This is not the easiest way to mark your seedlings. It’s not the most gorgeous. But it’s free, lasts indefinitely and it’s kinda fun. Besides, I gotta keep up my aluminum can skilz.
Supplies & Equipment:
Aluminum Drink Cans
Dried up ball point pen
Straight edge (for the straight plant markers)
Impressionable work surface, like the cork back of a place mat or coaster, mouse pad, etc.
1. Cut off the top and bottom of an aluminum can. Cut down one side so you have a rectangle of aluminum.
2. Work on the cork or similar surface (Yep, set that puppy right on the heating element in the bottom of the oven. Don’t remember why. Nice scorch mark, though.) Using your straight edge (emory board seen here), square up one short edge and trim it off. With your dud of a ball point pen, scribe cutting lines for the markers to your desired dimensions, here about 3/4 in. wide.
3. On a sheet of paper you can see through, ordinary notebook paper works fine, write the name of the plant you want to mark. Turn the paper over and trace it, backwards. I had a teacher in high school who could write backwards, in cursive, with BOTH HANDS– SIMULTANEOUSLY. I can barely do it this way. On the back of the aluminum, use the backwards lettering as a guide to scribe the name with the pen. Make additional decoration, etc., if you like.
6. Make as many as you want and cut them out. Trim one end to make a point for pushing the marker into the soil. Round the top end off with the scissors, too. Lightly sand edges with fine sandpaper. If they aren’t flat enough, a rolling pin will help straighten them out.
You can make them any shape you can think of besides the typical “stake”:
Soda can aluminum is relatively soft. It is not the scary stuff of yesteryear. However, use normal caution when working with it. I don’t recommend this as a project for small kiddies. Don’t slide your skin along the edges or you will get a monster “paper cut” type injury. Wear gloves to be safe. Carefully sand off any burrs that might be created while scissoring. If you make the pointy end somewhat blunted it will still go into the soil easily and will make the end product friendlier. I kinda like the soda can graphics on the back side, but it can be sanded off if you prefer.
If you are not feeling up to aluminum can cutting–and I understand completely, a lovely reader sent in her way of using old mini-blind slats, cut into stake form, and labeled with a Sharpie marker. Easy, cheap, and a great way to recycle. (And a much better way to do a lot at a time). Thanks, Nicole N.!