Get hands-on education and support to plant trees in your neighborhood with your neighbors.

5 Step Guide to



TreePlanters "Welcome to the TreePlanters guide! We want to inspire and empower individuals to plant trees with neighbors in Chicago or the near-south suburbs. Share the joy of meeting neighbors, enjoying time outside and creating a healthy environment where you live. " - Daniella Pereira, Openlands

5 Steps

Who? Someone who...

Resource Checklist


You will need approximately 2-3 hours per week to start a TreePlanters group and then the time required will increase a little around the tree planting day. Managing the maintenance of the trees will take about 2 hours a week.

Decide to start TreePlanters and build your team

Planting trees where you live is an opportunity to engage with your neighbors, and getting a strong team onboard from the outset will be critical to your success. The most successful community projects are a collaborative effort, plus, it's far more fun if you’ve got support and can share the workload! One of the most important parts of your 30 Day Challenge is building your team and getting them together to kick-start this project. Aim for a team of 5 people.

You'll need to recruit more volunteers later on that want trees and will help on planting day and with ongoing maintenance. You don't need to have everyone on board from the initial planning stages but keep in mind where and how you might recruit these volunteers as you plan and get your initial organizing team together..

Fill out the the TreePlanters grant with your team first to better understand requirements for a successful event. A member of Openlands Forestry team will be in contact with you after you submit your application form.

Once you have spoken with Openlands about the planting, we ask you complete the TreePlanters Grants Volunteer Agreement . This agreement should also be shared and signed by individuals requesting trees. Next you will need to identify potential planting locations.

Identify Planting Locations

Planting locations must be in the city of Chicago or the near south suburbs and on public land. Public land is considered to be the parkways between the curb and the sidewalk in front of residential houses, school property, and some vacant lots. We will no longer accept proposals that are solely for planting in Chicago Parks.

How many trees do we need to plant?

How many trees do we need to plant? To qualify for a weekday planting we need locations for 15 trees. To qualify for a weekend planting we need planting locations for at least 20 trees.

If we have locations for over 20 trees are we guaranteed a weekend day?

If we have locations for over 20 trees are we guaranteed a weekend day? Due to the limited number of available weekends during planting season (April-May and September-October), not all weekend qualified grants will be able to planted each season. If you have submitted a quality project but we are unable to schedule your planting for the coming season, we may roll your application over to the next planting season.

Engage Neighbors

Your team will need to go door to door in your neighborhood to engage your local community. If they don’t have a tree(s) on their parkway already, you will be asking them if they would like to receive a tree and get support to plant the tree. Many successful grants also find additional space on public school land, in or around parks, community gardens, and land belonging to houses of worship.

You will need to get neighbor’s permission, physical address, name, phone number, email address (if possible), and their agreement to plant and care for a tree during its establishment period (three years), so they can receive a permit and a tree(s). You can use this form to collect this information from your neighbors and have any neighbors who want a tree agree and sign the TreePlanters Grants Volunteer Agreement.

By having more close-by neighbors knowledgeable about trees and participating in the tree planting, the trees have a better chance of surviving and reaching maturity. Community members getting to know one another increases social cohesion. The more people on your block that have a new tree and are caring for it, the less likely it will be vandalized because the neighbors will be watching all the trees.

Confirm Planting Day and recruit volunteers

When you have compiled the list of neighbors who would like to have a tree planted, Openlands will send a certified arborist to inspect the spaces where a tree is requested. Not all sites can receive trees due to limited space, utilities, etc. All households requesting trees will need to provide at least one person to work on a team to plant their tree(s) and additional neighborhood trees. Once we have a date confirmed for your planting, you can begin recruiting additional volunteers!

The tree planting is a community engagement and education opportunity, so we need the community to be together. Openlands will provide additional resources to help with event promotion, and you should encourage all volunteers to register in advance of planting day using the unique event link. Local volunteers will be best suited to provide tree care for the three years following the planting. On planting day, Openlands and our trained TreeKeepers will assist volunteers with planting trees.

How many volunteers are needed on planting day?

We require one volunteer per tree being planted, with all residences receiving trees being represented by someone. Volunteers will typically work in groups of four or five on planting day.

Do you have flyers and information to help spread the word about trees and the planting day?

Once a planting day is scheduled, you need to spread the word and gather volunteers. Openlands will help publicize the planting event, and you can also spread the word on social media, tagging Openlands on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Planting Day

Remember to share the following information with neighborhood volunteers and community groups before planting day. Remember, we need each representative from each household receiving a tree to complete the TreePlanters Grants Volunteer Agreement. Volunteers can save time at check-in by registering in advance using the unique event link. Here is a schedule that outlines the structure of the day, and beneath the schedule we have answered several frequently asked questions about planting days.

Maintain the new and existing trees

After planting, your neghborhood group of volunteers will need to care for the young trees in order for them to become established and thrive. A city tree must battle many urban hazards daily — from air pollution and bicycles to dogs and people. We ask that you provide basic tree care for the three years following planting (what is known as the tree’s establishment period).

Watering is the MOST important thing you can do for your new tree! Watering trees during the first few years will help guarantee that your tree will grow to maturity. Due to compaction and pollution, urban soil is hydrophobic and difficult to penetrate.

  • Water each young tree with 15 - 20 gallons once a week between May and October. That’s three to four large buckets.
  • Water slowly so the water penetrates the soil and does not run off.
  • We have compiled some information to help you care for your tree.