A chance to prove you’re cleverer than Z

You’re all inventive and intelligent types out there in Blogland.  Can you please put your ingenuity to work for a few minutes to help me?

I grow a lot of vegetable plants, both for Al to sell and for us to grow.  Apart from trays of beans etc, most of them end up in individual pots and, in some cases, there are several varieties that can’t reliably be told apart until they fruit.  So I have hundreds of pots to mark.  I can either buy the labels or cut up yoghurt pots, that’s not a problem – but it’s awfully tedious to write down each variety numerous times.  We all know how lazy I am and, besides, it’s the repetitivenous that really gets to me, as I’ve a short attention span to boot.  I don’t mind how many hours I work potting things up, as that’s a pleasure, and I don’t get bored doing nothing as that is too – it’s a boring repetitive task that I can’t stand.

The printer ink isn’t waterproof, so it’s no good typing onto sticky labels.  I have, by the way, written on sticky labels and cut them up to stick straight onto the pots, covering with sticky tape and this did work to a point, but the tape tended to peel off and let water in, so wasn’t entirely reliable.  Last year, I tried typing the labels, laminating the sheets and then cutting them up (this is much cheaper than buying plastic labels as you get dozens per sheet), but the moisture in the compost seeped into the paper and washed off the writing.  Cutting up the sheets first and putting them in between the plastic  sheets and then laminating them really isn’t an option – impossible to keep them in place and far too fiddly to attempt.

So far, I’ve still got pots in trays and can just mark one or a few per tray.  But I have to mark them individually before the end of this month.  Buying T-shaped labels and putting the printed label on them isn’t an option – for one thing, the ink would still wash off when watered and for another, the labels are too expensive.

Later – Some extra clarification – each pot has to be marked with the name of the variety, or the customers don’t like it.  That’s fair enough, actually nor would I – if I went and bought some plants, I wouldn’t think “but I couldn’t be bothered to write labels individually” was an excuse not to have them marked.  I know this, because I tried marking the pots with the initials of the varieties and printing out information sheets, and they liked the sheets but wanted the full variety name written too.

Ro has a laser printer with waterproof ink but he won’t waste it on this use.  I’m not buying a printer just for this.   That would be silly.

I have 9 varieties of tomato and 5 varieties of pepper (sweet or chilli) and 3 of courgettes.  I also have different squashes, but I can deal with them, as I plant nearly all that I grow and Al sells the crop later.  So I can keep the varieties apart – but it doesn’t actually matter if they do get mixed up.

*Waits hopefully*

26 comments on “A chance to prove you’re cleverer than Z

  1. I, Like The View

    I’m not very clever, so these are my rather useless suggestions

    1. find a teen to write the labels for you. . .

    (of course, the bribery this would entail might make the idea more work than writing the labels yourself)

    2. colour code plain (unwritten) labels, then type up one master key to the colour code and print this to use as a guide (for people buying a single variety) or hand out a copy separately (for people buying mre than one variety) that won’t be watered. . .

    (of course, you might not have that many indelible, permanent colourful pens)

    3. along the lines of the above, devise a simple alphanumeric key to identify the plant, then follow instructions above for the one written master sheet only/but multiple copy key code

    (is this clear? for example P1, P2, P3, P4 etc for different types of pea plant; B1, B2, B3, etc for different types of bean plant; T1, T2, etc – you know what I mean, don’t you)

    (of course, this then means that you have to find a teen to write the alphanumeric code on the labels)

    see, told you I wasn’t very clever

  2. I, Like The View

    The Teen has suggested buying plastic drink straws instead of the plastic labels. . .

    . . .and either marking up plain straws somehow, his suggestion was sticking the visible end of the straw in some kind of acrylic paint and follow my colour code idea (with a printed key)

    . . .or, if you can find enough different coloured straws, using those along the lines of the alphanumeric idea (with a printed key)

  3. MOTB

    blob of nail varnish in different colours for different veg? Plus a master list so you know if scarlet is for runners or red cabbage????

  4. Z

    I’ve tried putting just the initial of the variety on the pot – black pen for terracotta coloured plastic, Tippex for black, but it wasn’t ideal. Customers want the variety written down on the label. And I don’t have convenient teens to hand. Though it would work, thank you, for the pots for home use. So would the nail varnish idea – but, having tried all sorts of things over the last few years, I do need there to be an individual label on each pot. I recognise different plants, so there’s no need to mark anything that only has one variety except at point of sale – and a tray of a dozen plants is no problem to mark, it’s several dozen of each variety of tomato or pepper.

