Best Way to Label Trees/Bushes

nostalgicfarm(5)March 8, 2014

We are planting about 200 trees and 200 bushes this spring. Mostly this is a variety of bushes and trees for by our road to block the view of cars/dust/etc. I am trying to decide the best way to put a label around the trees and bushes at least when planting them so I can later document in a book what is where (I realize I won't have time for that at actual planting time!). The trees seem easier than bushes as the bushes will spread out and labels will be hidden in a few years. But it would still be nice to be able to identify these as they grow ;)
Thanks in advance for suggestions!

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depends on how you have them separated. If you can do it with stakes or posts as markers for groups of trees that is best. But if that wont work you need to use metal tags. the constant light wind will move them so much they cam wear through the wire that holds them, so don't let them just dangle from a branch, tie them close to the ground on the trunk. You can move them later as needed. You can cut up aluminum cans for your markers then use a nail or whatever to press your markings into them. You really need to dent them deep. better to use a number and keep good notes then to try to write whole words. You can have a backup of notes just counting them off.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 9:49AM
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Possibly get some of those Aluminum tags and hang them loosely on a branch.Also,a map of the area in your book and also saved on a computer and or a storage device as a backup that can be modified as things change. Brady

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 9:50AM
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Thanks. Aluminum markers may work just fine.
I do plan to create a site map down the road. However, there is about 500 feet of road frontage being planted this year. (Another 700 next year, and another section the following year!). We have a road on two sides of our property that is very long and narrow :(
I just want to have some way, even if only temporary to label these plants. I envision having a nice stepping stone label in mulch for my fruit trees. However these trees and bushes may not all get mulched this year. Their primary purpose is a windbreak, but I want a mixed forest rather than the straight rows at our old farm property.

If I do the aluminum markers are there machines I can buy to "type" my words on? I would really prefer to be able to walk around and look at the label and say, oh this is blah blah variety maple , rather than I need to check my book for variety 12B :). But after 5 nail printed labels of "red vine maple", I think I may just say "I think this is a tree" :)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:17AM
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Some metal labels are soft enough,that a ball point pen can be used to engrave it.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:28AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

How many varieties of trees? 5 or 80? If only a few varieties you could label them with numbers, and have a record of which number goes to what.

A lot of people use permanent markers to write on cut up old mini blinds and they stick the blind next to the trunk.

I just cut strips of aluminum coke cans, emboss with a pen over a mouse pad, nail the markers to a stake, and it's done and permanent. Wind can't blow it!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:45AM
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Desertdance-about 15 varieties of trees! (Plus additional varieties of bushes)

I will have to try tearing up a coke can and using the ball point pen. Its not exactly the look I am going for, but at least it would be ready in a month when everything arrives!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:09AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Also take lots and lots of photos, taking from the same angles once a year to see the changes. It's so much fun to look back years later and see how small the trees were when you planted them. You can also see if there is decline by comparing to past years and make corrections to care as needed.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:15AM
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Cheap, quick, convenient, temporary. Vinyl tape in various colors or color combos works well. The 1/2" wide 99 cent store packages are OK, and the 3/4" wide larger rolls sold in electrical supplies at Lowes are more OK. You can make a big loop around a small branch so that the sticky side of both ends stick together with a 1" long face-to-face area. For a longer lasting color code, I fasten a staple through this 1" area after they are stuck together. Some of the cheaper vinyl will eventually get enough sunlight to fade the color away. If you have a LOT of plants, seedlings, root-starting sticks, grafted scions, etc., colored tape is much easier for me than trying to tag with aluminum. Plan 'B' is to use a black Sharpie pen on a pc. of the light green 3M "automotive performance masking tape", which is good for about a year. After a year you can put a second pc. on top of the old one, or just rewrite over the old tape with the Sharpie. The adhesive is great.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:38AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Those commercial aluminum tags only last five years. The coke can method is much better if a bit more work. I do a related idea with pure copper which lasts forever. I buy the copper in rolls and cut to size, and attach with copper wire. I then attach the wire to the tree with a staple gun. The wire keeps the tag from growing into the tree, it grows into the wire instead.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:45AM
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Desertdance: Buying an el cheapo plastic mini blind and cutting the blades into 12" sections for tagging is improved by slapping a 4" pc. of the 3M tape onto the top of the cut blade with which to write the plant info with the Sharpie pen. That enhanced paper will hold ink for a much longer period than the slick plastic, even when it gets rained on and regular splashing during plant watering.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:56AM
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alan haigh

