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Labelling, without the plastic.

With ever-growing concern of plastics in the environment, we seek new ways of doing things with as little use of plastic as possible. Plastic labels are awful, they are generally one time use, and discarded once our plants have served their purpose, or end up in our compost for years to come. There seems to be very little effort made by label suppliers and garden centers to change this, but I am hoping the demand for plastic labels will be significantly lower now they seem to be going out of fashion, so some eco-alternatives will hit the shelves.

With this in mind, what alternatives, exactly, are there? I explore just a few of the options that are cheap, easy and either compostable or recyclable.

Tongue Depressors

First on the list is what I have always used. They are essentially large tongue depressors, they come in packs of 20,50 or 100 and are fantastic for labelling pots, and will quite happily go in to your compost next year, or rot down in the bed when they have done their job.

You can buy these from Ebay, simply search for Large Tongue depressors, and you are given a huge choice of options. I usually pay for a couple of hundred, knowing this will last me for at least a good year. They do a great job, but when they’ve been in the ground for a couple of months, they can start to go mouldy, and if unlucky, the mould can end up covering your writing. However, for labelling new seeds and plants in pots, they are fantastic.

Re-Usable Metal labels

Next are metal labels, more expensive than the tongue depressors, but provide a much more permanent label. They will not fade, as the writing on the labels leaves an imprint of your writing rather than ink, and actually work better with a sharp pencil. This is best if you are going to be planting perennials, so you know exactly what and when the plant was planted.

I occasionally use these if I think they are going to be in the ground for a long time.

Also, they can be re-used. You can write on both sides, but also, with a little patience, you can use sandpaper to rub out the writing and start again. In our old place, when we inherited the beautiful garden that used to be in the ‘Yellow Book’, we found these labels everywhere with an extraordinary amount of information on them, that had obviously been meticulously written years ago.

These can be bought from amazon by simply searching for metal aluminium labels, and are about £13.50 for 100 labels.

Natural labels from your garden

Finally, inspired by a National Trust garden that we visited earlier today, are these completely natural labels made from otherwise discarded/composted or burnt branches.

You will need a small hand-held garden saw, a sharp penknife or Stanley Knife, a black marker pen (one that will not fade in the sun)

Choose a large Thumb thickness sized branch, and saw it into 7 – 8″ inch pieces.

With each piece, use your finest whittling skills to shave off one side of the top of the stick. Large enough to write the details you need.

Using your black marker pen, write your label. I tend to add what it is, the variety, and date of being sown.

So far, I must admit, I really prefer the natural stick to any of the others. I think I will always use this in the future for any sowings I do direct into the soil. And it will save me money.

So, there you have it, no excuses anymore for using small plastic labels!

Originally posted 2018-06-01 17:48:18.

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