What to do with plastic plant labels? Here’s one idea.

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This spring Karin and I are continuing to develop our garden which I have previously talked about in relation to the Big Garden Birdwatch and Renovating a Front Garden, for instance, as well as various posts about the pollinators I’m recording (search the blog for “garden pollinators” and you’ll see what I mean).

The main task over the past couple of weeks has been to demolish the old chicken run and plant it as a mixed border that will give interest all year round.  We’ve put in some plants that have been hanging around in pots for a few years waiting for a space to open up, plus bought clearance-area bulbs and perennials such as crocuses, narcissi, hyacinths and hellebores at knock-down prices (they look a bit scrappy at the moment but will be great next year).  Plus we’ve spent a bit of money on some nice flowering shrubs and small fruit trees.

The plants we’ve bought invariably come in a plastic pot which we re-use for propagating and giving plants away to friends.  However they usually also come with a plastic label that tells us at least the name of the species and variety, plus often cultivation details and a colour image.  The question is: what to do with these labels?  The obvious thing is to leave them on the plant or push them into the ground next to it to remind us what it is.  The problem with this is that (in my experience) the labels never last more than a year or two before the ink fades.  Over time the plastic starts to break down and you end up with fragments of the label in the soil.  There’s a lot of discussion online about how harmful different types of plastic can be, but there’s no doubt that some types can release toxins into the soil.  Regardless, it seems to us a bad idea to allow these plastic labels to disintegrate in the garden.  It also feels like a waste of resources: those labels took oil and energy to produce.

This year the BBC’s Gardeners’ World series is looking at ways to reduce the use of plastic in the garden, which is a good idea and another reason why I love the programme, as I’ve previously written about on the blog.  That got me thinking about the best way to deal with plastic plant labels, what else can you do with them other than leave them in the garden?

I suspect that if we put them out with the weekly plastic recycling they’ll just be landfilled, so that’s not an option.  However, like a lot of gardeners we keep a log book of what we’ve been planting, but we’re a bit lazy about keeping it up to date.  So we’ve taken to slipping those labels between the pages of the log book to remind us of what we have put into the garden.  The book is one of those with an elasticated retainer to keep it closed, so the labels don’t fall out when we move it on and off the shelf.  Hopefully the labels will last for years in there away from damp and light, and be a useful source of information for us in the future.

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If you’ve curious, here’s how that part of the garden looked before we started working on it; everything you see here has been re-used or recycled in one way or another:

20180330_105640.jpg And this is what it looks like now; we still have more plants to add and hopefully the border will fill out come the summer:

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12 Comments

Filed under Gardens

12 responses to “What to do with plastic plant labels? Here’s one idea.

  1. Transitioning a garden does take patience, doesn’t it. Nice way of using the plastic labels anyway. Apart from their disintegrating in the soil, they also tend to get misplaced. There are a number in my garden which I didn’t put there.

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  2. ‎To make longer lasting plant labels, I used to cut the top and bottom from aluminium drink cans (which you can usually find to hand almost anywhere), and open out the remaining tube into flat sheets. This can then be embossed-written on with an empty Bic, or similar firm, biro, and cut to whatever size you like. You can also write on the ‘tin’ cans, but they tend to go rusty, and not look so good. If you’re careful, you can cut them with a wrap around tongue for smaller plants, or you can easily punch a hole for a wire tie.Good luck. SteveH

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    • A nice idea, thanks Steve! I’ve used beer can labels as plant markers for field work, but not in the garden.

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      • Thanks Jeff.

        I went and replied via the email notification again, and it’s put the whole email data in as well. And, just to make it worse, the WordPress login won’t let me click into the address field with any of the 6 browsers I have on this BlackBerry.
        Can you delete at your end again?

        WordPress seems to be more trouble than it’s worth these days. :/

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      • OK, I have edited out the extraneous text.

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    • To make longer lasting plant labels, I used to cut the top and bottom from aluminium drink cans (which you can usually find to hand almost anywhere), and open out the remaining tube into flat sheets. This can then be embossed-written on with an empty Bic, or similar firm, biro, and cut to whatever size you like. You can also write on the ‘tin’ cans, but they tend to go rusty, and not look so good. If you’re careful, you can cut them with a wrap around tongue for smaller plants, or you can easily punch a hole for a wire tie.

      Good luck.
      SteveH

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  3. SQ Huang

    Could you check your email on a study of pollen protection that I sent yesterday ? Shuang-Quan

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  4. Labelling is a problem. I need to label my plants as, although I keep a journal, little plants are easy to lose before they become established. I have been using plastic sticks and wrap-around ties which I think are mainly plastic. I would love to hear about alternatives as I must stop using them. Amelia

    Liked by 1 person

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