If you want to spring for a few bucks per label for some real nice metal horticultural labels, my current best source is For fruit trees the metal is better than the laminated plastic because it doesn't easily break during maintenance or harvesting.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 1:57PM
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I used the permanent marker on miniblind method, and it didn't work very well. The marker faded! Grease pens are better, but what works best for me is the plastic labeling tape that you emboss on a little gizmo. If the color fades, you still have the embossing. I stuck it to some aluminum strips I had, and have had some for about ten years and all are still doing fine. The miniblind strips tend to bend over and flop, They also work their way somehow out of our sandy soil, but if you have heavier soil, that might be fine. A back-up record on paper is also a very good idea. Northwoodswis

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 2:27PM
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alan haigh

I made a map, starting with a google maps photo of a property for a client, labeling the trees that were apparent in the photo with a key that told ripening order.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 2:35PM
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If you have over 100 trees, it might be worth investing in one of these and use Stainless or Aluminum tape.

Here is a link that might be useful: dymo metal embosser

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 4:37PM
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Thanks for all the wonderful ideas.
Since this is land without a house for the next two years, I would worry about loosing my color code info, so I need something at least good for 3 years. I haven't had much luck with Sharpie working at my old place, so trying to get by until I decide on more permanent labels.
I love the idea of a ripening map! How cool! I will have to keep that in mind when my fruit trees are closer to bearing fruit :)
Hoovb-Love the idea of taking photos each year!
I will check into the nice metal plant tags, but thinking due to the cost, I better be sure I want those long term :)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 5:57PM
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Try vinyl siding. It lasts forever. People throw out giant strips of it. Cut it into tags. You can write on it in pencil but that can rub off. Get one of those cheap hand-held metal engravers and carve the name into the vinyl siding piece. Drill a hole in the piece so that you can hang your tag.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 6:20PM
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I use aluminum cans cut up. I use a free serrated knife to cut the ends off, cheap scissors to cut the cylinder into 7 or more labels per can, a cheap hole punch to put a hole in one end, and a ball point pen that ran out of ink to etch (press really) the cultivar, nursery and year into them. I use plastic wire like that which seals up loaves of bread to put them loosely on the tree (Home Depot sells 250ft for like $7 where photo frames are).

This is the only permanent system I know of---aluminum etched. Anything else and good luck figuring it out in 3-4 years when you look at the label.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 7:01PM
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Are you in fact going to purchase and plant such a huge planting and not be there to keep the plants hydrated should the rain scheduler not cooperate? If you are indeed going to invest that much time and $ and gamble on the small, shallow root systems to make it on their own, well that is a gamble that requires a BUNCH of willingness that I do not have. A couple of drought-stricken Texas Summers sure broke me of that habit.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 8:24PM
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Do you by any chance have a list of what you are planting?
I am considering similar, planting on front of the property - approx. 400feet. Windbreak and also to screen from the main road.

I also use dymo embosser, but the 'old-fashion' one with plastic tape, but don't have long enough time of use to know how long they last (it's 3yrs now-they are still good).


    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 8:49PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Paint markers (available in craft stores, Joann Fabric, WM, etc.) are supposed to be better than the industrial Sharpies, which are much better than plain Sharpies (on plastic, anyway).

