How to start your own tree planting project

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We all intuitively know that being in nature makes us feel connected, alive, joyful, part of something greater, and more and more research is showing just how important having access to the natural world is for our health and wellbeing. But despite our reverence for nature, there is a reality that we all must face: that the natural world is in jeopardy.

~ Every year, an area of forest 4 times the size of Belgium is being clear-felled globally.

~ Around the world, we only plant half of the trees that we cut.

~ We have lost 85% of our primary (old growth) forests.

Each of us has an individual and collective responsibility to reforest our planet: to protect our one and only home and all that we know to be sacred. Strategic tree planting takes carbon out of the atmosphere and helps mitigate the impacts of climate change, and we are calling all women to stand with us. Together we can find our true power, strength, and unique expressions of feminine nature based leadership. We are the ones who can leave a better world for future generations.

So, you might be wondering...

How can I start my own tree planting project?

Kenya with sapplingsDo your Research: Before you get started you should investigate options for sites and types of trees. You will need to know all about the best tree species for your area; optimal planting times; and how to care for your trees. To identify appropriate local native tree species we recommend you connect with your local Native Plant Society, forest service/commission, nursery, arborist, or arboretum and ask for a list of local tree species that are appropriate for your planting purpose. We have a variety of resources listed later in this blog. Your local library may also have books about Native Plants for your region.

Get your team together: Many hands make light work, and the size of your project will depend on how many people you can get interested in participating. Getting together with a group of women, or mothers and children, can also bring a whole new level of connectivity and purpose to your project. You may even want to speak of your hopes and dreams for the earth, and sing or dance together to make it more fun and meaningful.

Permission: Depending on the size of the project and where you want to do it, you may need to get permission from your local council or landowners. Be sure to check this out before you start.

Plan ahead: Once you know what you want to do, and you have permission to go ahead, it's time for some detailed planning. Think about the timeframe, and the number and types of trees you want to plant. What is the soil type at your chosen site? This will affect the types of trees best suited to your project. What is it going to cost? What equipment will you need? Have you got the expertise you need in the team, or do you need to reach out to an individual or group in your area? Do you need to do some fundraising? Perhaps you can get a grant, or get the media involved to get the word out. Be sure you have resources, personnel, and information that you need before you start.

Prepare your site: Long before you plant your first tree you'll need to get the soil prepared. Decisions will need to be made about weed management and fertilisation, both before and after planting. You may also need to source your trees ahead of time.

Julian and Naomi plantingTree planting: Should you plant from seeds or seedlings? You'll have a greater chance of success with seedlings, but of course it's more expensive to purchase seedlings than seeds, so that may be something to consider.

Planting seedlings: Local, indigenous seedlings often have the greatest chance of success.

Planting seeds: If planting seeds be sure to plant multiple seeds because they won't all germinate.

You will need to investigate information about local conditions, optimal planting times, and what tree species are best suited to your project, and site. (You will find a list of helpful resources at the end of this blog).

What kinds of trees should I plant?

Whether you are full-scale reforesting or simply greening your neighborhood, the first question many of us ask when we think about planting is, what kind of trees should I plant? You will need to find the best trees for your local area. Here are some resources that will help you find this information:

Australian Native Plant Society: http://anpsa.org.au/

Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland: http://bsbi.org/

New Zealand Department of Conservation: http://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-plants/

North American Native Plant Societies: http://www.nanps.org/index.php/resources/native-plant-societies

Other International Plant Societies & Resources: http://www.botany.org/outreach/international/

How many trees do I need to plant to have an impact?

You don't need to plant a whole forest to have an impact. Even a few trees planted around the home can provide shade, reduce energy consumption, and improve air and soil quality, as well as contributing to all of the health benefits associated with living in a greener neighbourhood. Trees also play an important role in improving air quality through removal of pollution, especially in urban areas. One U.S. study found that trees and forests prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in one year alone, through the removal of 17 tonnes of air pollution. [2]

What if I live in a city?

Half the world's population now resides in urban environments, and this is expected to rise to around 86% over the coming decades in developed countries.[1] Even though city living has many advantages for humanity, research has shown that our cities can have a negative impact on our health. Mental illness, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have all been found at increased levels for people living in urban environments. Not to mention the environmental impacts of modern industrial living. The good news is that by increasing the amount of natural green spaces in cities these negative effects can be improved. Research is even showing that having access to natural green spaces has been associated with a lower risk of stroke and other diseases, reduced anxiety, depression and stress, and benefits to general health and life satisfaction.[1] So starting a tree planting project in your city is as meaningful and important as anywhere else.

Other Resources and Information:

We've listed some helpful websites below. You could also check out existing tree planting groups in your area who may be happy to share their expertise and knowledge. If you have other resources that you would like to add to this list, please leave a comment below!

Woodland Trust: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/ is a UK website with some good practical information and advice about choosing your tree species, how and where to plant, and tips on caring for your trees. Their tree planting factsheet lists the following steps:

  • Use a spade to take the turf out of the ground, turn it over and split it almost in half.

  • Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the roots of your tree. Loosen the soil around the edges.

  • Put the tree in the hole and check the depth. Look for the "collar" – the mark on the tree from where it originally started to grow above ground. This should be level with the top of the soil. If a tree is planted too deep the stem may rot; too shallow and the roots above ground will die.

  • Hold the tree upright and gently push back the soil, pressing it down onto the roots. Don't compact the soil as this will stop water and air circulation, but make sure your tree is steady.

  • Put the turf back over the hole with the split either side of the young tree, grass side down.

  • Cover your tree with a guard if necessary, using a cane or stake provide extra support.

Arbor Day is a U.S. website with some useful tips for tree planting projects: https://www.arborday.org/takeaction/volunteer/organize.cfm

Sustainable Gardening Australia has information specific to Australian natives, with a section on common tree problems and solutions: http://www.sgaonline.org.au/

Tree Project has an excellent "Grower manual" with a great list of Do's and Don'ts for tree planting http://www.treeproject.org.au/-


Growing trees from seeds

Tree Help.com has information about growing trees from seeds, covering germination and planting: https://www.treehelp.com/how-to-grow-a-tree-or-shrub-from-seed/

Woodland Trust also has an easy to follow factsheet on growing trees from seed; Their Top tip: Try to plant several seeds to make sure that at least one germinates: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/advice/how-seed/

The permaculture apprentice has great information about permaculture principles for growing trees from seed: https://permacultureapprentice.com/permaculture-growing-trees-from-seeds/

By Michelle McIntyre

Seedlings and planting photos by Kenya Ference


Michelle McIntyre Bio PicMichelle McIntyre is from Brisbane, Australia,
She is a treasured part of the TreeSister's Heartwood Volunteer team doing both research and transcription volunteer work. She joined the TreeSisters volunteer team because she was inspired and excited by TreeSisters vision, purpose, and ways of working- through TreeSisters she has fallen deeply in love with the Earth, and she is forever grateful for that gift.

References:
[1] The Natural Environments Initiative: Illustrative Review and Workshop Statement. Africa, J., Logan, A., Mitchell, R., Korpela, K., Allen, D., Tyrväinen, L., Nisbet, E., Li, Q., Tsunetsugu, Y., Miyazaki, Y., Spengler, J.; on behalf of the NEI Working Group. Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, 2014.
[2] Nowak, D. J., Crane, D. E., & Stevens, J. C. (2006). Air pollution removal by urban trees and shrubs in the United States. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 4(3), 115-123. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2006.01.007

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