna. I have started so many containers of seeds and the ONLY one that I had any obvious fungus problem with was the one that I used the bamboo skewers to hold my plant tags. I'll never do that again.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I buy the wooden popcycle sticks used for crafts to label plants. Never had a problem during the many years I have used them. It isn't the sticks that causes the problem. It is overwatering or too much moisture if the seed flat is covered. The dome/cover should be lifted off once a day to allow fresh air and oxygen to the seedlings. Also, wipe off the moisture from the inside of the dome/cover.

If too much condensation develops inside the cover, prop it up 1/2" or so. Clothes pins are great for this purpose.

Brainerd, MN

I thought popcycle sticks would be too wide so I used colored toothpicks and then extended the number of ID code options by blacking the tip, making a ring around them, and using a tip and ring. That's about 18 different ID codes and more can be created by using colored markers on the colored toothpicks, instead of black. BUT... now do I have to worry about them developing fungus too?

Fairhaven, MA

An alternative I have found useful if you are limiting your varieties to 10 or 15 is the colored paper clips one can find at places like Staples. They come in solid colors, fluorescents and lots of striped versions. They do not get fungal.
Cleaning up my raised beds today, however, I must warn that they do not degrade easily.

st.george, NB(Zone 5a)

Trash to Treasure Forum has a discussion about using soda pop cans to make inexpensive plant labels.

Riverdale, NJ(Zone 6a)

I simply make a map on graph paper, showing the ref marks on my planting trays and listing what I put where. When I repot to plastic cups or peat pots, I write on the side of the container with a sharpie. When they go outside I transfer the info and transplanting date to a crafter's Popsicle stick. If you keep the info facing away from the sun and well clear of the soil, it stays readable for most of the season. By the time itís a blur, I can recognize and/or remember what's what. I only plant about 30 varieties of veggies, so it's no big deal.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I have also used a piece of duct tape on the side of the seeding flat and write the name, and date sown, with a black marker. The brown tape used for taping boxes for shipping works good also. I leave a small part of a corner folded in for easy removal later.

St John's, Antigua and Barbuda(Zone 10a)

My peroxide doesn't say if it is 3% or 35%?

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

If you bought your peroxide at a pharmacy/ retail store for medicinal purposes, it's likely 3%. 35% isn't easy to come by, to my experience.

St John's, Antigua and Barbuda(Zone 10a)

So what was the ratio for 3% again...sorry still not navigating well LOL

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