Tree Planting Event Toolkit

Below are suggestions and resources to help you plan your tree planting event.

How to Host a Successful Tree Planting Event

Getting ready to host a tree planting event takes some planning. We recommend spending time developing a plan outlined in the following steps:
Images showing planning, tree nursery and a potential tree planting site visit

Step 1: Plan Your Event 6-8 Months Prior

Gather a planning committee

  • Identify goals for the tree planting event
  • Identify financial needs and fundraising possibilities.
  • Develop a plan and start fundraising right away.
  • Identify tree planting volunteer jobs and committee roles and responsibilities and write them out
  • Solicit a tree planting event chair and define event committee responsibilities.
  • In addition to this toolkit, you might also find Tree San Diego’s Tree Planting Project/Event Consideration Questions PDF helpful for your organization as you scope out your plan.

Site Selection and Project Approval

  • Determine your tree planting site
  • Find out who owns the property, and determine the approval and permission process to plant trees on the site
  • Receive approval/permission from site property owner
  • Assess the site for tree planting with the property owner. Determine the physical restrictions of the site, such as:
    • Tree size and height considerations
    • Roots and pavement
    • Energy savings
    • Overhead restrictions (power lines, building elements, etc.)
    • Danger below (pipes, wires, other utility restrictions – Contact 811 before you dig to request the approximate locations of buried utilities to be marked with paint or flags.)
    • Available sunlight
    • Shade and nearby trees
    • Soil and drainage
    • Compacted soils
    • Irrigation source and accessibility
    • Property owner related concerns
    • Consider completing a Site Assessment Checklist. To learn more about the sample checklist download the Site Assessment Guide (Urban Horticulture Institue at Cornell University) this well help you determine the right tree species for the location(s).
  • Plan to Prepare the Site
    • Clear turf where each tree will be planted up to 1 and 1 1/2 times the width of the tree pot
    • A weed-free zone will prevent trees from being out-competed and reduces the possibility of small rodents causing damage to the seedling
    • If there is compacted soil, determine if you want to dig the holes before the planting date
    • If there is compacted soil, amending the soil might be necessary. Soils can be amended with compost to improve quality

Tree Selection and Purchasing

  • Research appropriate tree type for the site after completing the site assessment.
  • The following resources might be helpful to you in this process:
    • SelecTree – This program designed by the Urban Forestry Ecosystems Institute at Cal Poly is a tree selection database for California. You can find the best tree to plant by attribute or by zip code
    • Trees for the 21st Century is a guide produced by California ReLeaf that discusses eight steps to a thriving tree canopy, including the importance of tree selection.
    • WUCOLS provides an assessment of irrigation water needs for over 3,500 species.
  • Make final tree selection decision with site owner involvement and sign off
  • Visit your local nursery to order seedlings and facilitate the purchasing of trees

Tree Planting Event Date and Details

  • Determine tree planting event date and details
  • Determine tree planting event program, i.e., Welcome Message, Sponsor and Partner Recognition, Ceremony (recommended duration of 15 minutes), volunteer check-in process, educational component (if applicable), tree planting organization, team leads, the number of volunteers needed, set up, clean up, etc.
  • Identify participants, entertainment, speakers, local elected officials, etc., that you want present at the event and request that they put the date on their calendars

Post Planting Tree Care Plan

  • Develop a post planting Tree Care Plan with Property Owner Involvement
    • Tree Watering Plan – Weekly
    • Develop a Weeding and Mulching Plan – Monthly
    • Develop a Young Tree Protection Plan (to protect seedlings using  mesh or plastic tubing)- Post Planting
    • Develop a Pruning and Tree Health Monitoring Plan – Yearly during the first three years
    • For tree care planning tips please watch our ReLeaf educational webinar: Tree Care Through Establishment – with guest speaker Doug Wildman
    • We highly recommend you consider budgeting for tree care. Watch our Budgeting for Tree Care Success to help you with a grant proposal or for establishing a new tree planting program. 

