Sunday, January 6, 2013

Garden Plant Labels

Okay. They're not quite done. But I have decided on what and how. They still need a shepherd's hook wire that goes into the ground and holds the tag.

I wanted to have labels resembling what you would see at a botanical garden and labels big enough to get common, Latin, and cultivar information on them.

I'm a big recycler when I can be.
Tools: a tin snips, my garden scissors (not shown), a metal ruler of some sort (mine is a Pica rule), my beat up cutting board which I don't use for food any longer, my P-Touch label maker, and an Exacto knife.

Nobody in my house drinks soda so I picked up a couple dozen Mello Yellow cans from my mother who has a two can a day habit. (She nearly 80 and this is her worst vice, so...)

I washed the pieces of metal in soapy water to get rid of any sticky soda residue.

I was able to get 5 labels from each can. I used the Exacto knife to score the aluminum. I used the ruler as a guide. I cut each corner in about 3/8" at a 45 degree angle.

Once I cut through the rim, it was easier to cut the top and bottom off the can with my old garden Fiskars scissors. And actually, since I scored the can with the Exacto knife,once I removed the edges that ran the curve of the top and bottom of the can, each label simply snapped off from the other.

I used the ruler to bend about 1/4" of the label over the edge of the metal ruler . I then folded over the other long side and then turned it over and creased the edges with the ruler similarly to how I would crease folded paper with my fingernail.

I cut off the little triangles before folding the short sides. I then folded the short sides to the wrong side and creased them as well.

I ran the ruler across the label to crease everything. Viola! I have the label.

I used my P-Touch to make my labels. For spelling and Latin the most useful website is the Missouri Botanical Gardens site. So far, only a couple of my plants are not in their collections. Using the "Noteworthy Characteristics" section, I was able to verify the cultivar and selection names easily.

These look pretty nice. The P-Touch lettering doesn't smear at all and is weatherproof. I don't have a Laserjet printer which has a thermal component to how the ink is laid down on a label or I would have tried using Avery clear labels and my computer. Labels printed with an inkjet printers just aren't weatherproof. (I tried that a couple years ago.)

My neighbor buys zinc labels and uses a P-Touch. He then wraps the front with another layer of adhesive tape. He is, after all, a daylily hybridizer and necessarily needs tobe sure of his crosses for the patenting process. This makes me worried that the P-Touch adhesive might disintegrate over time. I might do the same.

I have contemplated sending the aluminum labels through my laminator. Aluminum's melting point is 660 degrees. My laminator heats to approximately 260 degrees at the hottest setting. So I think this is a possibility. Actually the Mello Yellow labeling has been applied using an industrial laminating process. Something I just hadn't thought about but wanted to research, not wanting to wreck my laminator in this process.

Using a laminator and having to take into account thickness of materials to be laminated; the whole time-consuming process of bending the edges may not be necessary. I still have concerns with moisture coming between the labels of laminate and affecting the adhesive.

I have tried wooden plant stick and they rot fairly rapidly. Plastic plant stakes are white and a bit of an eyesore. Using pen or even permanent marker is an issue. Even "permanent" marker seems to fade fairly rapidly, in just a few weeks.The plastic printed tag that come with the plants often crack and fade in less than a year.

I did research other ways to mark the tags. One method was using a stylus or some sort of pointed device and impress the names no ink. Another was to write in reverse on the back and then shadow the writing from the front for an embossed appearance. I liked the embossed look, but writing backwards is fairly time-consuming.

Cost is definitely in play here, too. With approximately half of my shrubs, trees, and vines labels completed, I have completed about 50-60 tags. I did some searches on marking tags, and just haven't come up with good alternatives. Anyone with a super cheap, upscale method that allows for ample written information, I would like to see it.

NOTE: I just tried laminating a few tags. Remember the part where I mentioned the tags don't smear and that the ink is laid down using some sort of heating process? Well, even though the lettering has been laid down using a heating process, the rest of the tape is still heat sensitive and will turn dark gray to black going through the laminator.

Applying the P-Touch labels to the laminated tag defeats the use of laminate as a protection against water loosening the adhesive. If your goal is to use the laminate to skip the crimping steps, go for it and apply the P-Touch label after. vinyl to vinyl adhesion may be better from a longevity of the adhesive, but that aspect is not clear to me at this time.

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