Who are you sending out to harvest your garden? Do you wonder why the 'spinach' your son picked actually tastes like arugula? Although there are a million ways to make plant markers, from sticks and tape to cut up window blinds, I wanted something a bit more fun and colourful in my garden to label my plants.
Step 1: Materials and Equipment
- tongue depressors or craft sticks
- corrugated cardboard for template
- acrylic paints and paint brush
- chalkboard paint - optional
- painters masking tape - optional
- laser cutter
- CorelDRAW design file (attached)
Update: In the photos, the sticks were offset between rows to save on materials (out of habit). In this case, it resulted in the etching taking longer. I have updated the design file to line the sticks up horizontally and reduce the etching time.
Step 2: Cut Positioning Template
To position the craft sticks accurately for etching the labels, I created a positioning template out of corrugated cardboard. For best results, leave the template in position after cutting it out and place the painted sticks carefully in the slots without moving the template.
Step 3: Paint Your Sticks
Using acrylic paint, mix up a palette of colours that are interesting to your eyes and that will be contrasting to your plants, ie. I would avoid using greens so that the markers show up! Paint the top two thirds of your sticks.
You can also paint and the other sides of each stick if you want (I decided not to), and/or paint some of your sticks with chalkboard paint to have on hand for labelling any late additions to the garden.
Neat paint lines: I painted the sticks rather sloppily, since i don't mind the look and knew that the laser cut letters would give them some uniformity. If you want a cleaner look, wrap a piece of green painters masking tape around the stick at about 2 1/2" from the bottom before you paint your stick. When the paint is dry, peel off the tape and it will give you a clean line.
Step 4: Laser Etch Plant Names and Cut Out the Tips
Place the painted craft sticks in the slots cut in the cardboard to easily line them up for cutting and etching - note the painted end of the stick is to the left.
Send the print file to the cutter to cut the tips and etch the plant names.
Step 5: Label Your Plants!
Take your pile of fancy new plant labels and stick them in your garden! I am sure you will end up making another set for your sister and your neighbours...
Note: If you don't have access to a laser cutter, or want to go low tech, you can also shape the thin craft sticks with all purpose kitchen scissors and, although not nearly as colourful, you can use black chalkboard paint on the sticks and then chalk to write your labels. As a bonus, this would give you the advantage of being able to reuse the sticks if you plant different things next year, and to not have to decide on what you are planting before you prepare your labels!