Winter may not be the time to be outside gardening, but it is a good time to be indoors completing a do-it-yourself project that will help you organize your garden when the weather breaks.
Making plant markers can help you plan your garden by indicating what each plant is and where each plant will grow. You can also add a creative touch with a colorful sign that welcomes guests to your garden.
Make Plant Markers
There are a few economical and easy ways to create plant markers. They can be made out of an old plastic container like a milk jug or cake frosting can, or something wood, clay or old silverware — pretty much anything that you can write on with a permanent marker or attach a picture to.
Decide what plants you're going to work with in the spring so you can write their names on your markers. Now, roll up your sleeves — it's time to get started.
Use Plastic Containers
Be "green" by reusing plastic milk cartons or cake frosting cans (or something similar) to make simple, plastic plant markers.
Use an empty, clean, 1-gallon plastic milk carton and cut it from top to bottom with scissors. Cut out a fairly large piece of plastic. Make 1/2" strips (lengthwise) from the piece you cut out and then cut the strips in half. To create the "stake" end that will stick into the soil, snip the two edges of one end. Use a permanent marker and write the names of the plants on the "stakes" — one name per stake.
If you use a plastic frosting can, it's a similar process. Use an empty, clean can. Cut down the side of the can from the top rim to the bottom. Continue around the rim, cutting approximately every half inch down to the bottom. Next, clip each marker from the bottom of the can. Clip the two edges of the end to create a stake that will stick into the soil. Write the names of the plants on each stake with a permanent marker.
No matter what kind of marker you use, it's always possible that the writing can be wiped off by rain and the elements. Use clear nail polish or a similar substance to seal your writing on the marker.
You will have to use very sharp scissors or shears to cut through the plastic, so be careful. If you are doing this project with your children, be sure you do the cutting and warn them about how sharp the scissors are.
Create Wood Markers
You can create decoupage markers using balsa wood and wooden tongue depressors, craft sticks or plain old wooden garden stakes.
Cut pieces of balsa wood into squares or rectangles using a utility knife. These cut pieces will be the part of a marker that displays an image of the plant. Using a fine-grit sandpaper, sand the cut edges to remove any sharp edges and blow or wipe away the dust.
Use your own photos of your plants (if you have any) or find images of the plants you're growing in magazines or on the Internet. Website images can be scaled down to the right size using the photo editing application of your choice. Next, print the images out and trim the images down to fit the wood pieces using scissors. Now, paste the image onto the wood with wood glue or craft paste.
When the glue has dried, attach each marker to a tongue depressor, craft stick or garden stake using wood glue. Let the glue dry completely then cover the whole marker you just created with polyurethane using a small paintbrush; this will protect it from the elements. When the sealer has dried, your plant marker is ready!
Reuse Old Forks
Using old forks is a simple method for creating plant markers. You can also go to garage sales or thrift stores to find usable utensils.
Wash the forks or chosen utensils in soap and hot water or in the dishwasher and dry them. Using a permanent marker, write each plant's name on the handle of each fork. After the marker has dried, they can be stuck in the dirt.
The good thing about using metal forks is that they are sturdy and resistant to the elements, so they can be used over and over again. If you need to change the label on them, simply use nail polish remover to wipe away the old writing. Then write the name of the new plant on the handle like you did with the old one.
Make Clay Markers
Making markers out of clay can be a fun family project. You can use standard modeling clay or polymer clay. Start by kneading a small ball of clay — ideally at least 2" in diameter — until it is soft. Flatten it by hand until it is a square. Next, flatten the clay using a standard dough roller. This will compress the clay so that it will harden correctly.
Press a cookie cutter or some other "mold" (any shape you would like your plant marker to be) into the clay square and remove the excess clay around it. If you're using a different kind of mold that only presses its shape into the clay, you can cut around it using an X-Acto® knife to get the shape you want. Put the excess clay you cut away to the side and use it for other markers.
To imprint plant names into the soft clay, you can use a stencil with an X-Acto knife or embossing letters can be stamped into it to spell out the names. You can also paint letters on after the markers have been "fired."
Next, you'll need some 12-gauge craft wire. Cut two pieces for each marker approximately 6" to 12" and insert one piece 1" or so into the bottom edge of your marker towards the side edge. Do the same on the other side with the other piece of wire. These two wire pieces will form the "legs" that you will stick into the ground.
Cover a baking pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place your markers on it. Bake the markers the recommended amount of time specified by the clay manufacturer.
After they've cooled, paint on the names of your plants, if you didn't add the words previously. Let the paint dry.
Cover the entire surfaces of your markers with an acrylic glaze using a small paint brush. After this has dried, your markers are ready to be used.
Make a Garden Sign
Welcome visitors to your garden with a unique garden sign. It can be as simple as a concrete "stone" with your greeting that sits on the ground or it can be an elevated sign that catches the eye.
Make a Concrete Sign
You need a mold. Commercial molds are available at craft stores in circles and squares and other shapes. Or you can make a wood-framed mold using 2x4s and nails to create a square, hexagonal or triangular shape — really any kind of straight-edged shape you desire. An old circular tray or large circular baking pan can create good-sized circle stones, as can an old bucket or pail (cut the sides down so you have easy access on both sides).
Mix packaged concrete in a wheelbarrow with water, following package instructions. Remember to stir well with a shovel, adding small amounts of water at a time. Mix it until the concrete's texture and density is homogenous — not powdery and dry, nor thin and watery.
You can add color with QUIKRETE® Liquid Cement Color. Add an ounce or a bit more (depending on how much color you want) into your concrete mix and stir it around until the color is consistent throughout.
Use some cooking spray to lubricate the inside of your mold so that when the concrete has set and dried, your stone can easily come out of the mold.
Be sure to lay your mold out on a flat surface with plastic sheeting underneath. Pour the concrete mix into your mold. Shake the mold a bit to remove air bubbles. Using a stick or similar object, write your message into the concrete. You can also use concrete stamps after you've let the concrete set for about a half hour. Let it set — or harden completely — for about two days depending on the climate where you live.
Wear a dust mask, eye protection and gloves when working with concrete.
After the concrete has hardened, gently flip the mold over and lightly push or tap the stone free.
Make a Copper Sign
First, decide what you want your sign to say. You'll want to keep it simple since space is limited. Lay out stencils on a piece of letter-size cardboard and trace the letters of your message on it. Cut out the letters with scissors and arrange them on a wood board. When you have the letters arranged the way you want them, use wood glue to fasten them on. Let the glue dry.
Cut a piece of lightweight or mid-weight copper sheet to fit on the board, allowing for 6" more on each side. Lay the sheet down on a flat surface. Lay the board (letter side down) on the sheet, being sure that it is perfectly on center. Bend the copper sheet around the board and flatten it down. Attach the sheet to the back of the board using staples, tacks or nails.
With a craft stick, rub the copper sheet around the letters to make them rise up to the surface of the copper sheet. Next, make diagonal cuts on each side of the end of a wooden stake so that the end becomes a point. Fasten the other end of the stake to the sign with nails or wood screws.
Come spring, when the ground is soft, dig a 6" hole with a spade where you want to place the sign. Put the sharp end of the stake into the hole and then cover it up and pack it down so that your sign is straight and secure.
That's it! You're done. In a few hours time, you've used some creativity that will add a welcoming and personal touch to your garden. Show it off to visitors!
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.