Planning a Wildlife planting – volunteer Considerations

Before you just grab a shovel and start digging, there are a few things you should do first. A well-planned project is more likely to be safe and successful.

  • Permissions – Find out who the landowner is.  Keep writing and someone will eventually point you in the right direction! Make sure you get written permission for your project from the landowner. Provide them with a map location and photographs to show exactly where you’d like to plant and discuss what you plan to do. They might have special instructions on what or where to plant —  for example, not too close to a building or fence, nothing that will grow too large, etc.
  • Stakeholders – Talk to neighbours and people who use the land most. Are the people most affected by the planting in support of the project? What are their concerns?
  • Dig safe – Do a line search before you dig and be aware of underground utilities.
  • Site analysis – What areas are wet or dry, in sun or shade, how big can things get, what maintenance will it receive, what kind of soil do you have, what kind of things are already growing well on their own?
  • Water source –  If you plant native species whips, you only need to water in prolonged hot or dry spells. Over-watering can encourage roots to grow towards the soil surface instead of down towards groundwater. Larger trees such as half-standards, standards or heavy standards, however, do require watering. Heavy standards need 50 litres a week from March to October for first 3 years. Will you have to lug buckets, or can you get a spigot or a water butt installed? Can you get the council to agree to water your planting as part of their rounds?
  • Choose and order your tree or shrub species – Consider how much you want a monoculture vs mixed species, sun vs shade, soil type, adjacencies, height. If you’re not sure what to plant, diversity is best. Just plant and see what survives. This is a long term project. Free tree packs are available twice a year from The Conservation Volunteers and The Woodland Trust
  • Risk Assessment and Insurance – Carry out a risk assessment before the activity. Consider any way people might get hurt or the project might cause harm, and what you can do to minimize those risks. Do you have insurance in case someone gets hurt or property is damaged during digging or planting? Insurance is available for purchase through The Conservation Volunteers. Or can you work with a group that has insurance that will cover your volunteers? 
  • Maintenance agreement – Who will maintain your planting – water, trim, remove rubbish, replace mulch, remove guards when the time comes? How big can you let your plants get? Can you get an agreement to prevent over-trimming and over-mowing over the years?
  • Informational signage – Post a friendly sign to let people know what this is, how it will help wildlife, and that it is intentional and cared for.
  • Fencing, staking or guards – Protect your plants from mowing, birds, squirrels, dogs, and vandalism, with communication to the maintenance team, owners, residents, and stakeholders, signage, and/or physical barriers.
  • If planting on council land with volunteers, contact the Southwark Volunteer Coordinator employed at IdVerde. They can provide advice such as risk assessments and can also lend tools and high visibility vests.