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Picture of Easy, Cheap Garden Tags From Disposable Spoons
Ok, I first posted this on a forum at a cactus website, as I did not think of instructables at the time. Second, this is my first instructable, but I'm not going to tell y'all to go super-easy on me. If you see some errors, let me know! I don't want to be putting out error-ridden instructables. Anyways, on with the good stuff! With yesterday being arbor day, I figured that it would be a perfect time to post this! Being a student, I often find myself finding ways to save as much money as possible. One of the things that costs quite a bit of money (at least here in Dallas) are garden tags. a mere 25 of them cost about $5. While this isn't a huge loss of money, I'd still rather save my $5. The other day, while walking through a grocery store, I saw some plastic spoons, and thought to myself "Wow! Those would work great!" Being only about $2 for a pack of around 200 or so, I snatched 'em up, and went to work to make a garden tag, and within half-an-hour, I'd found a great, quick method!
 
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Step 1: Obtain The Materials

Picture of Obtain The Materials
Thumbtacks.jpg
The first thing that you need to do, is obtain your materials. For a basic identification tag, you will need:

*Plastic Spoon(s)
*Cigarette Lighter
*Sharp Scissors
*Fine-Tipped Sharpie


If you are wanting to make the "advanced" garden tag, which uses a color-code system to eliminate the need for writing down the genus, you will also need the following:

*Colored Thumbtacks


Optional:

*600 Grit Sandpaper
*Pencil

Step 2: Creating A Pointed Tip

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Step 1-b.jpg
To create a pointed tip for the garden tag, so that it may be stuck into the ground with ease, first take the spoon in one hand, and light the lighter in the other, and slowly (not too slowly though, if you are to slow, the plastic will blacken), move the spoon back and forth over the flame, making sure that the flame is touching the part of the spoon were the handle meets the bowl. Keep this up just until the bowl bends down under its weight. From here, you must move quickly, as you must do this next part while the plastic is still pliable. Holding the handle of the spoon in one hand, carefully twist the bowl of the spoon several times, and slowly pull it out from the handle by about about two inches, to form a point (there should be a thin thread of plastic that follows the bowl, this is exactly what we want). This point will allow the identification tag to be stuck into the soil. Keeping the line of plastic straight with the handle of the spoon, hold the bowl of the spoon steadily in one place for about 5 seconds or so, so that the thin plastic thread may harden into place.

Step 3: Cutting The Tag Down To Size

Picture of Cutting The Tag Down To Size
Since the identification tag will obviously not work with the long thread for a point, we need to cut the thread down, until it is just a small tip, like that of a pencil. To do this, simply take your scissors, position them over the area where the thread of plastic meets the point that was created at the end of the handle, and make a single, clean cut. While doing this to the normal handle of a plastic spoon would cause it to splinter*, the thin thread cuts very easily, and makes a clean break at the end. At this point, you will no longer need the bowl, so do what you wish with it. I find that it makes a great "shovel" for making holes for seeds!

*If you find that the handle of the spoon does happen to splinter, then the odds are that the plastic that your spoon is made out of is much denser than mine was. If this is the case, simple pull the thread out an extra inch or so when you are creating it, and the problem should be eliminated!

Step 4: Finalizing The Basic Tag

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Step 3 - b - basic tag complete.jpg
At this point, you should have a basic tag. From here, you can either set it aside for later use, make more tags, or go ahead and label it, or you may move on and create the "advanced" garden tag. To label it, Take the Sharpie, and write on it like you would any other tag. To create the "advanced" garden tag, head on over to the next step!

I would like to take a moment here to address an issue that came up when I first posted this on the cactiguide forum. Many of the users there found that over the years, Sharpie runs off of their tags. While I haven't been making these tags for over a year, I cannot say that they do the same or not, but I can offer an alternative. Many of the people on the forum suggested using pencil to write the tags with. One of the problems with using pencil on a plastic spoon, is that the spoons are typically smooth and glossy, and therefore, pencils will not make a mark on them. To address this issue, I tinkered around with my tags, and found a way that enables pencils to be used. To use a pencil on the tag, take a very fine grit sandpaper (I used 600), and sand down the tag, from the top to the point, in individual, full strokes. This creates a surface that is just rough enough to allow the pencil grind graphite into. If you choose to do this, do not move the sand paper back and forth, speeding like an ADHD 1st grader. If you do this, the surface will likely melt from the heat caused by the friction of the spoon and the sandpaper, and leave you with an unsightly stick of plastic that nothing will write on to any recognizable degree!

Step 5: The Advanced Garden Tag

Picture of The Advanced Garden Tag
The "advanced" garden tag is unique in that it eliminated the need of writing the genus of the plant on it by using a color-code system. I have found this very helpful for many of my plants, and especially my cacti, as instead of having to poke myself every time I pick up a tag to see the genus of the species (yes, I know this is part of the hobby, but when you're going through a bunch of Opuntia, it's redundant), I merely have to scan my eyes over the tags, and look for certain colors. To begin the construction of this tag, take an unlabeled tag from the basic method, and choose a thumbtack of a color you wish to use to represent the genus of the plant your tag will be for (for example, in this case, I used a blue thumbtack to represent Cereus, a genus of cacti).

