Durable tree tags, redux

Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)December 19, 2010

Getting a tree tag to last 10-20 years is not easy and there have been regular discussions of the topic here. I used in-ground tines but the frost pulled them out and they rusted. My aluminum tags on the trees themselves often broke off (the wire coming with them is too thin) or the tree swallowed it by growing over it, or there is no good place to hang it if the tree is big.

In looking into it I am now thinking I will try the kind of tags described on the page below: use a long plastic cable tie which will allow the tree to grow around it but still keep the tag from getting engulfed. Apparently forestry professionals out west are using this now. For the tags themselves I was going to use those cheap aluminum tags, I have some of those that are getting pretty old and the tags themselves still seem to be doing fine (only the attachment is the problem). Or maybe there is some slightly more durable kind of metal tag I can emboss with a pen? I don't want to cut up aluminum cans, too many trees to label.

Anyway, other good ideas for 10-20 year tree tags which won't get buried in the growth and don't cost a fortune are appreciated.


Here is a link that might be useful: tree tagging

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've made similar tags from an old discarded set of aluminum venetian blinds - with baked-on enamel paint; wrote ID on one side with graphite pencil, scribed the ID on the other side with a nail. Attached to the tree using soft aluminum 16-ga electric fence wire - used a nail slightly smaller than the wire to poke a hole in the tree's bark, and inserted the end of the wire opposite the tag into the tree - tried to get at least an inch or two of wire slid in under the bark. The aluminum wire is soft enough that if someone hits it with a saw at some point in the future, it's not going to pose a problem.
Not a bad idea to make a second ID tag and bury in the mulch at the base of the tree in a standard position -like, say, on the north side of the tree.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 2:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Good winter task. I do a combination of the plastic cable ties and aluminum tags cut from aluminum baking pans, doubled over and cut with a loose-leaf paper type punch. I've done hundreds of these but only over the past three or four years and don't recall a single failure. The cable ties need to be large enough to allow for the growth of the plant of course. The baking pans are easy to cut, easy to inscribe, can be made into plenty of tags in little time and seem to be very durable though I've only had a few years experience using them.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 3:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
theaceofspades(7 Long Island)

I have had a lot of the aluminum tags with the stainless wire grow over. I was double wrapping the wire around the thin grafted branches so the tags stayed on. Many branches grew too fast, I was able to pull most of the embedded wires out and retie with lots of room. A single plastic tie stapled on the trunk and allowed to grow over is not going to look right sticking out of the bark. I tag all my grafts (in the hundreds) what is going to be like stapling those thin branches? I use the cheaper rolled aluminum tags with the stainless wire and they hold up well. As good as the thicker ones with copper wire. I used already a box of 500 tags and working on the second.

Here is a link that might be useful: tags

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 3:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Lucky, that sounds like a good system. Too bad I threw away the old venetian blinds we took down not long ago. Ace, for grafts you can use those little wires and then replace with one of these more permanent ones later. I used to care what things looked like but after replacing some tags 4-5 times already I've eliminated looks from my list - I just want it to work.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 8:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have struggled with the tag issue. I tried the tags cut from aluminum beer cans and scribed with a pen. I tied them to the trees with poly baling twine. Either deer or squirrels chewed the aluminum! Recently I have been cutting tags from aluminum sheets used for roofing and flashing, stamping them with ID. I tie them to the trees with old heavy copper wire, which would be too expensive to buy these days. We'll see if these hold up; but even if they do I must continually expand the wire ties.

A friend who grows nut trees has had good luck in the long term with heavy aluminum tags glued to the truck of the trees with 3M Silicone Adhesive: http://www.tessco.com/products/displayProductInfo.do?sku=342434

They seem to stay on the tree even as the trunk expands. As a backup, he buries a tag in the ground on the north side of the trunk.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 12:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I gave up on tags a long time ago. I found that the best way to keep track of what I have is to draw up a schematic of each planting site. It's a permanent record of what I have and where it is, and nothing can destroy it.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 9:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Ray, I also primarily rely on record keeping - I have an Excel spreadsheet with everything in it. The reason why I need the tags is when you have 700 varieties its hard to remember which is which when out in the field. I actually have my spreadsheet on my smartphone and refer to it to determine a variety if needed, but its a pain to be doing that all the time. Also the tags plus the spreadsheet records give you a backup. Recently some guys "helping" me in the yard pulled off all my graft tags by mistake, but since I logged the location of every graft I managed to restore every tag to the right spot except for a couple that I didn't log carefully enough.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 10:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I make HDPE templates for countertop fabrication in my business. material is milky white 1/2" thick and pretty much indestructible. (milk carton plastic)

templates are for sink cutouts so every one generates a scrap piece the size of a kitchen sink cutout.

last year I took scraps and made tree tags that were 9" long X 1" wide X 1/2" thick with a hole in one end. tags can be pounded in to soil around the tree or hung on the tree with a tie wrap.

