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Make Plant Labels For Your Garden From Recycled Items

How to make homemade plant labels from recycled items

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the gardening season is to purchase things for the garden that have gone on clearance. One of those items I always buy on clearance, with plans to store and use in the garden next year, are plant labels. Maybe I'm just really cheap but the prices for these pieces of plastic seem astronomical. Although, by the time the next gardening season arrives I can't remember where I stored those plant labels and I end up making my own plant and seedling markers. Perhaps gardeners who buy plant markers in the spring have the right idea, but I like to make plant labels for the garden from recycled items.

homemade plant labels from gallons of milk
Probably the oldest and easiest way of making plant labels for your garden has to be using empty plastic milk jugs. Simply split one of these jugs open and start cutting out rectangular pieces that are wide enough for your needs.

make plant labels for your garden from recycled items
To make your homemade plant and seedlings labels look a little more polished use an existing plant label as a template and trace the shape out. You get these perfectly uniform plant labels this way. You can also use other pieces of plastic like the cups from fast food restaurants which are a lot thicker and can stand up easier to being trampled in the garden.

Homemade plant labels from popsicle sticks
Wooden Popsicle sticks also work great as homemade plant and seedling markers. You can purchase Popsicle sticks in bulk from craft stores and even dollar stores. If you'd like to make some wooden plant markers that have more space for writing- look for a medical supply store near you where you can purchase tongue suppressors in bulk. Or just let a few fall into your pocket the next time you visit the doctor's office.

You can also make plant labels from old window blinds. While wearing protective gear; split open an aluminum can with a pair of tin snips and cut it up like the plastic milk jug above to make really sturdy plant labels. Sand the edges down to smoothen out the rough edges to make them safe to handle.

large garden sign, label, marker made from wood
Last year I visited a community garden in Chicago and was really charmed by this garden marker made from a wooden plank. I like this idea so much that I wish I had space for individual garden beds so I can make plant labels this large.


  1. Anonymous2:32 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I use those wood shims they sell in the door section at Home Depot. You get 12 of them for about $1.50 and they're bigger than a Popsicle stick which I like cuz there's more room to write.

    I also recently used rainbow colored "craft sticks" I got at the craft store... these aren't that great because the ink they are dyed with tends to run and fade with watering and makes the writing hard to read.

  3. Great ideas! I have used the popcicle sticks as well with perm marker and it does the job well! I have also painted river rocks with the veggie name and a little picture of the veggie and sealed the rock after with an outdoor sealant. Works well and wind does not push around.

    1. Anonymous12:48 PM

      My aunt mentioned this. She said how wonderful it looked in the garden she had toured.

  4. Good ideas! I'll lean toward the popsicle sticks - it's just easier and I feel like being lazy.

  5. An easier way to do it with mini-blinds is to use a vinyl blinds instead of metal. You can cut the plastic with shears (and use your handy-dandy template). No tin snips or sanding required. All good ideas, tho. thanks.

    1. I got about a bajillion plant markers out of one set of mini blinds- I will be in the ground myself before I can use all of them up!

    2. I sat and cut up a whole box worth over the winter-lost it -now searching for something until original box is found. That's why I don't "garden" in the winter!

  6. I use wood shims, and also shards from broken plain ceramic pots (glazed doesn't work), painted with ordinary acrylic paint. They last for years and look really charming. For just marking where I've put a seed in, I use cut up mini-blinds.

  7. I use plastic knives that accumulate at work after catered meetings or from to-go meals.

  8. I love recycling things in my garden! I use old window blinds as small garden markers. Ive used old wooden spoons and popsicle sticks. The skies the limit for ideas! Great post! Great recycling post!

  9. Jdog,

    I saw your tweet about those shims. I'll have to check them out. The rainbow one sounds good for kids.

    And Sow My Garden Grows,
    Like your river rock idea, alot. I'll have to use that one.

    LOL. Also, it is fun to eat the ice cream so you have all the popsicle sticks around.

    Yup, the vinyl blinds are a good item to use.

    I kept the broken pieces of the pots the kids busted in my garden. Didn't have a use for them yet, but I guess now I do. Thanks.

    Good one! Plastic knives work too.

    Like the wooden spoon idea. I'll have to see if I find any when thrifting.

