What can I reuse or recycle to make seedling/plant labels?

It might still be February but our 2011 growing season is already off and running here.

In addition to the eight fruit trees John planted a couple of weeks ago, I planted out eight fruit bushes at the weekend and I started my first batch of cauliflower, greenhouse tomatoes and lettuce the weekend before last. Following a recommendation from The Cottage Smallholder, I’ve bought a heated propagator to give my other greenhouse crops – cucumbers, chillis, pepper & tomatoes – a warm start in life — I’m hoping that arrives in the post today so I can get started with them ASAP.

For the first few sowings, I can remember what is where — the lettuce are in the troughs & square pots, the tomatoes in the round ones, the caulis in the fibre ones – but in a few weeks, I won’t be able to remember where everything is. And outside, we’ll want to know next year (and the year after, and the year after that) which fruit trees & bushes are which variety.

In the past, I’ve used slices of drinks cans or plastic milk bottles as plant markers – and they work reasonably well if you remember to write on them using a permanent marker (which I didn’t do last year – lots of confusion mid-year). I also know other people who use ice lolly sticks (but there has been an unacceptable dearth of those consumed here in the last year) and the like. And some people buy white sticks to use as labels – buy? buy?! not I! ;)

Do you reuse or recycle any packaging or bits of “waste” to label your plants or seedlings? Do you have any suggestions for making long term labels – ones that’ll be weather-resistant for at least a few years?

(Photo by normanack)

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15 Responses to “What can I reuse or recycle to make seedling/plant labels?”


  1. Petra says:

    I cut pieces of plastic containers and their lids (of ice cream and the like). With a water-resistant marker, they can last for a few years.
    I also use little nice stones to mark my herbs in pots.
    Ice lolly sticks, I find a bit too small and they don’t last so long.
    From foam board, I made markers as well.

  2. Bellen says:

    I’ve used, with permanent markers:
    plastic forks – also useful for pricking out seedlings
    plastic containers – writing on the inside edge
    mini blind slats cut to length
    aluminum blind slat with name scratched on (found when an old house was
    cleaned out by neighbors)
    the seed packet covered with a bread bag – best to use an unprinted area
    small clear plastic bottles (spice, pill, bead, glitter) with lids – info put inside
    bottle planted lid side up

  3. anna says:

    I’ve used, with sharpies as permanent marker
    - usually white, thin plastic strips (cut yogurt containers etc)
    - plastic fork, knives etc (cutting the tool part off)
    - stips of a cut aluminium can
    - cut strips of cosmetic containers

    • Charlotte says:

      All great ideas, thanks, but i just wonder how you all attach the strips of recycled plastic or metal to sticks, or do you stick them in the ground? i worry they’d just get squashed in to the soil and lost.

      • Alice says:

        Loads of them are thick enough that the strips stick up on their own, but even purpose made shop bought labels fall over sometimes. It really doesn’t matter – hopefully nothing is going to trample around in your seedlings enough to bury the labels in the soil – you can just prop them up again.

        If you’re going to attach things to sticks then you might as well just write on the sticks – see my suggestion later in this thread…

  4. wongworks says:

    Reuse old coke or other aluminium cans.

    Instead of writing on the metal strips you get an old pen or other blunt point and, pushing firmly, emboss the name of the plant into the metal. Or you can write it using a series of dot points emboss into the metal.

    This will last years and you can cut the metal into attractive shapes eg hearts

  5. louisa says:

    You guys have given me confidence to try cans/plastic bottles again – but this time labelled with the correct pen :)

    I’m also going to keep an eye out for any blinds in skips!

    Thanks guys!

  6. louisa says:

    I’ve just posted this link over on Twitter but thought I should post it here too for posterity’s sake.

    I love these plant labels made from scrap sticks – http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/2011/02/stick-plant-markers.html

  7. Lesley says:

    I live fairly near the coast and whenever I visit I pick up razor clam shells which are ideal plant and seedling markers as I can write with indelible pen on the white side of the shells. They eventually break down into the soil leaving nothing but some soil improver. They are free and biodegrade.

  8. Meiko says:

    I use wooden chopsticks- similar to ice lolly sticks.

  9. Alice says:

    I tend to just shave a small flat bit with my knife on the end of whatever random sticks are lying around on my allotment, then write on those with a CD marker pen. I can reuse them the following year by shaving a bit more off, or by breaking the end of the stick off and shaving a new flat bit.

    Not very sophisticated, but they blend in nicely and I don’t end up with little plastic bits in the soil when the labels get lost.

  10. Svejker says:

    I like to use stuff that can’t be recycled so I save and cut up the plastic packaging that comes with all sorts of random consumer items. I write on the plant name and date with a CD marker.

    If the plastic is white or opaque, all the better, but even clear plastic reads okay if you put a ehind iscrap of paper b. After all, it’s there as a reminder rather than for daily reading (although i guess they could get lost).

    Maybe make them from fused plastic bags?

  11. Brad says:

    I’ve been using old blinds and it’s been working great. Just cut the blinds to the desired length and snip it to a point at one end. I find it best to use pencil. It won’t run off with water and you can erase and use them over again.

  12. Jane says:

    I use old washing line pegs with an indelible pen. Either plastic or wooden ones work, but the wooden ones fade after a while in the wet…you can then peg them to the side of the pot. I write on the actual peg.



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