Marking Containers

esox07June 9, 2014

I have had little luck with marking my containers with peppers. I am using green 5 gallon buckets and I tried using a permanent marker to mark the type of pepper on them but after about two weeks, it is barely readable. It is a sun issue. The same goes for the little white plant labels that you stick in the soil. I tried Duct Tape on the buckets with the permant marker and get the same result as marking the bucket directly. I have tried two different brands of permanent marker. Sharpie being one.

Does anyone know of a more durable and simple way to mark the buckets. I can use duct tape so that I can rip it off at the end of the season but I dont want to have to relabel them every couple weeks. I want a simple solution as well.

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ronnyb123(Zone 9)

You may try to get some paint that adheres to plastic, like Krylon, but these are in the spray cans. You would have to spray some in a old bottle and use a paintbrush to write it on the side. Seems like a lot of work but it could be done.

Why not use something else then those white labels. I picked up some free plastic from HD (samples from the window colorings) and used those, cut them into strips. Maybe masking tape them to the front if you really want it in there.

I once saw someone use white plastic knives used those as labels. Now that was cool. Seems practical and cheap to me. I may do that next year.

This post was edited by RonnyB123 on Mon, Jun 9, 14 at 19:07

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 6:55PM
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pepperchuck(8b coastal MS)

I've been having the same issue but I think next season I'm going to try using my wood burner on popsicle sticks.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 7:05PM
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If you use a plastic or wood stick label in the pot, use a soft pencil (I buy #1 soft pencils, not the common #2 pencils - #2 will work, but the line is thinner and harder to read). I just cleaned out my last garden bed this weekend and found five white plastic stakes from last year still perfectly legible. Matter of fact, I reused them right away as I had rotated those varieties into another spot. Didn't even have to erase the writing.

I've tried all kinds of markers, etc. but I always go back to my trusty #1 pencils. I've occasionally come across free carpenter's pencils (the wide flattish ones used for marking lumber) at big box stores as giveaways. Those work too, but they are a pain to sharpen with a penknife.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 7:36PM
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I would really like to use something on my 5 gallon pails or at least on a piece of Duct tape that I can place on the pails. I like to be able to see the name of the plant on the bucket when I take a photo so when I look later, maybe years later, I can tell what kind of plant it was. I really don't want to have to deal with paint or anything like that but I thought maybe there was some sun resistant marker out there. The #1 pencil idea sounds good for the small white plant markers though.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 7:59PM
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How about crayons?


    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 8:04PM
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flipback23(9 SF Bay)

Try the wax pencils may work. I'm in the same boat as you right now. I currently have 10 plants that I no longer know what they are lol. I'm gonna try the wax pencil on my bucket in between the top rings. Then wipe off at end of season for the known plants.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 8:15PM
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stoneys_fatali(9b Duarte,Ca.)

I get blank white plastic ones at my mom & pop nursery..10 for 80 cents.
I've used plastic knives too.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 8:55PM
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I can get a Sharpie Oil Based, Black Paint Pen from Home Depot for under $4. I think I will give one of those a try. I would think that paint should last for a couple months at least.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sharpie, Black Oil Based Paint Pen, Bold Tip

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 8:58PM
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Here's a cheap way we used to mark iron parts sitting out in the sun for, perhaps, years in a heavy equipment yard. Write on it with a magic marker and then immediately spray with a CHEAP white paint. The black marker will bleed and permanently dye the paint.

Your mileage may vary.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 9:02PM
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Hey, Cold Weather, that sounds like a pretty neat idea. If my paint pens don't work, I may give that a shot.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 9:07PM
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HotHabaneroLady(7a Central MD)

This year I used masking tape with labels written on them and stuck to the sides of the container. I will not do that again. I forgot to bring in the plants one day when it rained while I was hardening them off. The plants were fine, but the labels were erased. I had a very fun time trying to figure out what was what. So I think masking tape labels are a "don't." :)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:25AM
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I just use the white plant labels and a sharpie but angle them down so the sun doesn't hit the written area and bleach it out. The only issue with this is that you cannot just walk by and see what each one is, you have to bend them up to see whats written there.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 10:18AM
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Yep, all are potential solutions, but I want a simple way to mark the outside of my 5 gallon buckets that is at least semi-permanent. I want the name of the plant to be easily readable from a short distance and no fade from sun or weather exposure in two weeks.
I will update after I get a hold of a couple of the paint markers and use them long enough to know if they will be a solution or not.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 10:40AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Well, if you mark the container/bucket you are condemned to plant the same thing in it for the rest of your life :LOL

But, as Bruce said, it is convenient to read and be read in pictures.
I get blinds cuts and and make my tags. I use Sharpie marker and the marking stays readable for years. But who needs them old tags. I'll make fresh ones next year. hehe

If you are concerned about losing the tag (for some reason,...)
get one of those hand held single hole puncher. Get some old plastic blinds, cut them to any length. Punch a hole at one end ...make a hole on the buckets lip and hang the tag.
TOO MUCH work.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:17AM
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As an aside, I have about 25 fruit trees, including several varieties of apple, peach, plum, etc. When I got them, I also popped for those soft copper tags where you write on the variety name with a ball point pen, embossing the name into the copper. Should last forever.

Only a few years later to find my daughter had removed most of them for use in her doll house.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:49AM
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use a knife and scratch it in
use symbols with a "KEY"

(or wood burner /solder iron)

plus sign, minus sign etc...

mine are...

