Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Know thy Vegetable

One thing that we independent studiers have discovered during our foray into the vegetable world is the importance of labeling. . Unfortunately, I have, on previous occasions, fallen victim to “Oh I’ll remember what they are after I seed them” only to promptly forget what they are or find them moved to a different space. Seeding five different varieties of tomatoes and mixing up flower seedlings with our own special variety of “nasturtium” okra has led to a fair amount of confusion and headache, as we failed to label consistently during the seeding process. With multiple folks working and watering in the greenhouse it should be a priority to delineate which plants are which.

(note the carefully labeled seedlings, including starting date and general plant name.)

Aside from identification, the labels in the garden and greenhouse give us a regular reminder of what the plants are so we can plan plantings and transplantings appropriately. Out in the garden, they also serve as markers for when the plant goes dormant. And lastly, they help guests to the Arboretum identify plants without having to ask about each one. When labeling plants, the common name may not be all that is necessary; you might would like to include the Latin botanical name for educational purposes. It may also be helpful to include other information, such as the date that you planted in order to assist with the planning of planting and harvesting dates. It should also be noted that a more long-term or permanent marker for a tree or shrub will have to be made of more weather-proof material than a vegetable marker that only needs to last one summer. In the interest of frugality and efficiency, many of the most cost-effective labeling systems require hand writing the information on the marker. If your handwriting mostly resembles chicken scratch, you might consider one of the computer or label maker alternatives. There are many commercial labeling systems available to the gardener, but you can save money by making your own using a waterproof marker and materials you might already have laying around. Here are some ideas for inexpensive labels:

  • Popsicle sticks or tongue depressors
  • Cut up old window blinds
  • Cut up plastic containers from yogurt or other foods
  • Large rocks
  • Copper flashing (available at most hardware stores)
  • Dowel sticks
  • Painted yardsticks or rulers
  • Wooden paint stirrers

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