The plastic label dilemma – solved?

If you’re so opposed to using plastic in the garden that nothing would induce you ever to use it, then this isn’t going to be useful advice. We’ve tried just about every alternative from hideously expensive black painted ones, to lollipop sticks, custom wooden labels and bits of cardboard.  We’ve even done the old trick of sticking a cane through the seed packet, but none of them are nearly as permanent and indelible as the plastic label and a permanent marker. Several lots of cardboard and wooden labels have gone mouldy almost as soon as they went into the propagators and so last year’s chillies were a pot luck supper until they fruited and we could finally see what they were.

The problem is that permanent ink is hard to get off – or at least that was the assumption we made until today when it suddenly occurred to me that I had a bottle of surgical spirit in the cupboard.  So I gathered up a handful of used labels and after a quick rub with surgical spirit – meths would probably work as well – they came up as good as new. That’s fabulous news because it means we can carry on using them year after year – they stay legible for a season or more, but you can erase the sowing date, or whatever, and use it again.

We’ve had a succession of busy days at the allotment and yesterday the final package of seeds arrived from Kings and so we’ve got everything we need for this season and after the experiences we’ve had this year, we’ll get our full seed order in early in future. Today we finished building the frame for sweet peas and sowed sorrel. More photos tomorrow.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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