Plant markers/tags

Laser printed plant marker label
Laser printed plant marker label

It’s a small detail perhaps, but with tomatoes already heading off to be sold, every plant needs a tag, instead of the one tag per flat currently in them.  With ~1170 plants to tag I need something quick and cheap.  Unfortunately handwriting doesn’t cut it for legibility or the amount of information I need to convey on the tag. Ideally I need to have the name, a description (most people have no idea what to expect from an heirloom variety), and a way for people to contact me if they have problems or questions.

I use multicolored plastic plant markers which convey the many colors that the tomatoes will ripen to: red, purple, pink, orange, yellow, white, and even green.  Currently I’m using white labels on this for legibility.  Last year I had success with the Brother TZ laminated labels (1/2″ tape) hooked to a computer for precise control of layout and fonts.  Despite the low resolution and large margin, this works fairly well.  However, it is time consuming to handle all of the little labels which have to be cut apart (by the machine) before the backing is removed (two strips) and then immediately curl when the backing is off.  It is also fairly expensive.

This year I’ve started using polyester laser-printable labels from Online Labels.  These allow me to print beautiful text and graphics, in any color, at high resolutions, and right up to the edge of the label.  They’re also quite a bit cheaper.  So far they’ve held up well to greenhouse conditions and I’ll be monitoring through the year to see how they weather in the greenhouse, in outdoor containers, and in the garden.  Toner should be pretty tough, but it’s smudgeable with enough effort, and there’s no clear protective coating as with the Brother labels.  With tomatoes I have the advantage that they really only need to last until winter, but I’ll be watching them beyond that for use in perennial plants as well, where I need them to last ~2 years.  The adhesive is excellent (make sure you have it where you want it before you press down, because it’s hard to get off) and I doubt the polyester will break down before the plastic of the plant markers themselves.

The downside with any of these labels is the time it takes to peel them off the paper, line them up on the plant marker, and apply.  You do get much faster after doing a few hundred, but the sheet of labels which don’t curl definitely wins out.  I’ve seen 0.5″ address labels (which is what they call this shape) by Avery which have the backing split to make it easy to peel off the labels, and I may go looking for something like that, but I haven’t seen it with the polyester so far.