What It Means to Be a LEAF Planter

I was hired as the spring 2019 Lead Planter at LEAF for the 2019 spring planting season. At the time, I was looking to expand my field experience and was excited to get involved with an organization that has been doing such great work in urban forestry for over 20 years! Now, a year later, I am sharing with you what a typical day might look like as a LEAF planter and why the work we do is so important!


Upon completing the Master of Forest Conservation program at the University of Toronto, I started working at LEAF as the Lead Planter. Planting trees and shrubs is a very empowering experience. Being outdoors, doing honest, on-the-ground work is rewarding and enriching. As a LEAF planter, it’s about more than just putting trees in the ground - it’s about making an impact and playing an instrumental role in the overall growth of our urban forest.


Preparing for the day

Each morning, the planting team loads up the truck with planting equipment, mulch and plants. We refer to our schedule for the day, making sure we have everything we need.  We aim to be ready to start planting very early since our days can be quite long depending on traffic and soil type (clay takes a lot longer to dig in than sand or loam)!


Planting begins

Once we arrive on-site with the trees and shrubs, we check the planting plan created by the arborist during the site consultation and measure out the planting locations to match them exactly. During the consultation, the LEAF arborist works with the property owner to choose the species and locations that are best suited for the property; taking into account homeowner preferences, amount of available space and the soil and light conditions of the yard. That’s why we need to make sure we plant in exactly the right location!

Once the locations for the trees and shrubs are marked, we start digging. Removing trees and shrubs from their pots and planting them in the ground where they will thrive for years to come is my favourite part. As a LEAF planter, it is important to pay close attention to detail, always aiming for the highest quality, which is very important in promoting long-term tree health.


A chance to chat with the homeowner

We provide each homeowner with our carefully crafted Planting and Care Guide so that they have all the tools needed to help their trees and shrubs survive and thrive! Urban trees are under a great deal of stress and require careful care and maintenance. That’s why proper post-planting care is essential to the long-term growth of our urban forest and is built into our model, equipping clients from day one with the tools they need for the successful establishment of their new plants!

Sometimes, the homeowner is interested in learning more about the planting process, so they will join us while we plant. Though the homeowner does not need to be on-site while we work, we always appreciate getting to meet LEAF clients! This is a great opportunity to go over any remaining questions they might have about the planting process or regarding follow-up care.

By the end of the day, we are quite tired, but we are rewarded with knowing that more native trees have been added to the urban forest. And, on a personal note, I found each day so rewarding that it inspired me to work towards obtaining my ISA arborist certification.

I have been very lucky this past year with LEAF and have moved on to become the organization’s Planting and Stewardship Coordinator. Thankfully, in this role, I will still be able to work outside and plant come spring! I am really looking forward to it!

Interested in having LEAF help you plant native trees and shrubs? Check out our subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program to find out how to qualify!


Adriana Rezai-Stevens is the Planting and Stewardship Coordinator at LEAF.


LEAF offers a subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program for private property. The program is supported by The Town of Newmarket, The Regional Municipality of York, City of Toronto, Toronto Hydro, Town of Ajax, and Ontario Power Generation. For details on how you can participate, visit http://yourleaf.org.