Identification for plants extends to more than just a head grower’s well-curated knowledge, or the trained eye of a seasoned gardener. By tagging and labelling your crops in unique and clear ways, you can set up both your employees and final consumers for a successful growing experience.
During the growing process
Before your plants make their way to the retailer and then end consumer, tracking each crop from seed to flower requires an attention to detail, organization and a commitment to the labelling process.
“Many things happen to the seed before it’s ever seen by the retailer, and all of those things have to be kept up with in order to determine what has transpired in the life of that plant,” says Robert Grooms, owner of Stover Manufacturing, a tag and label system supplier based in Port Orange, Fla.
One option available to growers is to label trays or print and place tags within crops.
“Right now we only track about 3 percent of each crop just so that we know what fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides go into them and where [within the greenhouse] the crop is assigned a location,” says Joseph Hackney, of Hackney Nurseries. “That helps us know what we’re putting into each crop and the fertility of those crops.”
Joseph’s father, George Hackney, owner of the company’s Florida operation, says their system of labelling allows for the head grower to know if a crop has been worth the investment put into it in terms of the time it took to grow, and the number of times it was sprayed. His advice for growers looking to implement labelled tracking throughout their growing process is to first plan how the information will be used.
Keep it simple and easy to understand at a glance. That’s why we tried to cut down on the copy, because icons are becoming more of a universal language.” - Noelle Akin, Pettiti’s director of communications and education
“The technology is there, and you can correspond your labelling with your inventory system,” he says. “You have to know how you’re going to use it, though, because it still takes time and effort.”
However, because Hackney Nurseries is one of the first legal cannabis growers in the state of Florida, much more precise labelling will need to come into play.
“Every individual plant is labelled and has to, by law, be tracked throughout the whole process,” he says. “We’re just starting. The first crop of mother plants is what we’re beginning to clone from. So right now, there’s less than 1,000 plants in the facility there.”
George says the main challenge for the rest of his ornamentals comes for his operation at the end of the growing process when the plants are ready for shipment.
“We’re looking into measures for increasing efficiency at the end labelling, but we’ll tackle that after the spring season,” he says.
What the end consumer sees
Tags and labels that work best at retail are the ones that catch the eyes of your consumers and provide useful information for everyone, from the Millennial just taking a stab at having a green thumb to the master gardener looking for something new to add to their repertoire.
“Do something that your competitors aren’t doing,” says Bob Lovejoy of HIP Labels. “Be as unique as you can be [and] use different materials, different sizes, different shapes and different display methods. In my eyes, being different is very important.”
For Wayne Cousins, head grower of Petitti’s Casa Verde Growers, uniformity is key.
“The goal was to unify the whole company with different icons so that when you go to a shrub, a perennial and in a few cases, annuals, that you would see a uniform label throughout the whole company,” Cousins says. “We designed the different icons for deer resistance, butterfly attractors, drought tolerance, [whether the plant] likes full sun, etc. We also write all of the care instructions for each plant."
Noelle Akin, Pettiti’s director of communications and education, further explains the reasoning behind uniform icons on both the labels and tags of each plant and throughout their garden centers.
“The [icons show] main attributes for plant material because we wanted both our new employees, plus our customers to be able to find each type of plant,” she says. “We basically use it as a tool. Right now we are orienting many new staff members, and they may or may not have plant knowledge, but at least they can help the customer find plant material that they could be successful with.”
Some of the main icons Petitti uses indicate the amount of sun the plant needs, from shade to part-shade or full sun; resistance to certain invaders like deer or rabbits and what types of pollinators the plant attracts, namely butterflies or hummingbirds.
Akin’s advice to growers looking to add something unique to their market labels?
“Keep it simple and easy to understand at a glance,” she says. “That’s why we tried to cut down on the copy, because icons are becoming more of a universal language.”
She also points out that how-to handouts or care instructions on the tags and labels add a personal connection to your consumer.
“With our ‘Angelo’s 6 Steps to Success Planting Guide,’ we’re hoping to set the customer up for the greatest season possible by empowering them with the knowledge of how to best grow their plant,” she says. “That includes what soil and fertilizers to use and even pruning instructions.”