What kind of plant is that?
Has that ever happen to you?
It happens to me a lot. I will plant seeds in what appears to be the ‘perfect spot’, confident that the location will trigger a memory of what I planted there, except that sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, I have no idea what it coming up. In those cases, I have to wait until the plant reaches a recognizable size. That’s fine when it turns out to be what I planted, but it’s a waste of soil, sun, and space when it turns out to be a pesky weed that has choked out the intended resident.
Using plant markers is a handy way to remind yourself of what is planted and where. This can help you take better care of your plants, especially when it comes time for feeding, propagating, or transplanting. Plant markers can also be used as lovely yard art. Here are several ideas for free (or nearly free) plant markers for your garden.
If your family eats popsicles, have them save the sticks. This works best if you create a place for them to collect: a cup, box, planter pot - something convenient. These wooden sticks will not last forever, usually no more than a single growing season, but they are fabricated with the intention of touching food, so I assume they are relatively safe. Popsicle stick plant markers absorb gel pen and marker colors nicely, so you can make them look colorful and easy to read. These plant markers are an excellent choice for seed starting. When the begin to wear out, you can simply toss them into the compost pile.
I used to own a private school, called Children’s Academy, in Virginia. We were on three acres and had a vegetable garden, a butterfly garden, and a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and other plants. I encouraged my students to go out and select a plant, conduct research, and identify it. Whoever identified it first was given the opportunity to select a large rock, paint the common and scientific names of the plant on the rock, and then place it near the plant. The kids seemed to enjoy it (they became a bit competitive about it, at times) and the rocks made beautiful reminders of what was growing around our school. You can do the same thing in your yard, especially for the perennials.
I have found that there’s a lot of scrap wood laying around in the world (meaning, my backyard). I also had a bunch of short, skinny bamboo poles from some other project. A quick poke with my drill on the bottom flat edge of each board and inserting a bamboo rod created instant plant markers. I painted a pseudo image of each plant and added the common and scientific names. Viola! Free plant markers.
If you have a log or decent sized branch laying around, and a saw, you can cut disks of wood that make lovely plant markers. This requires some effort if you do not have a power saw, but it is certainly do-able. The wood grain looks really nice, without standing out too much, and the edge can be sunk into the soil enough to make it stand up or you can lay them flat.
Yard sales & garden markets
Yard sales and Master Gardener events are excellent sources for low-cost garden tools, and plant markers are no exception. Flatware, old mugs, saucers, and many other durable materials can be had for practically nothing and then painted with plant names.
Give yourself permission to be creative. Heck, go for flamboyant! You can add a touch of your personal creativity to the garden or landscape while making it easier to recall where all of your plants are!
I hope this information inspires you to grow more of your own food. You can ask your garden questions on my Home page.