CG = Mexican Creme Guava

M = Malaysian papaya

+P = Sunset Papaya


keep the "key" -on the computer,
or under a fridge magnet

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 12:52PM
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michelliot(z7 ny)

CHINA MARKERS will write on just about anything

The ones that you unwrap the paper covering as you go along to expose the grease marker.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 12:53PM
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I use thick plastic plant markers from Menards with black permanent sharpie. It's been almost 4 weeks and there has been no fading. I also generally water right on them and no issues there either.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant Labels with rebate

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 1:01PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

I use strips of plastic beer cups marked with a Sharpie permanent marker. Yes, the marks above the soil line do fade after a couple months, but I also mark the strip *below* the soil line. That mark never fades, and I can refresh the above-soil mark from it later in the year, though by then I know the plants personally.

Never tried the China marker idea, but I bet it works too.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 2:03PM
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I've never tried this, but I wonder if you use a regular sharpie then spay on a clear polyurethane coating?

Here is a link that might be useful: Clear Polyurethane Coating

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 4:03PM
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A lot of packing and shipping websites sell adhesive backed ziplock sleeves, for enclosing a packing slip on the outside of a box. Most are not very durable, but with some searching it might be possible to find some heavy duty types. Putting the zipper to the bottom should keep things dry inside. Might also need to add a strip of duct tape after a few months but the label inside shouldn't be affected much.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 7:04PM
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Old window blinds cut into 6 inch strips with a permanent marker.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:39PM
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mctiggs(2b (WPG, MB))

Been down this road... even permanent sharpies wear off after time, by the end of the summer the marking is gone (every time!). I've tried labels, plastic knives, etc. those fade as well. I've resorted to spray paining a larger number on the side of the bucket. Then I make a log of which plant is in #1 bucket, 2 bucket, etc. That way you can use the same bucket the next year with a different plant. You can look back at photos and cross-reference your log to say that x plant was in bucket #3 in 2014 (for example).

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:47AM
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Brother P-Touch printers have become much more affordable. You can get one that hooks up to your computer for under 40 bucks, and it'll last forever. There are hand-held ones for twenty-odd dollars which you can use to make labels out in the garden. Compared to $3.50 for a single marker, this might be a good investment for a lifetime of garden labeling. I have used to label my peps in 5 gallon buckets. They stick on all season long and remain perfectly legible. At end of season, just rip it off and you're good to go for next year.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:58AM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

I used Sharpie Industrial Markers last year and they were fading even on labels facing the sun, much better than the "regular" Sharpies that often fade quickly in direct sun. Sure wish I knew about the Industrials and their UV resistance long ago. Just make sure to print onto a clean surface so the markings don't flake off along with any dirt film. I've only seen them in black (which is fine) and in fine point and extra fine point. I like the fine point best. I bought mine at the local office supply store in a 3 pack. Super easy to use and I doubt I'll mark with anything else now that I found these.

Here is a link that might be useful: Industrial Sharpie

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 2:39PM
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Well, not sure yet but things are looking good. I bought a Sharpie Paint marker from Home Depot for about $3.50. I wrote my plant names on some duct tape and put it on the containers. After about a week, they seem to be holding up quite well. Here is a picture of one of the labels from a couple days ago.
FYI: Reviews mention that the tip keeps falling out of the pen and in my experience, that is a valid complaint with these pens. More of a pain in the butt than a real problem though. I will update later on this summer as well.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 7:02PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

Modern duct tape won't stand up to the elements long. Hope it will make it through a season...

(I am old enough to recall the days of *cloth* duct tape that would adhere to dirt!)

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:28PM
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I just need it to last one season. I still have a couple containers still with duct tape from last season...We shall see.
And, DMForcier, I think that you are talking about "athletic" tape. And yes, that stuff would stick...In fact, direct sun exposure would probably make it stick more.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 5:47PM
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I use masking tape and a marker
I then use clear coat spray(rattle can) to seal the print
Directly marking buckets also works well after clear coating

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 7:18PM
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Does the clear coat prevent sun fade and when you mark the buckets directly, do you mark them first, then clear coat, or the other way around?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 7:33PM
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I use the paint pens too, Bruce. For the garden, I make a diagram of what I have planted where, so no labelling necessary. I make sure to write a copy of it in my gardening journal in case the loose paper one goes missing.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 8:37PM
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Mark the buckets then spray them lightly,dry then apply second coat.
4yr old labels still read clear(reused buckets)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:29AM
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OK, update on my Sharpie Paint pens. They seem to be doing the job really well. After a full month of rain, direct sun and weathering, they still look like new. Here is a photo.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:36PM
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Here is a close up of one of the pepper containers.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:38PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I haven't read all of the posts, so perhaps someone has already suggested a grease (wax) pencil.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:48PM
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Orekoc(7 Willamette Valley Oregon)

Get out your tin snips, or those red handled scissors that will cut anything, and cut up a pop or beer can into strips. Write on the strips hard with a ball point pen, not a gel pin! Punch a hole in one end of the strip and put a tie, zip tie, whatever through it and tie it loosely to the base of the pepper plant. Even if the ink wears off, the impression stays in the soft metal.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:56PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I use paint pens (from craft stores or WM's craft department) on cut-up cheap vinyl window blinds. They last at least a season.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:56PM
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All good ideas, but I wanted something that was durable and easy to read without having to get up real close. I like to take pictures of my plants and with the bold writing, I don't have to guess what it was when I look at it later on.
The paint pen and duct tape was the perfect solution for me.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 10:07PM
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