Neighborhood Planting Captains are responsible for spreading the word about the tree sign-up opportunity, so hopefully if you have a planting captain operating nearby, you’ve already heard about it from a flyer, yard sign, or neighborhood social media group. If you want to double-check, reach out to us at hello@rootnashville.org with your street address, and we’ll plug it in to our map of captains and let you know. 

We don’t publicly list the map of current Neighborhood Planting Captains to prevent residents from accidentally signing up through the wrong neighborhood. We need to deliver as efficiently as possible because we deliver trees to 3-4 neighborhoods every week during planting season, so it’s important that orders are grouped geographically.

You have a few options here! First, we would encourage you to apply to be a planting captain yourself, or share the opportunity with neighbors and hope that someone near you is interested. Alternatively, we can send you our tree waitlist link. It’s pretty likely that we can accommodate waitlist requests at some point in the planting season, and if not, we always roll over the list to the next planting season.

Your neighborhood flyer includes your area’s delivery week. You can also feel free to reach out to your Neighborhood Planting Captain to ask, or you can reach out to us at hello@rootnashville.org.

The week before your trees arrive, you will receive a more precise estimate from us about when during the week you can expect your trees. It will most likely be sometime Monday through Thursday between the hours of 9am and 5pm.

First, please search your inbox for a receipt from “JotForm.” That receipt is automatically sent to your email after you place an order. If you still can’t find it, reach out to hello@rootnashville.org or you can call/text us at (615) 837-1151.

Planting prep and tree Delivery

  1. Determine planting location, at least one month before your trees arrive. Here are some resources:
  2. Make sure everyone in your household is aware that trees are on the way!
  3. Complete “Order Form #2” with some additional information that will help out our field delivery crew. 
  4. Call 811, a free service, so that you know if you have any underground utility conflicts with your planting location. Call 2 weeks before you want to dig the hole. Utility companies complete their marking work within 3 business days. Learn more about the 811 process here. If you’re receiving a tree from us, we will send an email reminder about when to call 811.
  5. Dig your hole for each tree before the trees arrive. We recommend making a plan, and a backup plan, to dig the weekend prior to delivery. If you are planting your tree on your own and the hole is not dug at the time of delivery, our field crew will not drop off your tree. We will send a reminder email and text or call the week before your trees arrive.
  6. If you are receiving more than 1 different kind of tree, please label your holes in some way with the tree species. Our crew will drop off the tree right next to the hole.

The hole for each tree should be about 3-4 feet wide by about 1.5 feet deep. Our crew won’t measure the size – as long as you have the hole started and it’s clear to the field delivery crew where you intend to finish digging and plant your tree, they will drop off your tree.

Two people can dig a hole this size in about 20-30 minutes, depending on the conditions. It’s pretty likely that you might hit some rock; we recommend digging out the rock when you can. If the rock is too big to remove, you might want to slightly adjust your planting location. As long as the hole isn’t completely boxed in by rocks 100% on all sides, you should be okay! Our soil is naturally rocky in places, and the tree roots will grow around them. But the more rock you can remove, the better. If you are unsure or have questions, you can take a picture and send it to us at hello@rootnashville.org.

No, you do not need to be home, as long as the hole for your tree is already dug and is accessible for our field delivery crew.

If you are receiving more than 1 kind of tree, please label your holes in some way so that the field delivery crew knows where to drop off which tree.

Planting Your Tree

Check out the short video above from the Cumberland River Compact, and for a more comprehensive viewing, watch this how-to video from the Metro Tree Advisory Council. (The information about container tree planting starts at about minute 9, but there is valuable information about finding the root flare prior to minute 9.) We also recommend our one-pager with step-by-step instructions.

We recommend planting a tree with at least 2 people. If your hole is already dug, the planting process should only take another 30 minutes or so, at the most.

Planting your tree too deep or too high. The root flare should be at ground level, or just 1-2 inches above ground level. Check out this graphic or this one for visuals.

