Over the years, we have made many attempts at differentiating all the rows of a garden in some way that’s easily visible while in the garden. Each of them has failed in one way or another. This year, with the arrival of our 8 year old daughter’s All Season Strawberry Collection from Burpee’s, we decided to try yet another iteration of the garden row marker – woodburning.
Previously we have tried:
- Putting the seed packet over a stake, covered by an upside down sandwich bag, taped in place – Failed – the seed packet did remain legible but after enough sun and rain exposure the tape and bag broke down and the next wind storm blew them all over the place just making an awful mess of trash in the garden.
- Permanent marker on a stake – Neutral – it all depends on the quality of stake and permanent marker. It does fade over time.
- Numbered popsicle sticks with an indexed journal – Failed – popsicle sticks can only be stuck in the ground so far, leaving them unstable, easily lost, and even if they can be found they only last a month or two in healthy garden soil before they are completely decomposed. Also having to carry the journal with you while in the garden is an inconvenience.
- Plastic plant tags – Failed – if you buy plants from a greenhouse they usually come with a tag, if you grow your own you need to buy them. The cost isn’t really the prohibiting factor with this one, the fact is if you put a plastic tag on a tomato plant in May, by July it becomes almost impossible to find in the overgrowth, defeating the purpose of being able to easily and quickly identify which plant is which.
- Memory – Failed – if you can tell the difference between the leaves of a Marketmore 76 cucumber and a Straight 8 cucumber, you are a superhuman gardener. For the rest of us, there are too many different varieties of each species to reasonably expect to notice which is which before fruit develops. (A story for another day – Why I Only Grow One Variety of Each Species)
At some point we had bought a woodburning kit from Walmart, it was around $20 and included everything you need – a woodburning pen with in-line temperature control, small metal frame stand, and around a dozen interchangeable tips. We usually have 1″x3″ furring strips laying around and often cut them up for staking things or making improvised solutions for random small tasks. You can buy these at any lumber supply store, they are usually around $2 for an 8′ piece, possibly cheaper per foot if bought in the pack or in 12′ lengths. Cut down to 12″ lengths this allows for a very sturdy 6″ in the ground and 6″ above the ground to have an easily legible label. At $2 per 8′, that’s $0.25 per 12″ row marker, and here’s hoping they last more than one season.
I’m not an experienced woodburner, and for this application didn’t need to be. I used a pencil to quickly jot down each variety name, put the ‘calligraphy’ tip on the woodburner, and got started. After a short learning curve, I finished up the markers in maybe 10 minutes, having burned the names into both sides of each marker so it could be read from either direction. For a touch of flair I free-handed a strawberry just so they were not strictly utilitarian, and also because I just wanted to see how it turned out.
Now the test of the seasons – how will they hold up over time? Has anyone else used this method of marking rows? Have you found a better, cheaper solution?