I have about a 1 week memory span when it comes to my garden varieties. Every year, when planting out transplants or seeding, I tell myself “remember, these are such-and-such variety.” While I’m pretty confident I can tell a tomato and a squash apart, I promptly forget which variety is planted where. Until they are completely ripe and I eat it, for example, I have no idea which type of melon I’ve got. Not knowing, of course, can be a fun experiment, but it makes recording “first to bloom” or “promptly devoured by rolly-pollies” in the gardening journal much harder when you don’t have a name. And because “the third plant to the left” is of no use to future years, I end up not recording anything. Which causes a problem when I go back to consult an empty journal to see what variety did the best.
The solution, simply label my plants! Not a hard or new concept, I know. The small tags I use when starting seeds, made from cut up mini-blinds, get lost in my beds. The plastic tags that come with plants from the nursery inevitably break off at soil level or mysteriously disappear. So I took a material that I have in abundance, canning jar lids, and made some clearly visible and durable plant tags!
The flat lids from home canning can only be used once for the actual canning process. While I use a handful of them again to store dry goods or things in the fridge, I have an insane amount, and they pile up every year. This is the perfect upcycle project for them!
To make your own upcycled plant tags, first make the stand section. Round up some bailing wire. I got mine from Home Depot- it’s in the hardware section. If you were super industrious, you might upcycle some wire hangers. Bailing wire comes in different gauges, or thicknesses, so find one that you can easily bend but not too flimsy that it will bend on its own. Using wire cutters, snip off a length of to your desired length, mine were about a foot. Then, using needle-nose pliers, create a curl at the top to hang the tag from. You can get creative on what shape you use.
Next, make the tag. Place your lid on a scrap piece of wood, and punch a hole in the edge using a nail or a drill. Then, write your plant variety on the tag with Sharpie. Thread the tag onto the wire stand, you might have to bend the wire a bit, and proudly stick in the ground next to your plant!
They do fade a bit in the sun after a season, but that makes them even more reusable- just write over last season’s variety! I’m sure you could seal them somehow to prevent the fading, but I’m fine with just the Sharpie. Maybe one day I’ll muster up more creative energy and use paint, or add glitter or rhinestones or googly-eyes. I could probably even glue sections of mirror to them to ward off birds. But for now, I’m now satisfied with the fact I know what variety I’m growing, right from the start! The lids can easily be removed off the stand and stored away until the next season, and the stand can be used again for a different tag. As a bonus, they make a nice soft tinkling sound when the wind blows, so I’ve added a gentle noise element to my garden as well!