April 2016
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A Simple Cost-Effective Way to Label Trees

For the past 6 years, we’ve planted a lot of trees on our property. It’s exciting to see them leafing out, blooming, and even some setting fruit already.

The food forest is getting pretty dense, so trying to keep track of what is where can be a challenge. Until recently, I documented everything on a map showing placements and tree types. With the addition of over 100 new trees in the last year, the map has gotten very crowded. Not to mention the fact that it isn’t easy to walk around with the map and trying to reconcile which tree is which in real life.

I decided I had to come up with a way to label the trees visually so it is easy to identify them when I’m out there working. I wanted it to be useful but cost-effective. When I was in high school, I worked at a golf course. I used to have to sort out golf bags after a member tournament. The bags that were stored at the course had plastic “bag tags” on them. I thought these would be good for the trees. I did some research and found that they are too expensive. I needed something less expensive.

Simple and Cost-Effective
Then it hit me. Every day – sometimes multiples times a day – I walk past a laminated sign I made back in 2010 that is mounted outside next to our electric meter. It’s a signed that was required for the fire department about the solar panels. That laminated sign has been outside in the weather for 6 years and still looked perfect. That was it – I needed a laminator.

I ordered an inexpensive laminator on Amazon for $20. These luggage tag pouches are a perfect size to label the trees and cost only about 10 cents each.

$20 Laminator

$20 Laminator

I’ve been making some simple tags showing only the tree type and the date planted. I print them 12 to a sheet. I make them small enough to leave extra space on the finished tag so I can punch a hole to hang them. I attach them to the trees using a twist tie. Eventually I might switch to using zip ties once I see how these hold up.

A Simple Tree Tag

A Simple Tree Tag

Several New Trees with Tags

Several New Trees with Tags

I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing the difference between apples, pears, plums, and peaches. But I’m definitely not good enough to distinguish between varieties of each. Now when I walked around, I can see what each tree is. The tags also enhance the experience for other family members and visitors.

In the future, I expect I’ll come up with ways to improve these tags. One idea is to include information about the time of year the fruit ripens. Color coded tags would make it easier to go straight to the trees that need to be checked for ripe fruit. Additional text information could also be added as I learn what is useful.

These tags can also be used for smaller plants like berries and other noteworthy elements of the food forest.

The beauty of this system is that the laminated pouches should stay weatherproof for years and they are very cost-effective. At 10 cents each, it’s not a problem to make new ones as often as needed. I expect that I will get much better at identifying the types and varieties of the trees because I can see what they are every time I walk the property.

Resources for this post:
$20 Laminator on Amazon:
Tags for 10 cents each (100 for $10): Luggage Tag Pouches

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