Planting Supply List

  • Develop a planting supply list, here are some items to consider:
    • Hoe (1-2 per team)
    • Round head shovels (3 per team for 15 gallon and up trees, 2 per team for 5 gallon and smaller trees)
    • Burlap or flexible fabric to capture and lift backfilled soil (1 to 2 per team)
    • Hand trowels (1 per team)
    • Gloves (pair for each person)
    • Scissors to remove tags
    • Utility knife to cut away container (if needed)
    • Wood chip mulch (1 bag per small tree, 1 bag = 2 cubic feet) –  Mulch can typically be donated and delivered by a local tree care company, a school district, or a parks district for free with advanced notice. 
    • Wheelbarrows/pitchforks for mulch
    • Water source, hose, hose bib, or buckets/carts for trees
    • Wooden stakes and or tree shelter tubes with ties
    • Hammer, post pounder, or mallet (if needed)
    • Stepping Stools / Ladders, if needed, for staking trees
    • PPE: Helmets, eye protection, etc.
    • Traffic cones (if needed)

If the site has compacted soil, consider the following

  • Pick Axe
  • Digging bar
  • Auger (Must be pre-approved via 811 permission)


Volunteer Planning

  • Determine if you will use volunteers to plant trees
  • Determine if you will use volunteers to care for the trees for the first three years and long-term, including watering, mulching, stake removal, pruning and weeding
  • How will you recruit volunteers?
    • Social media, phone calls, emails, flyers, neighborhood listservs, and partner organizations (Volunteer Recruitment Tips)
    • Consider that some nonprofits might have the staff or a team ready to go. Some companies or municipalities will organize corporate work days or leverage their existing networks and contribute financially to your event
    • Determine type of volunteer roles needed i.e.- event set up, tree planting leaders/mentors, volunteer management like check-in/check out and liability waiver confirmation, event photography, tree planters, post event clean-up.
    • Create a volunteer communication and management plan, how will you have volunteers sign-up or RSVP in advance, how will you confirm and remind the volunteer of the planting event or tree care duties etc., how will communicate safety and other reminders (consider creating a website form, google form, or using online registration software like eventbrite, or
    • Develop a plan for volunteer safety, ADA compliance comfort needs, policy/waivers, restroom availability, education about tree planting and the benefits of trees, and the who, what, where, when why of your event
    • Acquire a Volunteer Liability Waiver and determine if your organization or planting site/partner might have volunteer liability policies or requirements, forms, or liability waivers required. Please see our Sample Volunteer Waiver and Photo Release (.docx download)
    • Plan for the safety and comfort needs of volunteers and plan on having the following at the event:
      • First Aid Kit with gauze, tweezers, and bandages
      • Sunscreen
      • Hand wipes
      • Drinking water (Encourage volunteers to bring their own refillable water bottles)
      • Snacks (Consider asking a local business for a donation)
      • Clipboard sign in sheet with a pen
      • Extra Volunteer Liability Waivers for drop-in volunteers
      • Camera to take photos of volunteers working
      • Restroom accessibility

Step 2: Recruit and Engage Volunteers and Community

6 Weeks Prior

Event Committee To Dos

  • Assign specific tasks to committee members to help spread the workload
  • Confirm the tree order and delivery date with the tree nursery
  • Confirm tree planting supplies availability
  • Call and check with the site owner and 811 to make sure the site is safe for planting
  • Continue with fundraising – seek sponsors 
  • Put together a team of experienced tree planting volunteers who can mentor planting teams on the day of the event

Plan Media Campaign

  • Create media (videos/images), a flyer, poster, banner, or other promotional materials about the event to use on social media or community bulletin boards, etc.
  • Consider using Canva for Nonprofits: Discover the easy way to create high-impact social media graphics and marketing materials. Nonprofit can get Canva’s premium features for free.
  • Identify social media influencers, community groups etc. and tell them about your event and try to get them involved
  • Finalize the program details for your tree plating ceremony with your local partners including whether you may want or have access to use a stage, podium, or PA system.
  • Recruit volunteers using local news outlets, partners, email lists, and social media

2-3 Weeks Prior

Event Committee To dos

  • Schedule a committee chair meeting to make sure every committee has successfully completed assigned tasks
  • Gather supplies for the volunteer’s tools for planting and comfort needs listed above. Check with your local library or parks department to borrow tools
  • Send confirmation emails/phone calls/text messages with event logistics, safety reminders of what to wear and bring to volunteers, partners, sponsors etc.
  • Re-confirm the tree order and delivery date with the tree nursery, and share contact information between on-site contact and the nursery delivery team
  • Confirm that 811 has cleared the site for planting
  • Schedule the pre-planting preparation of the site i.e. weeding/soil amending / pre-digging (if needed) etc.
  • Confirm and brief the tree planting lead volunteers who will be training and working with volunteers during the event