I marked them using a vibrating pencil. A permanent marker will work but will fade eventually.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 12:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here is my current tag system, subject to future replacement......SHORT TERM TAGS: I buy a cheap plastic mini blind and clip 10" long strips. I attach 4" long pc. of masking tape to one end and write on it with big letters using a Sharpie pen. I cover the writing with a strip of clear 2" package-wrap tape to keep it dry. The tag can be re-taped/re-used. LONG TERM TAGS: Look online for round aluminum tags that are 1-1/2" or 1-1/4" wide and that have a small eye hole on one end. Buy an inexpensive Dremmel multiple speed 110 volt vibrating etching tool online or at Lowe's. I 'write' on both sides of the thick tag things like Miho Satsuma, Trifoliate r/s, planted 10-13-2006, grafted 3-29-2006, etc. I use a 12" or so long black zip tie to hang the tag at eye level (eventually). I make a big loop rather than a 'snug' loop. The white zip ties don't endure the elements for long. BACK-UP RECORDS: I also try to keep a manila folder on plant types with nursery tags, vendor receipts, mapped yard location, etc. I regret that I didn't do this from the start...... I have a row of 7 old pear trees consisting of several varieties that have obviously different rootstocks with very different size trees. Lost tags and lost tree identities....well...I have been grafting to change most of them over to much better pear branches bearing much better fruit. Planning, researching, recording, etc. are sure better than haphazardness. ...signed- A Former Haphazardness Practitioner (at least as far as planting goes)

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 8:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
glenn_russell(6b RI)

Just for completeness sake, here is a similar link where we were talking about other tree labeling ideas. -Glenn

Here is a link that might be useful: Year-round labels/markers for fruit trees

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 12:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
glenn_russell(6b RI)

And this one...

Here is a link that might be useful: My new graft labels

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 12:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Thanks Glenn.

To follow up on the above, I decided to try the cable tie method linked above and I just got done tagging about 200 trees. I used 8" UV-stabilized cable ties and tried two kinds of tagging material. One is I got some 5mil copper foil in a 3" wide roll and cut off 1" pieces. Other is I used those Coles aluminum tags in boxes of 50. The copper is better but it averages out to about 35 cents a tag and the Coles tags you can get for about a dime apiece. Aluminum scrap would work even better. The cable ties are about a penny apiece so all the cost is in the tag.

I punched a hole with a hole punch in the foil on a side on the long way, so the tags hang side to side so you don't need to grab them to read them. I put them on trees using a staple gun loaded with 1/2" staples. I found it was better to use two staples about 1/4"-1/2" apart to keep the cable ties from rotating. The only problem I had was the staple would occasionally crack the cable tie. Maybe I should have gotten slightly longer ties, like 1', just to get thicker ones. I first was using 1/4" staples but those guys were cracking the ties all the time since they were hitting so hard; the 1/2" staples are not striking with such force since most of the stapler energy is used to get the staple in.

Overall I would say the biggest doubt I have is on the strength of the cable ties giving how they are cracking, but we will see. If they start failing I will replace with wire. One nice thing about using the aluminum tags is first you can use the tag with the little wire to mark the graft, and when it gets too big for that take it off, punch a hole, and re-attach the same label with a cable tie; no need to create a new tag. Some of my new grafts I could use a cable tie on already since they topworked a fat trunk.


    Bookmark   December 24, 2010 at 3:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i have been using heavy al tags for years, they are 2"x4". I drill a quatre inch hole and hang them on a limb. These tags are large enough for all kinds of information on them. Like origen,ph,year grafted or bought etc. I have steel punch set(letters and numbers) and if one died i use the other side. Anyone interested i can send you some(free,just postage).These tags last forever.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2010 at 9:25PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Best tasting pawpaw varieties
I would love to hear from others who have tasted different...
Apple Tree Help - Thank you!
Hello, I have four different varieties of small (starting...
stark bros apricot with pits that taste like almonds
Does anyone have experience with this apricot variety? http://www.starkbros.com/products/fruit-trees/apricot-trees/stark-sweetheart-apricot It...
Bushwhacker Blood
conflicting pawpaw spacing info
Last week I planted several dozen paw paw. I had read...
Bushwhacker Blood
November Vole Damage
Voles have attacked my apple trees. A few of them are...
Sponsored Products
R Series Galvanized 14-Inch Outdoor Cord Pendant
$119.90 | Bellacor
Patio Living Concepts Outdoor Lighting. San Juan 30 in. Bronze Table Lamp with M
Home Depot
Indoor and Outdoor Bundle Natural and Red 6'6" x 9'6" Rug Set
Home Depot
Herman Miller | EamesĀ® Ottoman, White Ash
Provence Double-Tiered Outdoor Side Table - Black, 18" Round, Patio Furniture
$549.00 | FRONTGATE
Hand-hooked Marley Red Rug (7'3 x 9'3)
Courtyard Brown and Bone Square: 5 Ft. 3 In. x 5 Ft. 3 In. Rug
$72.95 | Bellacor
Greenington | Erica Stool, Set of 2
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™