Hartley Magazine

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Identity Crisis

When it’s potting and planting time in the greenhouse the very act of labelling every single pot can almost seem to double the workload. But every gardener, well unless they’ve got a memory of a database, needs to keep records of some sort. It’s not about being obsessive; it’s about keeping note of good doers, things you wouldn’t bother with again and combinations of the two. For example, in my greenhouse I’ve got a few trials going on. I’m trialling a whole array of peat free compost with seeds, seedlings and trying to see how they fare for supporting fully mature plants too. Then there are the grafted vegetable plants; tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, three of each variety and each one growing in a different peat free compost. Plus the heritage tomato plants and everything else in between. Even when you think you will remember or recognise the compost you have used or the seed you have sown, or the plant you have just potted up, you won’t, well not unless you’ve got an incredible memory and if you are anything like me, memory just fades with time.

We’ve all done it, planted a few pots of something and not labelled them up and guess what, that was the variety that did the best that everyone wants to grow and you forgot to label it. There’s a word for that. Annoying.


So the label has a purpose for recording names. But then you factor in the time trials; early sowings versus late ones or seed trials sown by the moon and soon you need a notebook per pot outlining what you sowed, when it was, what you sowed it in, the star sign the sun was passing through at the time and the moon phase too. Not even the longest label will support that amount of information and so you resort to codes and numbers. Great as long as you have an Enigma machine to help you decode at the end of the season. Then there’s the labels themselves. I’ve trialled a few in my time and sadly despite my best efforts and my leanings towards lollipop sticks; the horrid plastic white labels persist. They persist in the garden after next door’s cat has flicked them and it’s doings across the veg patch, they persist in the compost heap when I accidentally add them to the decaying matter within and they persist in the greenhouse complete with the indelible ink that works when you want to reuse the label but fades inexplicably when you want the name of that plant that was such as great success. Aaarrrrgggghhhhh. Finding a label that is big enough to write what you need and won’t decompose into crumbly tinder after 2-3 months and won’t fade either has stumped me over the years. I’ve even resorted to writing on the flowerpots themselves, that works well until you repot and have to rewrite every piece of info onto the next pot, oh and then if you reuse your flowerpots and you should, you end up with confusing notes all over them until you really can’t use them anymore. I’ve got a set of favourite square flowerpots with writing on all four sides that I now use with labels again! Confusing to say the least, but it does work.


So what’s the answer? Well, it’s up to you. You could keep a notebook or a diary of what you’ve sown. That’s easy if you only grow one or two varieties of anything each year, you can simply compare and contrast away from the greenhouse. You could buy a special gardeners’ diary, be honest you’ve got a few on the bookshelf you haven’t yet used.

There’s something really comforting about a garden diary, a record of the weather and what you sowed and when. Or maybe it should be a web log, a Blog, but if I listed everything in my greenhouse now, you’d fall asleep in moments. Now there’s an idea, counting tomatoes instead of sheep, I wonder if it would work. Orangino, Cupido, Darby, Gardeners Delight, Shirley, Moneymaker Jubilee.