Launch Media Campaign

  • Launch media campaign and publicize the event. Prepare media advisory/press release for local media and reach out to community social media groups through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. 
  • Distribute flyers, posters, banners, etc.
  • Identify news outlets in your area (newspapers, news channels, YouTube channels, freelancers, radio stations) and obtain an interview with them to discuss your event

Step 3: Hold Your Event and Plant Your Trees

Event set up – Recommended 1-2 Hours Before Your Event

  • Lay out tools and supplies
  • Stage trees at their planting sites
  • Use traffic cones or caution tape to create a protective barrier between traffic and volunteers
  • Set up a water, coffee, and or snack (allergy friendly) station for volunteers
  • Stage ceremony/ event gathering area. If available, set up and test the PA system / portable speaker with music
  • Verify the restrooms are unlocked and stocked with necessities


Volunteer Check-in – 15 minutes Prior

  • Greet and welcome volunteers
  • Have volunteers sign in and sign out to track volunteer hours
  • Have volunteers sign a liability and photography waiver
  • Check age or safety requirements i.e. closed-toed shoes etc.
  • Direct volunteers to the location of restrooms, hospitality table with water/snacks, and group gathering location for the ceremony or where volunteer orientation will occur prior to the start of tree planting

Ceremony and Event

  • Begin the Ceremony / Event Program (We recommend keeping the welcome message to about 15 minutes)
  • Bring your speakers to the front of the event area
  • Engage participants and volunteers and ask them to gather around for the start of the ceremony
  • Thank everyone for joining
  • Let them know how their actions in planting trees will benefit the environment, wildlife, community etc.
  • Acknowledge grant funders, sponsors, key partners etc.
    • Provide the sponsor a chance to speak (duration recommendation 2 minutes)
    • Provide site owner a chance to speak (duration 2 minutes)
    • Provide the local elected official a chance to speak (duration recommendation 3 minutes)
    • Provide the Event Chair a chance to speak about event logistics and happenings, including hospitality/orientation needs, such as the restrooms, water etc. (duration recommendation 3 minutes)
    • Demonstrate how to plant a tree using your tree planting leaders – try not to have more than 15 people per tree planting demonstration and keep it brief
  • Break volunteers into groups and send them to the planting sites with tree planting leaders
  • Have tree planting leaders provide a tool safety demonstration
  • Have tree planting leaders have the volunteers introduce themselves by stating their names and do a group stretch together before planting, consider having the group name their tree
  • Designate 1-2 tree planting leaders to inspect each tree after planting to do a quality control check for tree depth and stake length, and mulching
  • Designate someone to take photos of the event and gather quotes from volunteers and partners about why they are volunteering, what it means to them, what they are doing etc.
  • When tree planting and mulching is complete, gather the volunteers back together to have a snack/water break.
  • Invite volunteers to share their favorite part of the day and use the time to thank the volunteers and share or announce upcoming events or how they can stay connected i.e. social media, website, email etc.
  • Remind volunteers to sign out to track volunteer hours
  • Clean up site ensuring all equipment, trash, and other items have been removed

Step 4: After the Event Follow Up and Tree Care Plan

After The Event – Follow Up

  • Wash and return any borrowed tools
  • Show appreciation to your volunteers by sending thank you notes and or emails and invite them to join you in tree care events such as  mulching, watering, and caring for the planted trees.
  • Share your story via social media posts tagging grant funders, sponsors, key partners, etc.
  • Write a Press Release about the event that includes information on the event and organizers, statistics compiled throughout the day, interesting quotes from organizers or volunteers, pictures with captions, and video clips if you have them. After compiling all the materials for your press release, send it to media outlets, influencers, and organizations like your grant funders or sponsors.

Care For Your Trees

  • Initiate your watering plan – weekly
  • Initiate your weeding and mulching plan – monthly
  • Initiate your tree protection plan – post planting
  • Initiate your pruning plan – after the second or third year after planting