Many folks who use the metal plant tags use a special type of labeling machine (prints onto sticky tape which is covered with clear tape, IIRC). I'm under the impression that those labels last for several years at least. If you ask on the Conifers or Daylilies forums, I'm sure someone can give you information about that labeling machine.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:15PM
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Copingwithclay- I'm not sure I completely understand. We have a huge acreage that is open to the road. I am in Nebraska, so after 2 weeks of good watering, most trees/bushes are okay. We live 1 mile from the property, so I am close by to water to my hearts content.

Rina- I am planting 1 row of bushes. A second row of approx 2/3 bushes and 1/3 small trees (crabapple, Amur maple, etc) then 2 more rows of a huge variety of trees (maples, oaks, spruces, and a bunch more). While I say rows, they are actually going to be planting somewhat random. I want more of a forest look. Although a forest doesn't have 15+ varieties of trees...but I want variety! On our previous property we did straight rows of Norway spruces, it worked, but not what I want again :)
What are you planning to plant?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:18PM
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Nostalgic - I am still in 'thinking' stage since will be mowing within 2 weeks. May not be able to do it this year, at best just some.
I was thinking a row (closest to the road) taller trees, mix of just about what you mentioned (that is east exposure) - few evergreens, maybe ginko, oak, maples & similar. Then row of taller bushes & smaller trees. 3rd row of just smaller bushes. These will be west exposure, so something that needs full sun. I would like to have some fruit bushes there if possible. Just as you said, more random planting, not 'straight' rows.


This post was edited by rina_ on Sat, Mar 8, 14 at 22:41

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:39PM
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Rina- for a true windbreak, you want to go from short to tall. Keep in mind those bushes can grow 6-8 feet a LOT faster than trees. They will block your road view in about 3 years. You could also consider mixing all together in your rows, and your fruit bushes on your inside row? I am ordering quantities of 5 (of a lot of things) from Musser Forests. Check them out :)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:34PM
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nostalgic - Thank you for suggestions.
Yes, I was considering fruit bushes on inside row (less dust from the road?) - that would be west exposure, so very sunny, warm.
(Ordering from the nursery may be too pricey, as I am in Canada. But lots of good info on their site; thnx).

I must apologize for getting off the subject...Rina

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 12:26AM
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thecityman, Zone 7a/6b near Nashville

I bought a $16 engraving pencil at Lowes. I had some aluminum flashing (which you can buy quite cheaply) and cut it into business card size pieces (I use metal sheers). I engrave the tree and root stock name, date of planting, and source of tree ( i.e. Starkbros, etc) on the small metal card. Then I poke a hole in the corner with a nail. I then use Romex copper wiring, which I break open to save money by separating into 3 separate strands (2 of which are rubber coated so they wont cut into tree). I put wire through hole on the engraved tag, then hang it loosely on the lowest branch or around the trunk on the ground- leaving plenty of extra space so I won't have to loosen/reattach it for years. Since I'm using aluminum and copper, I see no reason why these tags won't last for many years. This may sound a bit time consuming but it really isn't. You can buy all these things with one trip to Lowes for less than $35, it takes about 7 minutes total to engrave and assemble and attach these tags. So its almost as cheap and quick as temporary methods but should last a very long time. I readily admit my engraving isn't very pretty, but it is very readable and gets the job done. I'm new to fruit trees so others may tell me there is some mistake in my system I haven't thought about, but I'm very fond of it and think its a good, cheap, quick, easy way to label trees for years to come..

