My apologies. I’ve been neglectful. Spring arrived and I was caught off guard and spent the past few weeks getting my hands dirty, getting splinters and bruises and too much sun and getting darned poison ivy. There is nothing I like less than an armful of itch, but a new sheriff’s in town and the ivy’s been apprehended—I’ve laid down the law along with my basil, sugar snap, carrot, radish, lettuce, and swiss chard posse. Everything but the tomatoes and cukes are in. Yee haw! I’ll spare you the dirty details. I’ll admit only that I’m sure to have planted too much. I always do.
Here in the Hudson Valley, last spring frost is around Mother’s Day. Our growing season is short. This means many seeds are sown indoors weeks before final frost date. Tomatoes, cucumbers, looseleaf lettuce, summer squash, and gourds all spend quality family time with us inside in early spring. Some hearty ones we plant as seeds directly in the garden—sugar snap peas, radishes, swiss chard and carrots are tougher than the rest.
There are many. And they are hard to keep track of. Hence, plant markers.
This project requires old silverware. Teaspoons, tablespoons, iced tea spoons, and soup spoons are perfect for the job, but you nonconformists out there may use forks or knives. You will also need steel wool or sandpaper, a dishcloth, a black permanent marker, a hammer, cement or steel block, and a handy metal letter stamping set.
First, with your design team, consider what you’d like to display on your marker. Start simple. “Dill” and “Mint” are good. With practice, you’ll soon move up to “Catnip” and “Rosemary.” Cute lengthy phrases will eventually come easy like “you are my sunshine” or “meet me in the garden” or the cheeky anthropomorphic “water me, please.”
Anyway, to prepare your spoon for printing (I’ll say spoon since, to spare small delicate fingers, we prefer working with spoons over other silverware) wrap it in the dishcloth and place it face down on a hard, flat surface like a steel block or cement. Hammer the back of the spoon until it is completely flattened. Count out the letters in your word. With permanent marker, mark the number of letters in your word (with dots) on the spoon. Beginning with a middle letter, carefully place your stamp over the corresponding middle dot, being certain that the letter is facing the right direction. Firmly whack the top of the stamp once with your hammer. Repeat with remaining letters, until your word or phrase is complete. Using your marker, completely fill in each letter—no need to stay within the lines. Using steel wool or sandpaper, gradually buff away the black permanent marker marks surrounding the letters.
Voila! Now, get outside and use ‘em.
Just a note: It might be helpful to remember that your markers don’t have to be limited to plant pots and garden beds. Silverware is flexible and quite forgiving. It can be hammered and twisted and tilted and bent into gift tags or napkin rings or bracelets as well. Furthermore, don’t limit your garden dreams to fancy old silverware. My friend Ian, a roofer, provides me with beautiful scrap copper that can be hammered and bent and sanded and is just perfect for the job.