  10. Last month, I bought some plastic plant label :-(... should have thought of re-cycling some of my plastic items in the kitchen like plastic knives fereshteh has suggested here. Btw, that garden marker in wooden plank is really cool.

  11. Great ideas!!! I love that last sign on a board...awesome!!!

  12. Great idea. I'm surprised I've never heard of this before. Thanks for mentioning it!

  13. Great ideas! My grandchildren made garden markers for a number of my plants this summer... we used wire coat hangers for the hangers and poked holes and painted (mostly used) canning jar lids. ;-)

  14. I use the vinyl blinds also. I make 2 tags for each plant. I bury one with the plant and the other above ground. I used the popsicle sticks last year. This spring, they are indecipherable.
    The cut out labels from milk jug is a great idea.

  15. Stephanie,

    I should've published this post last month when I was planning to and saved you a couple of dollars.

    Glad you like it.

    I'm surprised you haven't seen the tips to make your own markers on other blogs, yet. Anyway, now you can make some of your collection of plants.

    That's awesome. I like the idea of them being made from the lips of canning jars.

    Yeah, those wooden ones can be done in with a year or two. I wonder if carving the plant name into the stick would make them last longer rather than writing on them.

  16. Wow, those cuts are so smooth and exact. I'm afraid my scissor skills make me look like the kind of pre-schooler who eats paste. I use pencil on cut up mini blinds because the winter-sowing environment is so moist that unfortunately, even permanent marker on wood gets too spread out to read and wears off the milk jug plastic.

  17. ahg! Yay Karma! I actually needed this information TODAY! Planting a few basil varieties with some kids today and I know they won't be able to tell them apart later on...


  18. Great ideas. Is that big stake at the Waters Community Garden in Lincoln Square? Looks just like the one by me.

  19. Monica,
    That's hilarious. I did this same post for 'Chicago Garden' and afterwards I realized that I had cut the plastic tags for that post and they looked like they were made by a preschooler who eats paste. :)

    Glad you found it useful and on time!

    It is actually at the Ginkgo Organic Community garden in Uptown, I believe. It is one of the NeighborSpace gardens.

  20. Your milk jug tags look much nicer than mine did. I kind of feel inadequate now... LOL

    Great ideas. I haven't bought plant markers in years -- much prefer to save the money and reuse something!

  21. Lotsa cool ideas! I too am impressed by the milk jug tags - very neat. (think I'll go join Monica now and eat some paste. ;)

  22. You've given me some great ideas for plant tags. I am thinking that one can cut all sorts of shapes for the tags ~ there's no limit to what one can do with them.

  23. Great ideas for plant tags. Now I feel like the pre-schooler who eats the paste. I do plant tags and then ALWAYS screw them up (lose them, think I'll remember the plant, write illegibly or with ink that fades) so I have mystery seedlings galore. Anyone for no name tomatoes?

  24. Garden girl, LOL.


    You're right...I just made some larger ones out of soda pop bottles. I'll have to make a new post.


    I think that happens to everyone I've got some seedlings that I now can't remember the names of. :0)

  25. Anonymous12:57 PM

    I bought large spoons from thrift shop (12 for $1) and flattened them with a hammer then used sharpie on them ... works well and looks cute!

  26. Anonymous11:33 PM

    Dollar Tree has 150 ct popsicle sticks (calls them "craft sticks") for $1. i used a sharpie on them and they bleed a little but after they set they appear to be waterproof from what i can tell so far. those plastic ones for some reason are way overpriced when i see them avail in gardening catalogs. there was an Amish gardening catalog that offered the plastic printed ones like the ones that come with the transplants at the store and they were inexpensive but i lost their catalog and now forgot the name :(

  27. Pippi219:25 PM

    You could use the lid from cans of frozen o.j. or lemonade. Use a nail to punch a whole or maybe see if a drill would do it. Then use metal wire or an old wire coat handers.. See if a spray paint will cover the metal lid, then use a labeling machine to make the colored labels for specific plants. I saw this one time in Garden Gate Magazine. I've seen something similar in some of these gardening catalogs or websites.

  28. I use wine corks, which held their sharpie labeling through this winter's vortex. Two methods. 1. enlarge the hole already in the end from opening the wine and insert a throw away wooden chopstick or similarly sized stick - perhaps a tall one for tall plants or a chopstick inserted into a bamboo pole. 2. make a slit in the side and insert a plastic fork or knife.



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