Tree Planting Frequently Asked Questions

Tree planting is a fun activity that people of all ages can enjoy. 

If you have never planted a tree before, just come along, as you will quickly pick up the skill on the day. 

What do I need?

  • Check the weather before you go. Planting is an outside activity, and the Scottish weather is the biggest variable. 
  • For warmth: warm clothes, in layers. If you get cold, please do not feel that you must stay until the end of the day – this is supposed to be fun. 
  • A hat – either for the cold or for the sun, depending on the weather.
  • Sturdy shoes or boots. Some planting sites will be muddy. 
  • A spade and work gloves – in many cases we will provide all the equipment, but if you prefer to use your own you are welcome to do so. (If you do bring your own, consider labelling it.) 
  • Some water and a snack, particularly if you have important dietary requirements. 

How big are the trees?

The trees are small transplants, known as whips. These are typically less than 45cm in size, and very light. 

How do you plant a tree?

For small trees notch planting or T-notch planting is often easiest. 

  • Use a spade to make an ‘I’ cut at the planting location.
  • Create a ‘T’ notch by making a second cut at the top of the I. Use the spade as a lever to gently open the I. 
  • Put the tree in the hole. Return the spade to upright, closing the ‘I’ cut. 
  • If the tree comes in a soil plug, aim to have all the plug in the hole, with the top of the plug level with the ground.
  • If the tree has bare roots, make sure the roots go straight down in the hole don’t wrap up like a ‘J’.
  • Place mulch around the tree. Aim to create a flat ‘bagel’ or ‘donut’ of much with the tree poking through the hole in the middle. Avoid creating a ‘volcano’ of mulch. 
  • If using tree protectors, place a cane or stake in the ground in the direction of the prevailing wind (e.g. to the southwest, in most of Scotland), and place the guard around the tree and stake. 

Planting is often a team effort, with one person using the spade to make the hole, a second person planting each tree, a third following with mulch, and a fourth keeping everyone supplied with trees, mulch and good humour!  

Why are all the tree planting days in the Autumn or Winter?

Trees become dormant in winter. They can be most safely transplanted when they are ‘asleep’, establishing themselves in their new location in the Spring. 

Can I bring my children?

Absolutely! They can plant under your supervision. 

Will there be toilets and a café?

This depends on the planting location. Sometimes, but not always. Please check before you travel, and if in doubt assume that there will not be. 

I have a disability or accessibility requirement – will I be able to plant?

Please contact the organisers (via forest@) to discuss your specific needs. Wheelchair users are advised that planting sites are typically only suitable for off-road chairs, and even then, it’s best to check ahead of time.

Do I need to pay to plant?

No, our tree planting events are free to attend.  

Will there be photography?

Often yes, for publicity. Please let us know if you do not wish you or your children to be photographed.  

Is tree planting safe?

Yes. All University of St Andrews planting projects will have been risk assessed. On the day there will be a named team leader who will give a ‘toolbox talk’ to brief everyone before planting starts. Please follow their instructions. The team leader will have a risk assessment, first aid kit, and contact details for the local emergency services. 

What are the COVID and other health risks?

Planting is an outdoor activity and therefore the Covid risk is low. Please follow the University’s and Scottish Government’s current guidelines on Covid. 

Like gardening and other activities involving soil, you are advised to wear gloves and make sure that your tetanus vaccination is up to date. (Young people from the UK will normally have received tetanus vaccinations as part of their childhood immunisation program.) 


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