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Labels to keep track of your plants and planting.

You'll never forget a plant's name if the plant carries a label. And if you have a large collection of plants such as roses, camellias, or fruit trees, labels are indispensable for keeping track of varieties.

Labels are also handy for marking areas where you've sown seeds especially if you're growing several different vegetables or annuals that require thinning to various distances. In addition, if you keep your garden experiments labeled, at the end of the season you'll have a better idea which varieties to plant again and which ones were duds. Labels can also note planting or sowing dates.

What kind of label you choose depends on how long you need it to stay in place. Here and on the following pages, we show a range of labels commercially available.

Many gardeners devise homemade temporary labels by cutting strips from bleach bottles or using sticks from frozen juice bars. Or push a short piece of an old Venetian blind into the ground, or hang it with a wire threaded through a hole punched in the metal.

Long-lasting lettering

For durable lettering, you can incise the identification into soft aluminum tie-on labels (with those shown above, you can write on both sides). Use any pointed implement, such as a sturdy pencil or ballpoint pen.

Vinyl lettering tape is also long-lasting, especially if you attach it to a metal label or to acrylic. Even if the colors fade, you'll still have the raised type, and the tape bonds permanently to the label backing. Or consider using an electric engraver ($16) to etch lettering into metal. This is more difficult to read than the tape, but it's permanent.

Grease pencils and ordinary pencils work well and can be erased (so the label's reusable) but may last only a season; regular pencil tends to fade more quickly. Permanent felt-tip marking pens produce lettering tbat can last several years. These are excellent for wood, plastic, and zinc labels, and for marking clay pots.

Labels with looks

You might want to try a more decorative type such as the plastic label at far right in the large photograph above. That one's from Lillian Vernon (510 S. Fulton Ave., Mount Vernon, N.Y. 10550; free catalog). Each set contains a dozen assorted bright blue, green, yellow, and red stakes with 2 dozen white tags for plant names. If those seem too bright, consider the acrylic stakes shown in the same photograph. These come in two sizes, with a range of vegetable, flower, and herb names already incised. Or special-order the names you want (35 cents per letter over the standard price). These long-lasting labels are available from iTOI Enterprises, Box 59, Newton Highlands, Mass. 02161. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope for a descriptive flyer.

An attractive and simple alternative is to staple seed packets to large wooden labels. Seal them first in clear stickyback plastic (available in stationery stores), as shown on page 168; staple label to stake in two spots. (Foil packets don't need plastic protectors.)

How to treat them, where to buy them

Make sure you attach hanging labels loosely so they won't cut into wood as plants grow. You might want to replace thin metal ties (often too short, anyway) with heavier, plastic-covered bell wire. This will last longer and is widely available in hardware stores.

Aluminum, zinc, and acrylic tags can be considered permanent. Plastic and wood are definitely short-term alternatives. A wooden label, stuck into the ground, rots very quickly. The thin plastics get brittle ftom heat and sun, and may break off in a season. Heavier plastic labels may give you use for several seasons if they don't get left out all year. All these materials fare better if not exposed to intense sun.

If you have a large collection of, say, fruit trees or roses, try to place a label in about the same spot for each plant. That way, you can find hanging labels quickly and are less likely to accidentally knock over stake-type markers.

To label bulbs after digging them up, you can write directly on them with a permanent marker. For irises, many gardeners write on the leaves with a hard pencil, as shown above left. (Or simply sort bulbs into labeled paper bags.)

Nurseries and garden supply stores usually have the wood, plastic, and aluminum labels shown here. Zinc labels are widely sold by mail order. Two Western sources are Gardener's Eden (Box 7307, San Francisco 94120) and Smith & Hawken (25 Corte Madera, Mill Valley, Calif. 94941); both offer free catalogs.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1989
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