Both Reigate & Banstead Borough Council (RBBC), Surrey County Council (SCC) and local communities want to increase tree cover to combat climate change and enhance our natural environment.

This guide is for community groups just starting out on tree planting. It is first step to doing this right. It doesn’t have all the answers but links you to those who do. 

Right tree, right place, right reason.

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Three key things to think about

  1. Get the right permissions from whoever owns the land. For planting and also for the long term maintenance.
  2. Think well in advance for ordering trees for the ideal planting seasons starting in November to March.
  3. Commit your volunteers to ongoing maintenance.

Locations and permission

Consider the following options:

  • Private gardens: It can make a big difference if everyone plants a tree or two in their own garden and encourages their neighbourhood to do the same. See the case studies.
  • Private business land: Ask local businesses in your area if they have land they could allow for tree planting. We have good links with local businesses so ask us if we have a contact.
  • Council land: 
  • Schools: You can contact schools directly but here are some ideas for engaging schools:
  • Highway verges: Apply for permission from Surrey County Council (they are responsible for highway verges, not Reigate & Banstead Borough Council). They charge £25 for the application and £200-300 for the planting, which SCC will only cover in some cases, it might need to be funded by you. You will need to demonstrate a watering plan, for the initial maintenance of the tree of up to two years. Ownership is SCC’s and so is the long term maintenance.

Planting and care guidance

Where to plant

The Woodland Trust has advice on preparing the site and the different ways to plant a tree:

When deciding where to plant, consider the following:

  • Is your land suitable? Avoid sites with rare or protected species, grassland that has never been ploughed, wetlands, heathland.
  • Be aware of any under or above ground services. Use a contractor with the New Roads and Street Works Act Certification, get approval from the council and landowner before digging.
  • Think position, final size and spread.
  • Plant in wavy lines and vary the spacing across your site.
  • Consider fencing from wildlife.
  • Leave glades for biodiversity.
  • The Tree Council also have a tree planting guide 

When to plant

The tree planting seasons start in November and March so make sure you leave time to source your trees and plant them at the right time

What to plant 

Deciding which trees to plant is important. Think:

  • Native species. Take advice, to diversify the tree species to combat climate change and emerging diseases, discuss also planting near natives and exotics.
  • Right tree, right place, right reason.
  • Think about the type of woodland you want to achieve. The Woodland Trust offers packs of trees to achieve:
    • Hedge - connect existing woodland to help wildlife stay on the move
    • Copes - mini forest
    • Wild harvest - for fruits and nuts
    • Year round colour - blossoms, bright berries and stunning autumn displays
    • Working wood - carve or weave willow
    • Wild wood - hardy native species can tolerate exposed sites and help dry up wet areas
    • Wildlife - food and shelter for wildlife
    • Urban trees - easy to manage with limited space
  • Think 10-20-30 rule to avoid monoculture which would result in trees that all grow at the same rate, are susceptible to the same pest and diseases and decline at the same rate.
    • No more than 10 percent of any single tree species
    • No more than 20 percent of species in any single tree genus
    • No more than 30 percent of species in any single tree family
  • For highway verges Surrey County Council will provide a list of tree types

Get advice

How to care for your tree

The Woodland Trust provides advice to split the phases of tree care as follows:

  • Years 1-3 – tell people where they are, weeding, watering, mowing, tree guards and pests. As this is one of the three key things (above), you’ll need this commitment from your volunteers.
  • Years 3-10 – remove tree guards, pruning, coppicing, disease, thinning.
  • Years 10+ - long term woodland management.

See also the Royal Horticultural Society

Surrey Tree Warden Network

Long term commitment and training for volunteers is important.

The Surrey Tree Warden Network (STWN) exists to support tree wardens within Surrey. They put together events, training and information and their aim is to give people the tools to be an effective Tree Warden.

They can:

  • Put you in touch with other tree wardens or other organisations who may be able to help you.
  • Tell you where to go for grant funding for projects, help with specifications for tree and hedge planting or if you are working on a larger project provide contacts for specialist advice.