Step 6: Color-Code The Tag

Picture of Color-Code The Tag
This step can prove to be a slight hazard, as you are forcing a thumbtack through plastic. If you follow these steps correctly, nothing should go wrong, but please, be careful, and do not try to rush things! To color-code the tag, place the identification tag on a piece of carpet, backside down, and very slowly (and very carefully) push the thumbtack through the tip, holding the tag down with your pointer, middle-finger, ring-finger, and pinkie, and pushing the thumbtack with your thumb (doing this reduces the amount of movement in the tag dramatically). If this is not done carefully, the thumbtack may split the plastic, or slip and poke you, so be cautious! If you are slow, and do not force the thumbtack to go through the plastic immediately, at a certain point, it will just pop right through!

Step 7: De-Spine

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Step 5-b.jpg
At this point, the tag is nearly complete. The tag has been successfully color-coded, and is just about ready to be labeled. All that we need to do now, is remove the sharp point protruding through the back of the tag from the thumbtack. If you have a cacti garden, you may or may not find this step necessary, as you probably have some cacti that have spines worse than the thumbtack's point, but I would still recommend doing this step, as it removes any danger the point may pose, and also secures the thumbtack in place. All that we are doing here is bending the point down to where it is parallel with the tag. To do this, take the tip of the scissors (the rounded side), and slowly push the point until it bends down.

Step 8: Finalizing The Advanced Tag

Picture of Finalizing The Advanced Tag
We now have a color-coded, unlabeled tag. From here, you may either set it aside, and make more, or go ahead and label it. I would actually recommend setting it aside and making more, until you have made several different colors, so that you may go ahead and make a chart of your color-coding system. In the end though, the choice is up to you! Remember to dispose of any waste properly, so that you don't pollute our earth, or your own garden! Enjoy!

Thanks for sharing. It is a great idea. the left over the spoon make it into a lamp shape , so you waste nothing. Use a lot of plastic spoon you can design a stylish chandelier with no thought. Below you can see how to do it with a video thumbnail. It is Nyt-liite's video. -- https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153159671086667&set=vr.10153159671086667&type=2&theater

prismcat2 years ago
Great instructable! If I get around to doing this though, I think I would just light a candle to melt the plastic instead of taking a chance of burning my thumb holding the lighter. Thanks!
ehfish6 years ago
I love this project, but I have to add that I'd so much rather people hang on to their plastic after using it at a fast food restaurant than going and buying a box of them at the store, that would truly be recycling then.
prismcat ehfish2 years ago
Agreed.
kellyndiy3 years ago
I use plasticware too-for marking my seed trays for the veggies i grow every spring. I have everyone I camp with save decently clean spoons and knives.. if its super yukky-just toss it. I dont take the spoon part off though, I just write on it. As shawn_allen said below too, everyone buys those sets of plasticware but mostly the knives dont get used so those work wonderfully. SInce the ink doesnt last forever and each year I dont plant the same things, I actually leave mine out all winter, by spring the ink fades enough to just write back over them and reuse them... or write on the other side :) I like the color coding tacks , will adopt that into my markers for perm flowers I have-thanks!
This is a 5 star solution. I was looking for an inexpensive way to mark my seedlings... and now I have one!
sonic_dan7 years ago
instead of paying money for plastic spoons, i make them out of the tubs that butter / ice cream etc comes in. just cut strips about 1.5cm wide, and cut them to the desired length, then make them pointed. The piece of the tub's rim that's left at the top of the tag is good as it's easy to grip and pull them out. But this instructable is pretty comprehensive - i don't think its worth me doing one. +1 from me!
What I use is mostly the plastic knives that come with the sets. Most people don't even use the knife for anything and the blade sinks right into the garden soil. I also use a Sharpie to mark it, but first put a piece of "invisible" cellophane tape on the handle. When that plant is taken out (or the end of the season) just pull off the tape and it's blank again for next use. (BTW, don't put them back for use. I, for one, wouldn't want to use a utensil that had been in fertilizer, no matter how often it's washed! :-) )
Another option is using mini blinds. Those mini blinds don't last all that long, but instead of throwing them away, cut them into 6 inch pieces. Write on them with a Sharpie. Or since they only cost about $5 each, you could buy the blinds just for this. You get several hundred tags out of a blind.
minerallad (author)  sonic_dan7 years ago
That's pretty cool! I never thought of that! I love how there are so many ways to save money, and at the same time recycle, and help out the environment! Maybe I'll play around, with some of the tubs, and make an instructable off your idea for you =]
nwlaurie4 years ago
From England: we don't have Sharpies here (whatever they are!) but I find that a CD labelling pen works on most things plastic. Also has the advantage of being sold in packs of four different colours. Let the colour-coding continue!
foobear7 years ago
Oh, this is such a good idea. Good job. Isn't it funny how hard it is sometimes to see beyond the form a common thing that we are used to. This is a great solution for what to do with those plastic utensils. I always feel guilty about tossing them out, now I have a reason not to! =)
DainiusGB7 years ago
i would always just use popsicle sticks. They are easier to write on and we would sometimes color code them with different color marker. Plastic spoons might leak some evil plasticky substance into the ground that would hurt my flowers but i dont really know.
Awesome! You know, you could've added this to the contest. Great job. +1 rating.
bigt46167 years ago
you know, i would never think of this, are you left handed because leftys are more creative
iq_abyss7 years ago
ooh, prison shanks...
Brennn107 years ago
Wow, excellent instructions! And Thank You, for reusing this piece of silverware that is so often ignorantly just thrown out.

Thank you, and very nice job!

I love when people are Green!
Very Cool! Great Instructable! Thanks Joe