Gardening and Food Production Waste

Recycled Plant Tags

  • July 9, 2014
  • 3 min read

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Here’s a useful Plastic Free July project.
Scrounge some ice cream container lids and cut them up into plant tags, all ready for spring.

Plant labels help you remember which variety of vegetable you have planted. This is most helpful when you have more than one variety of a plant, especially when you are comparing different heirlooms for suitability in your area. It’s also a good idea to jot it down in a journal, in case the label gets lost. Labels also show you what’s in those pots and punnets before the leaves emerge.

If you don’t get around to writing down varieties of vegetables, at least record which fruit trees you have planted. Trees last for many years, and the label will eventually fall off or become unreadable. Different varieties thrive in different areas, and if you forget what you’ve planted you won’t be able to buy more of the same or recommend them to your neighbours. It’s also important to know varieties to maximise pollination.

For small labels for seed trays and the vegie patch, cut up old plastic containers into strips or triangles. White ice cream container lids make a good flat writing surface. Even clear plastic will do in a pinch. Mine last a few seasons. This is a good project for Plastic Free July.

You can also use white plastic knives or wooden popsticks, or cut strips of aluminum cans and impress the name onto them with a blunt pencil or dried up pen. Popsticks can be written on with a ballpoint pen. Pick them all up as they are no longer needed and throw them into something, so you can go through them next season at seed planting time.

I also save the labels from punnets of seeds from the nursery, sometimes writing a home-grown variety on the front. Handy for things like coriander and pak choi, which don’t often have a specific variety.

Here’s how to make 16 labels from a 2 litre ice cream container lid:

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First, cut the sides off. This is the hardest part. I haven’t figured out a use for these strips, so these are the only bits that I throw away. Do you have an idea to use them for?

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Then, cut the lid into strips. It doesn’t matter if some are wider than others; some plant varieties have longer names! I leave about enough space for a name and a date.

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Now you have a pile of strips.

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I used to cut these into neat pointed ends, but this created little triangles of waste. Now, I just snip them all on an angle. Having a point helps when poking them into the ground later.

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There’s all your labels cut!

Now all you have to do is write on them. I use a permanent black pen.

If you’re really organised, you could write a label for every seed packet you have and store them together. Or several labels each, for things like lettuce, carrots and beans that are sown multiple times over the season.

I like to go through my seeds before planting day, putting all the varieties I want to sow into an old envelope, with their matching labels. If I don’t get around to doing this beforehand, I always underestimate the time it takes to ‘quickly’ sow a few punnets of something.

If you don’t eat ice cream, ask someone who does to save the lids for you. Making seed packets and plant labels from recycled materials reduces the waste in your rubbish bin, saves you money and it’s fun!

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  • Oh my goodness, you do that too! I’ve never seen anyone else doing this – well, maybe with pyrographed wood or engraved slate shards (an abundant material here).
    I tend to cut my labels from white, 5Litre cans. I cut a side panel out of the can, and use it for labels, and burn holes in the other side so I end up with a square plant pot. I also have (less) 25 litre cans which are really thick. The upper part of those get made into labels and tags too, the bottoms make good upright planters!

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