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 1:17AM
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Cityman-thanks for that suggestion. I will look for the engraving pencil the next time I am at Lowes.
Harvestman I do really like those tags. Unfortunately, the tree tags are more than I am spending on the trees themselves :( Maybe in the future, I can get a fancy machine to label my whole place with tags like these, but for now I need to just get these trees labeled.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 9:24AM
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I use leftover alum. flashing, cut into small rectangles, drill a 1/8"hole and attached with copper wire. Write name with ball-point pen, or a metal stylus like a big nail.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 9:29AM
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My preferred method to construct aluminum plant tags is to use alum. pie plates or baking pans as your tag material. The 9âÂÂx12â baking pan is of a thinner gauge than say a turkey pan so you have a choice of thickness. Ball point pens work fine to engrave them if you use something soft behind them. To make the hole I use a ice pick or hole punch. My preference is the pick because it allows me to size the hole to the thickness of wire that I use to help minimize the tags from flapping in the breeze. The wire that I use is worth sharing because it stops the alum. from reacting with the wire the way regular steel wire does and it is cheap and pliable. I use .014 stainless steel lock wire [1 lb. coil] from Harbor Freight Tools. $7.99 their # 08895, it even comes with a plastic case and belt clip. Another trick I use to stop that flapping in the breeze effect is to leave an extra 6â or so after I secure the tag with a loop and use this extra wire to tie the tag to the branch by LOOSLY wrapping it around the tag and branch together. Painting the baking pans after sandpapering them and priming them and before cutting them to size also goes a log way to stopping that shiny ornament effect when grafting on branches to your fruit trees but the paint does not have the lifespan the alum. does.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 10:53AM
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Northshore-that sounds like a fantastic idea. And I like the idea of the wire on a belt loop, I will have to check into that! Do you have a photo of tags that you have primed/painted? Not sure I have quite time for that as we are still getting into our rental/clearing out of our other acreage and going full speed onto projects at our land! But I would love to see a photo if you have one, so I can picture it better :)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:42AM
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The fast way to paint these tags is to spray paint both sides of the disposable pie pan or my preference the disposable alum baking pans, they are rectangular and there is less waste. Let them dry then cut them up with scissors. I like the idea of making the hole with a ball point pen. I tried it and it is better than an ice pick I use. My wife also informed me that my stainless steel wire was too hard for her to work with-so go with a lighter ss wire than I suggested. --- Pictured is various sized tags from last year.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 9:40PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

FYI I had my dad walk around and label all the fruit trees back about 1990. He used the thin alum plant tags from the ag supplier, ball point pen and loosely wired to a low branch.

they are still there and if I could read his writing, I would have known what he planted. The lesson there is sit down and write them neatly and in large letters :)

I tried the sharpie on alum mini blinds and it did not last the summer here. A color coded system with a stripe of paint on them might be easier when it is done in a rush. Mini blinds are cheap or free if you have a college near by (check with property managers)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 10:36PM
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Hi nostalgicfarm-- Here is a second type of marker I use for bushes-no paint-they are too low to be distracting. The correct name for the pans is rectangular foil cake pans and also roasting pans. I googgled the dollar store bulk and thatâÂÂs what they call them. Below that listing was a place called At Party City that had a product called alum. full steam pan lid that looked even better [no lines] if they are thick enough ? Perhaps catering companies have used ones they just throw out, I have found some nice material after our weekly pot luck dinners, lasagna pans . I just run them thru doggie preclean and then thru the dishwasher��"good enough for plant markers. One other thing I used a sharpie marker to highlight the embossed letters for the picture, I doubt that it would last long in the garden.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 10:47AM
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Northshore-thank you so much for posting photos!
Kippy-I had to laugh about the writing! Not sure I will be able to read the 200th handwritten label :). How sad though that the labels lasted, but handwriting style/readability didn't :(

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 3:52PM
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I make aluminum tags with a QR code that links to a webpage for my plants. I blogged about it last month.

Here is a link that might be useful: How I solved my plant label problems

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 1:51PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I use alum.flashings..punsh two holes with nail, will not turn around in wind and allways points the right way for easy reading.
Use dremel tool, battery operated so I can do it on site.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 11:12PM
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Sailorbill, probably should say that it's your company you're promoting. It's kind of sketchy otherwise.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2014 at 3:31PM
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The best marker that I've found so far,short of engraving onto metal,is the IDenti Pen by Sakura Color Products Corporation.The ink lasts much longer than a Sharpie.It has dual tips,a 1mm and .4mm.
I bought it at a Ben Franklin crafts store. Brady

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 11:56AM
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