Signs and labels for the garden


Get arty to create vibrant signs to showcase the different areas of your school garden. Labelling plants helps others learn the plant names and highlights the work the pupils have been involved in.

  • Estimated time: 60 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors & Indoors
  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): English, Art&DT

Learning objectives

  • Create signs and labels for the school garden from reclaimed wood


Pupils can create a list of areas around the school garden and grounds that require signs, and a list of plants that need labels.

Prepare the wood by cutting it into suitable lengths and sizes.


  • Paper
  • A selection of pens, pencils, pencil crayons
  • Off-cuts from planks, boarding or pallet wood
  • Sandpaper
  • Chalk pens or permanent marker pens
  • Nails (size of nails will depend on the thickness of the wood used for the sign and the stake, as the nail will need to be no bigger than the combined depth)
  • Hammer
  • Wooden stakes or brush handles for mounting signs

Step by step

  1. Each pupil will choose a feature of the school garden or a plant that they want to make a sign or label for.
  2. Invite pupils to design, on paper, the lettering for their chosen sign or label, making sure the lettering is bold and clear to read.
  3. Pupils will then need to prepare the wood by smoothing any rough edges with sandpaper. Any sawdust will need to be brushed off before wood can be drawn on.
  4. Pupils should then use a pencil to draw the design onto the wood first, acting as a guide.
  5. Use chalk pens or permanent marker pens to complete the sign, adding colour to the drawn outline. Write the name of the plant in clear lettering.
  6. Signs can then be mounted on a stake, by nailing through the front of the sign into the stake behind.
  7. To help pupils with step 6, mark the wood on the front of the sign, with pencil, by aligning the stake in the middle, this will act as a reference for placing the nails within this marked area.
  8. Using these guidelines and with support pupils will use a hammer to gently tap 2-4* nails into the wood, penetrating partway.
  9. Still with support, place the sign on top of the stake and drive the nails through the sign and into the stake.
  10. Place the finished sign in the garden, using a hammer if needed to knock signs into the ground.

*The number of nails used will be dependent on how big the sign is. For small signs of 10-20cm 2 nails will be adequate. For larger signs use as many as needed to secure the sign onto the stake.

Hints & tips

  • A suitable size of wood to use for the signs would be roughly 30cm by 15cm. The wood needs to be big enough to fit pupil’s design on.
  • Stakes, need to be thicker than the wood used for the sign. For a 30/15cm sign a stake of 3cm by 3cm square, or a wooden brush handle will be adequate. The stake length depends on the area you want the sign positioned and how far it needs to go into the ground.
  • Signs can be attached to fences or other structure in the garden.
  • Small pieces of wood don’t need to be mounted on a stake; if used length ways they can be pushed directly into the soil.
  • Add blackboard paint as a background to your sign to make chalk pens stand out.
  • Acrylic paint can be used instead of chalk or maker pens.
  • Use stencils and sponges with acrylic paint to paint lettering on the signs for pupils who need support with fine motor skills.
  • Small labels can be made out of large lollypop sticks with the plant names written on in marker pen. These can then be easily pushed into the soil in front of each plant.
  • To stretch and challenge older pupils, you can get them to use hand tools, such as a junior hacksaw or a wood saw, to prepare the lengths of wood for the signs, with appropriate safety precautions in place. 
  • Signs can be varnished with an outdoor varnish to weatherproof them, giving them a longer life in the outdoor environment.