GoodSeed Farm > Orchard Plant Labeling

Orchard Plant Labeling

Permanent copper tags are the best way to label plants in your home orchard. (GoodSeed Nursery photo)

Do you know what kind of fruit trees you have in your orchard? How about your blueberry plants? Do you remember which one is which? Most home orchardists don’t. One reason is that it’s a challenge to permanently label plants in your garden or landscape.

Some gardeners keep detailed records, including diagrams and maps, and save the plant labels when they add plants to their home orchards. I have a great respect for people who are thorough and methodical with recordkeeping. For most of us, the day is too short and life too busy for this kind of fastidious documentation.

We’ve experimented with many ways to label plants. The original tags and labels that come with plants usually don’t last, and sometimes they even cut into the bark and injure plants. Stakes or signs tend to get run over by mowers or disturbed when weeding and mulching. “Permanent” markers like “Sharpie” tend to fade or wash off over time, and plastic labels get brittle and break after a few years.

Commercial tree nurseries solve this problem by dabbing paint on the trunks of trees. Have you ever noticed the colored dots on your fruit tree trunks? There’s actually a color code that assigns different combinations of paint colors to each variety of fruit tree, so that growers can identify bundles of bare-root saplings even if the labels fall off. These color codes are only helpful if you have the key list from the particular nursery where your trees were grown.

We’ve finally found the answer to this chronic problem: copper tree tags. These are strips of copper with a little hole in one end, through which there is threaded a piece of copper wire. Copper will discolor but it won’t rust, so the copper tags last for many years in the home orchard. Here’s how to install them: First, lay the tag on a piece of soft cardboard and write the name of your plant on it with a ballpoint pen. Press hard so that the pen engraves the letters in the soft copper.

Next, attach the tag to a major limb, close to the trunk. Wrap it around in a spiral so that it will stay attached but not cut onto the branch as it grows. Pick a branch you have no intention of cutting, ideally at eye level so it’s easy to find. Try to attach all the tags in your orchard at approximately the same height.

If you take the time and trouble to label each plant with a copper tag when you install it, you’ll never have to wonder what variety of fruit you’re getting from each tree or berry bush in your home orchard.