Dig a hole, drop in a sapling, refill, mulch, water… and repeat

(Click here to jump to the Fall 2020 planting schedule)

A growing body of scientific research shows that encouraging the regeneration of natural forests and planting new trees on treeless lands are among the most economical and effective climate change mitigation solutions available to us.1

The Office of the Alachua County Arborist, Department of Parks and Conservation Lands, supervises volunteer tree plantings in and around the city of Gainesville. The plantings emphasize high-value tree species appropriate for site conditions on County owned right-of-ways, developed County properties, and properties directly influencing the public sphere. Of priority are trees that provide shade for bicycling and human pedestrians, provide erosion control, extend forest canopy, and support wildlife biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

This program adheres to strict protocols for the safety of participants during the COVID-19 crisis. Appropriate social distancing will be enforced. If you do not arrive at the planting site wearing your own mask, one will be provided to you. Masks must be worn during the planting.

Tree plantings are fun, low-effort undertakings to beautify our community and to help foster a sustainable local ecosystem for decades to come.2 Pretty much, you help to dig a hole a few feet deep, drop in a juvenile tree, refill, brace, bank the tree with mulch, water, and repeat. No prior tree planting experience is necessary. Needed tools, reflective safety vests, and vegan snacks are provided. A filled personal water bottle is strongly recommended, as access to potable water on site may be limited. You should wear lightweight but sturdy outdoor clothing and closed-toed shoes. Gloves suitable for garden work, a hat, protective eyewear (eyeglasses or sunglasses), sunscreen, and insect repellant are recommended. Typically, a planting takes 3–4 hours, usually beginning around 9 AM. You must complete a volunteer release form, provided on site, before the planting begins.

Directions to planting sites, recommendations regarding nearby parking or public transportation options, and additional instructions are posted to this page about a week prior to each planting. If you plan to take part in one of the plantings noted below, please contact Terry Harpold ( in advance of the scheduled date. Please also contact Terry Harpold if you have special needs regarding access to the planting site, so that appropriate accommodations may be made.

Join us, get your hands a little dirty, and make some new friends among “the most wondrous products of four billion years of life.”3 Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.4

The Office of the Alachua County Arborist is unaffiliated with the University of Florida. Plantings may be cancelled or rescheduled in case of inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances. 

Fall 2020 Trees! plantings

Upcoming plantings

  • Tuesday, October 27 – Hawthorne Athletic Park, Hawthorne – 7 trees
  • Tuesday, November 3 – Holden Pond Park, Hawthorne – 12 trees
  • Saturday, November 14 – Eastside High School, Gainesville – 14 trees
  • Tuesday, December 8 – Downtown Hawthorne – 10 trees

Saturday, October 17 – Lake Forest Elementary School, Gainesville

Photo by T. Harpold  / CC BY

Nineteen trees (bluff oaks, Quercus austrina, pond-cypresses, Taxodium ascendens, and sycamores, Platanus occidentalis) were planted on the school campus,

Spring 2020 Trees! plantings

Saturday, March 28 – Cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis

Saturday, February 29 – Archer Braid Trail, SW 91st Street @ SW 46th Boulevard, Gainesville

Photo by D. Jordan  / CC BY

Twenty-nine trees (sand live oaks, Quercus geminata, and longleaf pines, Pinus palustris) were planted on a portion of the Archer Braid Trail, along SW 91st Street between SW 46th Boulevard and Archer Road.

Tuesday, February 11 – SW Side of NW 23rd Avenue & the I-75 Corridor, Gainesville

Photo by T. Harpold  / CC BY

Nine trees, including winged elm (Ulmus alata), live oak (Quercus geminata), and southern red cedar (Juniperus silicicola), were planted on the sloping southwest side of NW 23rd Avenue & the I-75 Corridor, near Santa Fe College.

Friday, January 17 – Arbor Day @ Cellon Oak Park, Gainesville

Photo by T. Harpold  / CC BY

We celebrated Florida’s Arbor Day in the shade of the magnificent State Co-Champion Cellon Live Oak. (At more than 90 feet in height, 30 feet in circumference, and with a 160 foot crown spread, the Cellon Oak is one of the two largest live oaks [Quercus virginiana] in the state of Florida.) The ceremony included an Arbor Day proclamation by Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler, remarks by officials of the Department of Alachua Parks and Conservation Lands, and a reading from William Bartram’s 1791 Travels on the live oaks of Florida. Participants included members of the Cellon family, UF students, and a local cub scout troop and their friends and families. After the ceremony, twenty-three trees were planted along the perimeter of the park meadow, including included pecans (Carya illinoinensis), American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana), southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora), and spruce pines (Pinus glabra).

Fall 2019 Trees! plantings

Saturday, November 9 – Eastwood Meadows, Gainesville

Photo by A. Ewert-Harpold  / CC BY

Twenty-nine sand live oaks (Quercus geminata) were planted throughout this single-family housing development south of Greater Bethel AME Church and north of the Eastside High School campus.

Saturday, October 19 – Cancelled due to inclement weather

Saturday, September 21 – Waldo (multiple locations)

Photo by A. Ewert-Harpold  / CC BY

Twenty-three trees – Florida elms (Ulmus americana var. floridana), live oaks (Quercus virginiana), longleaf pines (Pinus palustris), southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora), and white oaks (Quercus alba) – were planted at three locations: the Waldo Community CenterWaldo First Baptist Church, and the Waldo City Hall.

Spring 2019 Trees! plantings

Saturday, February 23 pilot planting – SW Tower Road @ Archer Road, Gainesville

Photo by T. Harpold  / CC BY

Twelve pond-cypresses (Taxodium ascendens) were planted near the intersection of SW Tower and Archer Roads.

Bastin, J.–F. et al., “The Global Tree Restoration Potential,” Science 365: 76-79 (2019); Lewis, S.L., “Regenerate Natural Forests to Store Carbon,” Nature 568: 25-28 (2019).

2 Andreu, M.G. et al.Urban Forest Ecological Analysis. Report to the City of Gainesville, March 2017. City of Gainesville, Florida, 2017. Gainesville has been an Arbor Day Foundation “Tree City USA” since 1983. it was named a “Tree City of the World” in 2020.

Richard Powers, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Overstory (2019) – he means the trees.

The Lorax’s famous warning. You know he’s right.

Photos in the image gallery at right by A. Ewert-Harpold, T. Harpold, C. Houder, and D. Jordan  / CC BY