We most likely can not change your order, because we plan our volunteer events very far out in advance. We recommend asking your Neighborhood Planting Captain or other neighbors for help, or hiring a landscaping company. We can double-check the volunteer status or provide recommendations of landscaping companies if you reach out to us at hello@rootnashville.org. 


We recommend a deep watering right after planting – about 10 gallons of water, or putting a hose on low for about 5-10 minutes at the base of your tree. This is to help your tree settle. Trees don’t need water over the winter to survive because they are dormant at this time.

We also recommend adding a thin layer of mulch around the base of your tree, but the mulch should NOT touch the trunk (it should be about 4-6 inches away from the base). Add your mulch in a “berm” shape, not a “volcano” shape. See these photos for example: sample 1, sample 2, sample 3.

While we definitely recommend mulch, it is not absolutely required. It’s okay for grass to grow around the base of your tree, but keep an eye on it if it starts getting too tall.

Lastly, you may want to consider adding protection from lawn mowers/weed whackers, or deer protection, if you have deer in your area. Check out this page to learn more.

Three years after your tree has been planted, you may consider light structural pruning. We do not recommend pruning within the first 3 years. But after this time has passed, you may decide to eliminate dead or problem branches. It’s best to wait until the winter when the tree goes dormant. When you’ve identified a branch you’d like to prune, cut it back about 1 inch away from the last green spot you can find. (Identify green spots by scratching a branch with a fingernail to see if there’s green color underneath, which means that part of the tree is still alive.) Learn more about how to prune here.

If the top half of your tree is dead but there are sprouts at the bottom, you can keep growing a shorter, bushier version of the regular tree, or you can remove it and submit your interest in a replacement tree on our waitlist link.

We recommend watering right after planting, but then you do not need to water again until May. Starting in May, each tree needs to receive 10 gallons of water every week that it does not rain at least 1 inch. Everyone who receives a tree through our programming is automatically added to weekly watering reminders, with a recommendation to water or not water that week. (You can opt out at any time.)

You can also check rainfall on the NOAA’s National Weather Service website.

Unless your tree starts to lean a little, we do not recommend staking. Your tree needs to sway a little bit in the wind to grow strong! But if your tree does start to lean, you can lightly stake it, using a flat material against the trunk (i.e, not a wire that could cut into the trunk). Learn more about best practice tree staking here.

We do not recommend using fertilizer on young trees. It can actually be too shocking for trees of this size to have a big influx of nutrients. More mature trees might need fertilizer as they grow big, but we recommend checking with a certified arborist first.

Generally, we recommend waiting at least 1 year before taking any drastic measure or determining whether a tree might not survive. Trees are resilient and can surprise you! We advise hanging on a bit until the second growing season (the spring/summer) to see if it might recover. Continue to water your tree as recommended.

Try the branch-scratch method to determine if parts of your tree are still alive; scratch a branch with a fingernail to see if there is any green underneath. 

If the tree in question is one that you received from us, you can take a picture and send it to us at hello@rootnashville.org for a quick review. Sometimes we might recommend reaching out to a certified arborist.

We strongly recommend making sure any arborist you work with is certified. You can find a list of certified arborists in your area through this link of the International Society of Arboriculture: treesaregood.org/findanarborist.

In our experience, the most common ways young trees die are: 1. forgetting to water over the summer, 2. damage from lawn mowers or weed whackers, or 3. deer damage. Check out this information about deer damage, which also protects trees from lawn mowers.

Even in the best conditions and under the best care, sometimes trees don’t make it. It happens! We can either connect you to a nearby Neighborhood Planting Captain, or add you to the waitlist. We do not clear out our waitlist, so your request should be able to be granted at some point.


Tree Species Catalog

Learn more about the available tree types for the fall 2022 — winter 2023 season, with photos and information about size and characteristics.

811 Info Sheet

Captains: share this information with your neighborhood tree recipients about how to use the free 811 service. 

Benefits of Trees

This one-pager can be used as an educational tool for recruiting neighbors to consider accepting free trees.