How to make your own garden markers

Story and Photos by Sue Hughes

Every spring I struggle with how to identify what I’ve planted. Part of the problem is that I demand my plant markers have the following attributes:
• Inexpensive, if not free
• Durable enough to last all season, if not multiple seasons
• Highly visible
• Easy to make
• Reusability is a plus, as is attractiveness, color, and whimsy. 

Of course, I could purchase attractive plant markers, but my garden entries are often spontaneous and – if not identified quickly and easily – tend to be left unmarked, forgotten, and often neglected. Also, by customizing my own plant markers, I can include additional information like plant varieties or date of planting.

Among my favorite plant marker ingredients are duct tape, aluminum cans, paint stirrers, and permanent markers.

To turn an aluminum soda can into plant markers, use tinsnips or heavy kitchen shears to cut a can vertically. Cut from the opening at the top to the to bottom, and then around the bottom and around the top. 

You’re left with a round bottom and a flat rectangular sheet of aluminum. (Throw away what’s left of the top.)

Cut the rectangular sheet to size, and you have a blank canvas for several markers per can. Label each and border it with duct tape for more visibility and color.

For this marker, we used a handheld hole-punch on the top and bottom, and hoisted it onto a painted wooden dowel.

Use the aluminum can bottom as a little round sign. For a splash of color, partially or completely cover it with duct tape, and label with a marker. This one dangles from a trellis.

When using a can bottom for a plant marker, drilling a hole requires more than a hole punch. For this one, we used a ¼-inch drill bit.

To increase the fancy factor, slit the edges of the aluminum can’s bottom to make petals. 

This one is glued to a duct tape–covered paint stirrer.

Whimsy? Check.

This simple but effective plant marker is simply a wooden paint stirrer wrapped in duct tape. This two-sided marker adds color and durability without messy paint, and has room for additional information on the other side.

This easy-off, pull-tab lid from a soup can provides a ready-made handle for tying to a stake or trellis, raising it closer to eye level. We striped the can lid with duct tape on both sides, and then hung it with garden twine.

Hanging plant markers on a trellis brings them closer to eye level, but if they dangle, consider making them two-sided.

Utility lawn markers aren’t just for indicating gas lines. These inexpensive flags give you high visibility and plenty of room to add custom information such as crop variety and planting date.

For this informative marker, place a seed packet, catalog photo, or custom-printed label in a clear, long-necked bottle (such as a wine, vinegar, beer, or salad dressing bottle). 

Cap or cork the bottle, turn it upside-down, and plant its neck in the garden to display the label right side up, protected from the elements.

But garden markers can’t live by duct tape, aluminum cans, and paint stirrers alone. Try these other materials:

Give new purpose to saucers, dishes, or terra-cotta pots (preferably chipped or broken ones): Bury half underground and label the aboveground half with a marker or paint.

Label smooth rocks or bricks to make natural-looking plant markers.

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