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DIY: Chalkboard Garden Markers

There are many things I do not do well. Failed attempts. Flawed theories. I’m looking at you Lettuce Table. I could write a lot of blog posts on those exploits. Heck, I already have. There is very little on the urban homestead-garden front, which comes easily to me. When I get something right I should probably share it. Even when it’s something as simple as…

These little creations have served me surprisingly well in Ugly Garden. They haven’t run or faded, they look pretty cute, and like most of the best DIY they are cheap and easy. So easy, even I can do it.

I first wrote about these (and created them) way back in February. When I was still taking pretty crappy pictures (Sorry! Thank you light scoop.) and I’d yet to discover the wonders of the Chalkboard Pen. I’ve fine tuned my approach, and I recently needed another batch. It was even easier and more pleasant to assemble these in the sunshine.

Here’s what you need:
Chalkboard Paint. (duh) Mine is very old, crusty, and second hand, yet it still gets the job done. Tip: If your Chalkboard Paint is too thick, you can loosen it back up by adding a little water. Ok, so it says this on the can, but it was news to me.
Shims. Used in construction for squaring up door and window frames, they are just about perfect as a garden marker. The Husband had little piles of these living in the garage. Hello, Inspiration! Mine are composite material. They also come in plain old plastic and wood. Either would be fine.
Painting Surface. Plain brown grocery bag covering a table, either indoors or out.
Paintbrush. Not pictured. I was mildly concerned about the chalkboard paint on our good brush. However, I’ve used both a disposable (that we don’t treat like a disposable) and our nicer brushes. As with all paint projects, if they are washed out promptly the brush will survive.


Viola! It’s that easy! One coat or two, play it by ear. If I get a smooth, complete surface with the first coat, I don’t bother with a second. About that smooth surface: Smooth, but not too smooth. Some ruts and lines are ok. It seems to give your chalk or liquid chalk something to grab.

Using Your Markers.
This is where I sing the praises of Chalkboard Pens. Easily the most expensive part of this project, and not something I invested in right away. I squirreled away some Amazon bucks to soften (eliminate) the blow of paying $25 for a ‘craft supply’. It’s one of the best $25 I didn’t spend. Maybe not that great, but these things have improved our weekly menu chalkboard. They’ve transformed vintage pyrex it into clearly labeled receptacles for dog meds and supplements. Best of all, when it rains and pours in Seattle, well into the growing season, I still know what varieties of cukes are where. I can find the spot I attempted to plant asparagus. My seeds, whether they sprout or not, are definitively identified.
Standard Chalk. Works pretty well too. It fades more, but not enough to make anything illegible. Quite frankly, its just not as fun to write with. But, it’s significantly cheaper.

Whatever you use – wood or composite, chalk or liquid – these should do the job. With minimal time, money, or perfection required, and in my case making use of materials on hand. That’s my favorite type of project.

What’s your current favorite DIY project? Share ’em here!

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Cool idea but doesn’t the chalk wash off in the rain?


Ha! Ha! This was my initial concern too, but no! The chard marker you see pictured, been outside in Seattle weather for months. Believe me, it’s rained. Plain old chalk does pretty well, fades some but doesn’t seem to actually run. Chalkboard pens hold up like a champ.

It takes an actual wipe down with a wet rag (and a little scrubbing) to get the writing off.

Fran Kew

You are funny! What a delight to read. Yes, I too have seeds that don’t germinate or if they do, mother nature’s cleanup crew has at them!

Thank you for writing this blog. I will bookmark it cause I’m just north of you & also an urban gardener who learns through mistakes. Trial & error … what a way to learn! 😀


Hi Fran! Always nice to hear from a ‘neighbor’!

As long as we are learning from our failures, I figure its an exciting (and devastating) way to figure it all out.


Did you experience any problems with the markers staining the chalkboard paint? I’ve used them, and even done a giveaway on my site, but if I leave them on too long, they stain.

They are super fun to write with, though.


I had to test this theory. I grabbed one of my old markers, that had been sitting in the garden since about March. And I scrubbed it – soap, hot water, rag. It removed the writing to the point I could write over it, but the original words were still visible.

However, I’ve always blamed chalkboard paint for this! Not the pens. Same thing happens on my menu chalkboard in the kitchen, which I’ve been using plain ole chalk on for years (until recently).

If I feel so inclined next year I’ll add a thin coat of paint to my used ones. Or not. Depends on how ‘detail oriented’ I am at the moment. I think they’ll be fine either way.

And yes, they are super fun!

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