What happens after you take the first step, order your trees and join the NHS Forest community? It’s important that you work closely with the Estates team for your site to come up with a solid plan for where the trees should go. Once that is organised then it’s time to start planning your tree-planting day!
Here’s our handy list of 10 things to consider when organising a tree-planting day
- Who’s planting? Gather your team of tree planters and count their numbers. This can help you gauge how much planting you can accomplish in a single day. Remember, rates of planting whips with guard and stake are around 50-75 per day for experienced volunteers. Don’t hesitate to reach out to local schools, a local conservation group or a corporate group if you need some extra hands. A tree planting day can also make an excellent team building event for staff on site. Remember that some folks may only be available for a few hours, so factor that into your volunteer count.
- Spread the word! Maybe you already have willing and ready volunteers. If not, we can provide a poster template for you to advertise your planting days. Consider posting notices in community buildings, libraries, cafes, and supermarkets – these places are great for catching the eye of wide audiences. Don’t forget about newspapers, local radio, hospital radio, and the power of social media!
- Gear up! Check if you’ve got enough spades, wheelbarrows, and gloves to go around. You can also ask volunteers to bring their own equipment. If you’re providing gloves, be sure to have a variety of sizes, as hands come in all shapes and sizes (average adult hands are size 8). By and large, regular spades work just as well as tree-planting spades. Spades come in a variety of sizes too – bear this in mind if you have children coming to volunteer.
- Mulch matters. Mulching is the act of covering the ground around the base of the tree to protect the roots from extreme weather as well as to control weeds and enrich the soil. We strongly advise mulching your saplings with organic mulch material. In this case, organic refers to anything that is made of something that was once alive. Our favourite is wood chip, however, you could also use compost, dried leaves, manure, or shredded bark. Consider what mulch you want to use early on. It is often possible to obtain free loads of woodchip from your local arborist (https://freewoodchips.co.uk/), or you could look into getting a donation of shredded bark from a local garden centre. In general, mulching can be time-consuming. The easiest time to do it is on your planting day when you already have helpful hands.
- Prepare the site. if you’re planting into turf, consider mowing your site in advance of planting so it is easy to see where the trees are going. Mark out planting areas with line paint and flags if needed.
- Planting plan. Print out your site design, even if it’s just a simple drawing. This helps you communicate your vision to volunteers and ensures those trees find their perfect spot. Consider briefing key team members with copies of your design, especially if you’re planting in multiple areas. Remember, winter is when trees are dormant so it can be hard to tell them apart. Our trees come in handy labelled bundles. If you wanted, you could grab a winter tree ID guide to learn how to identify them without their leaves or read more about identifying trees in winter on the Tree Council website.
- Say cheese! Tree planting events are a fantastic and social day out – capture these memories. Make sure to remind your trust communications team about the planting day. They may want to take the opportunity to invite local media or do a press release. Also, don’t forget to share your photos with us either by email or via X (formerly known as Twitter). Let everyone know you are part of the NHS Forest’s campaign to plant 150,000 trees across NHS sites by 2025!
- Safety first. Perform thorough health and safety checks and complete risk assessments. Your Estates team will be able to advise you. Ensure you have checked your trust’s public liability insurance for peace of mind.
- Weather watch. Tree planting happens in winter, so be prepared for less-than-ideal weather. Consider having an alternate planting date in mind and remind volunteers to wear appropriate clothing and footwear. A couple of gazebos for shelter can be a real game-changer.
- Refreshment time! Tree planting is hard work. Treat your volunteers to a cup of tea and some biscuits – a sure way to warm hearts and hands.
Most importantly remember to have a great time! Don’t forget to thank your volunteers and thank yourselves. Every site that becomes part of the NHS Forest project helps to make the NHS a greener and healthier place. Learn more on the NHS Forest website about the wellbeing benefits of greening the NHS estate.
Remember that next winter we will have even more trees to give away. Applications for 2024-2025 will open spring 2024 so you can plan ahead.