Looking for a simple, cheap and cute solution for making garden markers? Try painting rocks!
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Planting our garden last week, I was pondering the question that arises every spring – how to label my rows? I wanted to make garden markers that would be simple, cheap and cute. Bonus points if I could involve my toddler in the process, because toddlers rather like being involved. Then I remembered painting rocks a few years ago, and the idea started forming. If I paint rocks as different vegetables, they can be my garden markers, and my toddler can help me with the first coat.
First of all, I considered what plants would be in the garden. We do not have space for a big garden, but we like to enjoy some homegrown vegetables every year. Our experience has been that homegrown tomatoes and carrots show the most improvement over the supermarket varieties. So, this year we are growing five different kinds of tomatoes. My current favourite are a variety of small dark tomatoes called chocolate cherry tomatoes. We also try to grow something new each year, so this year we picked up packs of sunberry and ground cherry seeds. A year ago, we got a taste of ground cherries at a farmer’s market during our vacation in Montréal, and they had a very fresh flavour. We couldn’t quite find seeds for poutine or macaroons, so ground cherries will be our reminder of Montréal this year.
Fortunately, finding rocks was no problem. We collected them at a beach on Lake Erie. If you have a place you can visit for finding rocks, this craft can start as fun family outing! Otherwise, check your local stores for little bags of decorative rocks – they sell them too.
Materials for Making Garden Markers
Watch How to Make Garden Markers from Rocks
How to Make Garden Markers
1. Cover the rocks with paint
I entrusted Anselm with the task of painting the rocks with solid colours. For our joined project, we used gouache: it is non-toxic, washes off pretty well, yet has good covering properties. For older kids, who can be careful with paints, I would recommend acrylics. When they’re dry, they form a non-water-soluble layer. If you want to have the markers just for a few weeks or plan to keep them indoors for early planters, with acrylics you can forego the last step of covering the rocks with varnish. That’s the main difference!
Orange for pumpkins, pink for strawberries, green for cucumbers, red and yellow for tomatoes. It is always fun to try painting on something new and see how the improvised canvas responds to the paint. Rocks have a very pleasant texture: smooth and grainy at the same time, and my son liked holding them as well.
We did painting in a couple of sittings because Anselm’s hands would get coloured quicker than the rocks he held. He used it to his advantage. He would only have to grab a new rock to make it half-painted! Of course, at times his artistic vision extended beyond the stone, and the table would get coloured as well. While for some colours one coat was enough, yellow had to have a couple of coats. Based on the colours and the paints you use, you may need to give a second coat to your rocks after the first layer of paint is dry.
After the rocks dried, my son played with them. Painted rocks actually made a nice addition to the building corner with our nature blocks. A few hours of play was enough for his possessiveness to wane, after which I collected the rocks to continue working on the garden markers.
2. Add details
I added some lines and leaves to make the painted stones look a bit more like the plants they symbolize.
3. Draw faces
We are growing two varieties of pumpkins this year: one is good for carving into jack-o-lanterns, and the other is supposed to be excellent for pies. I couldn’t resist drawing a face on the jack-o-lantern pumpkin, and it lead to the whole menagerie of vegetable characters. This part would make an interesting project to work on with older children. Who can come up with the silliest face?
For adding black outlines, you can use the same paint as for all the other steps – or grab a marker and add details after the paint is dry!
It’s optional if you used acrylic paints, but necessary for either if you want to put the markers outside and have them last longer than a few weeks. Good outdoor varnish will protect paint against rain and UV damage. Do varnishing in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
I’m going to take the rocks outside tomorrow, but I am not sure how long they will stay in the garden. Budster longs to get to know Mr. Carrot better and make Ms. Strawberry feel happier. They might all end up in the sandbox, having fun with him.
What are you growing this year? What kind of vegetables would you need to paint?
Printable Garden Markers
A few years later, facing a similar problem, I made this set of printable garden markers. My son, now older, decorated these with faces too!
More Garden Crafts?
When I light these candle holders, I remember the summer, garden and flowers we grew. Anselm and I made these when he was three, so despite looking delicate, it’s a very easy craft!
This fairy tree house is my kids’ favourite toy to take in the garden. They decorate it with leaves and rocks and play for hours.
Thank you for reading!