Everything in moderation. A frequently cited aphorism before the sex and drugs and rock and roll generation threw out the rule book. Well now we are learning that it is true for plastic too. Plastic does wonderful things in the garden: hose pipes, water butts, netting, rodent resistant compost bins! But the one thing it doesn't do is biodegrade. So as Obi Wan Kenobe says - "Use it wisely".
Another saw trotted out by old gardening hands is "Label Everything". It is a maxim I have fallen fowl of many times. In the first instance you need to know you have planted or sown something in a particular space. Who has not ever oversown a row - maybe of slow germinating parsnips or parsley or even, as I once did, dormant Jerusalem artichokes? Secondly you need to know which particular something that is. Sometimes I have not got around to labelling a sowing straight away and then cannot recall which was early cauliflower and which late purple sprouting broccoli. Now I always write out the label before setting out to sow. I always include the date too. Why bother being so specific? If you don't know the variety and the date sown your chances of replicating a success or avoiding a failure are minimal. A garden label at harvest time is a message of encouragement from your younger less knowledgeable self. Hey old chap you thought these carrots were Flakkee sown in April but I just thought you would like to know that they were James Scarlet Intermediate sown on 18th May! Aside from direct sowings seed trays and modules offer other challenges. One label one seed tray, but what about transplanting. Who gets the label or how many more do you need? And do you label every module in a 60 cell flat? (The answer here is to choose your size of tray or flat to ensure you have a monoculture. Once you have more than one labelling becomes a problem.) You could try labelling a row at a time in a mixed modular tray but I now make it a rule when potting on to make a new label for every pot. The result is that I need a lot of labels. I bought a supply of 150 a couple of weeks ago thinking that would let me off cleaning up some old ones. They are fast running out already so a clean up operation is imminent.
|Plastic Coated Plastic Labels|
Which brings us back to plastic. Wood is good, graphite is great, but if you can't read your pencil scribed lollipop stick label after six month in the dirt come rain or shine or hail or snow you may as well not have bothered. The green garden retailers have attempted to come up with a more ecologically sound system than white plastic labels and a black marker for addressing this issue but, to date, no viable alternative has passed the consumer test. The downside to that indelible "laundry marker" pen is its strength. Its etchings are not water soluble. Nor do they seem to be shifted by white spirit turpentine or surgical spirit. I know I have tried with the aid of a cloth, wire wool or an old toothbrush. In the process I've managed inhale noxious fumes, to flick these agents into my eyes, ruin clothes and melt plastic gloves but never successfully restored a plastic label to it's pristine, just off the production line, state. The solution to the problem of transforming single use plastic labels into lifelong use turns out to be the application of a small amount more plastic. I cover the white plastic label with a layer of smart/invisible/magic "writeable" tape, up one side then wrapped over the top, and then write on the tape with the indelible marker. It is not perfect, not organic, but it works: You know what you have grown and when it was sown and you have reduced the waste involved to the minimum. a two inch length of tape. The plastic label itself stays pristine and is reused year after year in this way.
|And don't forget the date!|