Reflections of a Tree Planter’s First Season at LEAF

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a LEAF tree planter? My first planting season with LEAF was full of all sorts of lessons, laughs and, of course, lots of native species! Follow along as I take you through a day in the life of a tree planter.

I always knew that I wanted a career that allowed me to work outside and feel like I was making a tangible difference for our environment. In 2021, I was lucky to join a great team of like-minded people at LEAF and work toward our common goal of growing the urban forest.

Watering the first tree I ever planted with LEAF in September 2021(Freeman maple – Acer freemanii)

One aspect of my new role as the Residential Planting Program Field Coordinator was to lead our planting team through the fall season. Planting days can be quite long, and every minute is spent with your planting partner. Lucky for me, my partner and I had a great time learning together and even quizzing each other on species identification in the field. Each morning we would meet to pick up the truck and head to our storage yard to collect our materials and prepare for the day. Once the day’s trees, shrubs and mulch were loaded into the truck, we were off to plant!

Before working with LEAF, I had never thought about how unique backyard layouts could be — especially when trying to plan space to plant a tree. Prior to planting, homeowners receive a site consultation, where they work with our arborists to create a planting plan that ensures we plant the right tree(s) in the right place(s). We then use this plan on the planting day to measure out the location(s) of new tree(s) before we dig. Throughout the season, my planting partner and I got surprisingly good at estimating distances, and we even made a fun game of guessing the planting locations before officially measuring (I won!).

Stake marking a tree planting location

Once the planting location was measured out, we could start digging. We were always so thankful for soft soil, such as loam or sand, because it felt like butter against our shovels. The compact clay you often find in many newer developments, on the other hand, was much harder to dig through and felt like a workout. After the hole was dug and the tree was carefully placed inside it, we would do our final quality check for straightness before backfilling the soil, mulching and watering. The best feeling in the world was taking a step back after planting and seeing the tree in its new home, knowing it would be there for many years to come!  

A newly planted white pine (Pinus strobus).

Although it can be a tough job at times, planting gave me the opportunity to notice the small things about our local environment, such as the wildlife and how soil type impacts plant growth. It was such a rewarding experience to know that I played a crucial role in the growth and care of our urban forest. As I reflect on my first planting season at LEAF, I find myself thinking about the wonderful conversations I had with each homeowner and how excited they were to receive their new tree(s). I can’t wait to start planting again this spring!

Interested in planting native trees and shrubs through LEAF? Check out our subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program and sign up today! Check out more stories like this in our previous blog.

Jon Curtis is the Residential Planting Programs Field Coordinator at LEAF.

LEAF offers a subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program for private property. The program is supported by the City of Toronto, the Regional Municipality of York, the City of Markham, the Town of Newmarket, the Regional Municipality of Durham, the Town of Ajax, the City of Oshawa, the City of Pickering, the Township of Scugog, the Town of Whitby, Ontario Power Generation, Ontario Trillium Foundation and GrandTrees/Canadian Trees for Life.