Labelling seeds as they are sown is very important. Once they have been sown into seed trays or the ground, they will look fairly similar until they grow and show their first true leaves. If you are sowing most of your plants for the year, things can get very busy, and it is important to keep track of what you have sown; it is very easy to forget. A system to label your seeds and good labels can make the early months of growing much easier.
I have tried many different approaches to labelling my seeds as I sow them and have finally arrived at a way that works well for me. Other options may work better for you, so I would encourage trying different approaches to see which one fits the way you garden.
You can use different labels in the garden, and each will appeal to different types of gardeners and how they like to grow and what they value.
- Plastic Labels – many shops sell premade plastic labels, so they are easy to source. These can be very good for labelling seeds and can be written on with a pencil or permanent marker. Avoid using soluble links because they will come off when you water the seeds and seedlings. However, plastic labels become brittle in the sunlight and break after one or two seasons adding waste and cost.
- Wooden labels – wooden labels are also common in garden centres and are easy to source. I have found permanent marker is the best way to add information to the label. They are biodegradable, which is great for the environment, but they tend to break down and do not last more than one season, so you will need to buy more each year.
- Recycled homemade labels – We all produce waste, and some can be repurposed in the garden to create a small dent in how much waste we send to landfill and reduce the cost of gardening. Cutting labels out of used yoghurt pots is a well-used method of making homemade seed labels.
- Bamboo labels – Bamboo is a renewable and biodegradable material used as an alternative material in many industries. Bamboo labels are more resilient than wooden labels because it does not absorb water as easily as wood. However, they can split and will need replacing over time.
- Aluminium labels – I have now started to use aluminium labels. They are slightly more expensive but resilient and will be with me for many years. They can be written on with permanent marker, but I have chosen to use a Dymo label printer to keep the labels neat and tidy.
Information to put on the labels
Labels can contain as little or as much information as you want, depending on what you want to know as you tend the seedlings. The information I commonly add to my labels is:
- Name of the plant or genus
- Variety of the plant
- Date of sowing
Keeping other records
Keeping information on a label with the plant can make managing your seedlings much easier, but the labels are usually removed after the seedlings are planted. All of the information you collect is then lost. I have started recording my sowing in a journal to update the record as they grow. This way, I can see how well the seeds performed and whether to use the same seeds the next year. I am currently recording:
- The name of the plant or genus
- Supplier – The seed supplier can make a difference in germination rates and plant health. Knowing which supplier provided the seeds will let me know whether to avoid them next year or return to them for future seeds.
- Date of Sowing – this helps me to know when it is best to sow seeds; too early, and they can become leggy because they are stretching for the sunlight; too late, and there may not be enough time to mature and produce in the year. Knowing this will help me to find the ideal time to sow the seed in my garden.
- Date of germination – knowing how long it takes for the seeds to germinate in my garden will help manage future sowings, so I know what to expect next time.
- % germinated – The % germination is the number of seeds that successfully germinate vs the number sown. Knowing the % of seeds that successfully germinated will let me know how reliable the seeds are and what to expect next time. I may choose a different supplier or avoid the plant if I have low germination rates.
- Date of transplanting to a bigger pot – knowing when I transplanted the seedling will help me plan the next year.
- Date of transplanting into the final location – As with the “date of transplanting into a bigger pot”, knowing when I placed the plant into its final location will help me plan for future years. It will also help me assess the final performance of the plant.
- Final location within the garden – knowing where the seed ended up being planted will give me information on the soil and the amount of light the plant received as it grew.
- Performance of the plant (i.e. how well it flowered or produced a crop) – having notes on the final performance of the plant will let me know how well all of the preceding actions worked.
3 Comments Add yours
Great post! I appreciate the different options you provided for labelling seeds. Have you ever tried using plantable labels? I’ve heard they are an eco-friendly option that breaks down and turns into compost when planted. What are your thoughts on this option?
Hi, thanks for commenting. I’ve always found gardening very individual; some advice works for some, but not others. There are lots of options, so I like to share options. I haven’t encountered plantable labels before; I have come across seeds in greeting cards. I may take a closer look and give them a try.
You know, I label almost nothing. I only labeled the sunflower because there are five varieties. They were labeled with only initials. I can figure it out. We do not grow enough to get mixed up.