Enhancing York Region’s Urban Forest One Bag (and Bucket) at a Time

The first two years of a newly planted tree's life are crucial for its survival. That's why we hosted two volunteer stewardship events at recent naturalization planting sites in York Region this July. Our tree-rific team removed 54 bags of invasive plant species and mulched over 600 native trees and shrubs. In this blog, our new Stewardship Coordinator, Sarah Halonen, shares their first fieldwork experience!


LEAF staff and a committed group of volunteers met over the course of a weekend to undertake important stewardship work at two of LEAF’s recent planting sites. As we gathered each morning, I was overcome with feelings of gratitude for the land, a sense of community and the opportunity to give back. Our goal was hefty: to identify, remove and bag as many invasive species as possible and mulch the newly freed trees and shrubs to prevent further growth of invasive plants, restore nutrients and retain water. 


For those of you who are unfamiliar, an invasive species is an introduced non-native organism or plant that outcompetes and overwhelms native plants and young trees, preventing (in our case) urban forest regeneration. Wading through the tangles of sprawling sweet pea (Lathyrus spp.) and swaths of lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum), it took a moment or two to discover the hundreds of native trees and shrubs being overwhelmed by these invasive plants. We had our work cut out for us, but we were determined to make a difference. LEAF stewards to the rescue!


As we worked to remove and bag invasive species and mulch young saplings, I would get momentarily pulled away by the inviting sights and sounds on site. The banjo twang calls of green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) lining the tree-sheltered pond, the bright flash of American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) snacking on seeds and even a timid eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) spying on us from under a small shrub. It felt like our naturalization efforts were already working to increase biodiversity in York region.


Before I knew it, we’d hit the bottom of our steamy pile of spruce-scented mulch and knotted the last of the 54 bags of invasive plants collected. Thanks to our stewardship efforts, the 690 trees and shrubs planted on these sites are standing tall and proud, just like us!


If you are interested in lending a hand at future LEAF stewardship events, visit our Volunteer page to learn more about our volunteering opportunities.




Sarah Halonen is the Stewardship Coordinator at LEAF.

Our community planting and stewardship events are supported by the Regional Municipality of York, Ontario Power Generation and GrandTrees/Canadian Trees For Life.