Understanding Small Tree Planting Programs
In our last blog, we looked at the logistics for a large planting program, such as the planting of two million mangrove trees in Madagascar. This week, let’s look at what is required to oversee a small planting program. A good example would be a project to plant twenty trees in a public green community access space.
When we talked about a large planting program, we mentioned that identification of a planting site is often the first step in creating a program. The need to repair a specific site is usually the catalyst for a large program. With many small planting programs, the catalyst is not a specific site, it’s a general desire to plant some trees. Small volunteer groups will frequently want to do something to benefit their community, and planting trees is a great activity that fulfills that desire. However, most of these small projects don’t start with a particular site in mind. The organizers decide to plant some trees first, then follow up by searching for a site within their community that would benefit from having trees. They might not be able to think of any sites immediately, and might have to reach out to the local government or community leaders to learn about specific sites that could use trees.
Once a potential site has been picked, the group usually needs to get permission to plant trees on the site, because the group rarely owns the site that will be planted. Sometimes it is the local government that must be contacted. Sometimes it is a private company or individual who owns the land. Usually, whoever owns the site will want to know the exact plans before they approve the group’s request.
After the group has approval to plant the site, they must determine what kind of trees to plant. This is often done in consultation with the site owners. It is important that the species planted on the site will be suited to the environmental characteristics. Let’s say that a group wants to plant their twenty trees in a park. Should they plant boreal hardwoods, such as elm and oak? Should they plant palm trees? Should they plant ceiba or fig trees? That all depends on the climate and local growing conditions.
If the group has found a site and secured permission to plant, the next step is to contact a local plant nursery or forest nursery and consult with the nursery owners. The owners will have a lot of knowledge about the best species to use for the project. The nursery will also be able to supply the appropriate trees for the project. Sometimes, the group will raise funds to buy the trees from the nursery. Other times, for a very small project, the nursery might be willing to donate a few trees, especially if it is being done by volunteers for the benefit of the community where the nursery is located.
The volunteers need to research the best way to plant the trees. How deep should the trees be planted? What is the best type of soil? Will the soil contain a lot of sand, or gravel, or organic nutrients? The depth of the trees and the soil that they’re planted in are very important for influencing the growth of the trees.
After the trees have been planted, do they need protection until they have grown taller? Will birds or ungulates or cattle eat the young trees? Most people don’t think about trees as food, but many animals like to snack on various types of young trees. It may be necessary to put up some wire barriers or fencing around the trees for the first few years, but not always.
The hardest part of a small planting program is working out the logistics. Once that has been done, finding a few volunteers to help with the planting should be easy. The day of planting is usually a fun one, because planting trees is an enjoyable social activity.
If you’d like to improve your own community, you can use the suggestions in this post to help you set up your own small planting program. If you decide to do this, Ten Tree would love to see photos of your trees. You can tag us in your photos on Instagram.