STWN are part of The Tree Council’s national network of volunteers 

Organising a tree planting event

The Tree Council’s Tree Warden learning guide has a guide to planting events, this is available to Surrey Tree Wardens so contact them for advice.

These are some things to consider if you are getting people together to plant.

  • Ensure all organisers and helpers are clearly identified so that people know where to ask for help.
  • Make sure the planting target is met and that people feel they have achieved the day’s objective. An adult could probably plant between 12 and 20 trees in one hour.
  • Who is providing tools? Check tools are safe. Advise on gloves, clothing and appropriate footwear.
  • Who is responsible for briefing participants about health and safety and the safe use of tools talk? Make sure everyone can tell who the qualified first-aider is. Make sure you have carried out a risk assessment and are covered by appropriate insurance.
  • Think about safeguarding if you will be planting with children or vulnerable adults, the NSPCC provides some useful guidance for voluntary and community groups 
  • Think about refreshments. Will participants need to bring their own or will these be provided?
  • Choose a date that doesn’t clash with other local events.
  • Register your participants (you may need to contact them to re-arrange the date) and gather emergency contact numbers. Store and collect information in line with data protection rules

Sourcing trees – free trees and funding

Plan in advance. There may be a long lead in time for large trees.

Consider biosecurity when sourcing trees. Ensure trees are purchased are from a certified nursery or supplier.

Here are some suggestions for sourcing free trees and funding:

  • Woodland Trust: Schools and community groups are eligible for free trees from the Woodland Trust. Such as resident associations, sports clubs, parish councils, scouts. You don’t need to be an official organisation. Public access to the land is necessary for eligibility. They provide packs of trees (see ‘Which trees’ above) of 30 trees or 100 saplings. Woodland Trust charge for private purchase but for large scale planting of 500+ trees (at least half a hectare) they will cover up to 75% of costs and help design the woodland. 
  • The Tree Council: The Tree Council’s Branching Out Community Fund is a grants fund to get communities and young people involved in tree planting. Award grants from £300 to an upper limit of £1500. You can find out about applying for a Tree Council fund here.   
  • Community Infrastructure Levy Local Fund: Reigate & Banstead Borough Council has some money available to spend on local projects in the neighbourhoods where development has been built. This may include tree planting. Find out about the Community Infrastructure Levy and how to suggest projects here.

Case studies

Salfords & Sidlow Parish Council

Salfords & Sidlow Parish Council has worked with councils, businesses and local residents to work up a model of tree planting based around the right species in the right place, that they can use again in future years.

Large trees: The Parish Council purchased five large trees, working closely with Reigate & Banstead Borough Council’s Tree Officers to agree which species (native) and identify potential sites. RBBC also emphasised the importance of correct planting and handling.  They hired professional contractors to then plant these.

Verge planting: The Parish Council has also worked closely with Surrey County Council when planting on verges, other land they own and also agreeing species.

Planting saplings: Having arranged for three packs of 100 saplings from the Woodland Trust with the intention of having a tree planting day. This was disrupted by COVID, instead 200 of these trees were taken by residents to plant in their own gardens and the rest were donated to Nutfield Parish Council.

Planting and maintenance: The tree planting model was developed by a smaller group of people. 25 volunteers then signed up to plant trees and will now do the same next year. This longer term commitment from the community and volunteers is needed as ongoing maintenance is vital.



Tadworth & Walton Tree Wardens 

Tadworth & Walton Tree Wardens (TWTW) plant around 30 street trees annually with funds they raise. 

They plant on SCC land with a signed agreement that the Tree Wardens will maintain the trees for two years after planting. 

The group have a network of knowledgeable volunteer tree wardens. These are local people who have a love of trees, who work closely with and get training from The Tree Council (via the Surrey Tree Warden Network).

In spring the group mulches, clears, weeds and trims. In summer they water them. 

Contact: Facebook @TadworthandWaltonTreeWardens or Surrey Tree Wardens website