    Dave, Ro has one actually, but he won’t let me use it because he says he doesn’t want to waste the ink or toner or whatever. Yes, he is mean. You know I’m not going to buy a printer specially.

    I’ll add clarifications to the post.

  5. Christopher

    Vistaprint and similar? I understand they do so many cards/labels for free.

    Mr I M Able label? They do hundreds of peel-off stickers for not much. The text doesn’t have to be addresses, after all – or perhaps you could include variety + vendor.

    It would be nice to think this helps.

  6. mago

    If print is no good because of water destroying either the paper or the ink … there once was something with a plastic stripe – I do not know even the German name let alone the English one – it was pressed against this plastic stripe and the letter came out white and when finished it was glued to the objekt, kind of self-adhesion on the back.

    What do large garden center use? They must have things in large numbers for this.

    Christopher’s idea of some printed labels seems best. There must be a wide variation of possibilities, they are made to be slabbed on something and you can have different colours.

  7. Z

    It had never occurred to me to buy printed labels as I want relatively few of each. I’ll certainly look into it, thank you.

    I know the machine you mean, Mago – I did think of that, but apart from it being quite expensive, it’s more time-consuming than handwriting as each label would have to be done individually.

    Big nurseries would have them by the thousand and just factor it into their prices. I haven’t got the economy of scale.

  8. Rog

    Here’s my plan:

    1. Cut up different colour plastics (window blinds etc) so there is a different colour for each seed.

    2. When they are grown and ready, you can then stick an ordinary computer printed label on without worrying about the weather.

    (hopefully not having lost the master colour/seed list!)

  9. Z

    I have a rubber stamp -that is, we’ve got a couple of them for the sales which are pre-set, but I’ve also got an adjustable one, which could work. I don’t know if the ink is waterproof, but I can check, and maybe get a different ink if necessary.

    The printed sticky labels’ prices are based on having a large number with the same thing written on them, and I only want a few dozen of each. I’ll look further into it though to see if I can find something suitable under garden rather than office supplies.

    There is a garden P-touch (not something I’d come across before) which is not cheap but would be very useful. I’d like to see it rather than just order one though, as I don’t know if I could print several of the same thing or whether I’d have to type it out each time. Also, I want to know how long the strip of label is- with something like 1,000 labels to print altogether, I don’t want it to keep running out.

    Thank you all very much indeed for your ideas – it’s been a great help. I’d only ever looked at the notion of finding another way of doing it myself, it hadn’t occurred to me to buy in printed labels or a product to make them.

    And for the time being, I think colour coding might be the way to go, before I start getting things mixed up.

  10. Dandelion

    I would have said what Rog said, if I hadn’t missed the boat.

    If it was me, I’d write the labels myself just when I felt like it, here and there, maybe while watching tv or chatting on the phone. It’d be fun. But then I like writing. The act of it, I mean, not the words. In fact, z, how many actual labels do you need, and by when..?

  11. Z

    About 3 dozen each of about 18 different labels, in a couple of weeks. I suppose I just look on it with the wrong attitude, I should take is as fun too. But I haven’t managed that yet.

  12. sablonneuse

    Sorry I am not clever enough to come up with a practical solution for your problem.
    Besides I’m feeling pretty stupid since the greenhouse blew over and all my pots (which had been carefully drawn and labelled on a plan in my gardening notebook) were strewn all over the lawn. I’m just hoping that when the ones that survived get a bit bigger I’ll recognise what they are.

  13. Z

    It’s easy with plants I’m keeping myself, Alienne – actually, that many I don’t mind writing anyway – but it’s the hundreds I do to give away or give to Al to sell. Another thing is, of course, that I’m awfully *frugal* (mean). I’m reluctant to spend money as well as time!

    Oh Sandy, after all your trouble. Don’t worry, you’ll recognise them – it’s only varieties of the same thing that are difficult. And if it’s for yourself, it doesn’t matter that much. If there are flowers, think of possibly planting them out in their pots until you see what colour they are, and then you can always move them. Anyway, one can be far too artfully careful – nature isn’t, and that seems to work.


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