Otukaikino tree planting

Image: James Mortimer | DOC


Help New Zealand with its goal to plant 1 billion trees by 2027 and learn about the role they play in protecting our country. Earn a Kiwi Guardians medal for becoming a tree planter.

Trees are one of the most important parts of a healthy ecosystem, providing food and shelter for wild animals, whilst also filtering out harmful substances from the air around them, and providing us with oxygen.

Tree planter medal.

Did you know?

  • Before humans arrived in New Zealand over 80% of the country was covered in dense forest – we now only have around 24% left.
  • The two main types of tree are deciduous and evergreen – deciduous trees lose all their leaves for part of the year, whereas evergreen trees keep most of their leaves all year round.
  • New Zealand has many unique plants and trees, 80% of our plants are endemic (found nowhere else but here). They evolved over millions of years to adapt to the climate, ecosystems, and conditions of these isolated islands.

Explore your backyard

It's time to head outside and search for the perfect spot to plant your new native tree.

Have a talk with your parent or guardian and ask them if there is space in your garden for a native tree. Alternatively, get in contact with a local community group and find out when the next tree planting session is on at NatureSpace.

Remember – never start digging and planting without permission from the landowner.

Plan, Prepare, Plant, Protect

If you've decided to plant a tree, then it's time to follow the four basic steps for gardening success – plan, prepare, plant, and protect.


  • Visit a nearby reserve or a patch of native forest and look at the different tree species (do some seem to grow closer to water? Or perhaps grow close to a lot of other trees?).
  • Choose an area of your garden where native trees can grow to full height without blocking long term sun or views, or interfering with power lines, driveways, etc.
  • Draw a plan of the area you want to plant showing existing trees, paths, underground services, overhead power lines, etc.
  • Try to picture your garden in five to ten years time. How big will your tree be?
  • Make sure you've left enough space around your planting site for the tree to grow.


You will need to prepare the planting site well so that your tree can grow and survive. This should be done some time before planting.

  • Cut/mow lawn or grass area (if any)
  • Mark out the area to be planted
  • Lift turf out by cutting 1.5 spade widths wide (place cut pieces outside the area)
  • Use lifted turf pieces for composting or cut them in half and place them inverted around the tree after planting
  • Add well-rotted manure or compost
  • Loosen up the soil by using a fork or shovel
  • Keep the site weed free until planting time

Remember to keep the area weed free – native trees don't compete well with weeds for water and nutrients.


The best times of the year for planting are during the autumn months of April to May, or late winter to spring (August – September). Planting outside the cooler winter months means that a lot of watering may be required to keep plants alive. Planting should not be done on bright sunny days or very windy days in case plants dry out.

  • Before planting make sure that the site is damp but flooded.
  • Keep your tree cool and damp until you're ready to plant.
  • Mark with a stick where your tree is being planted.
  • Dig a hole wide and deep enough for the tree's roots to spread out.
  • Remove your tree gently from its pot – be careful not to damage its roots.
  • Make sure the roots are evenly spread, then place your tree straight into the planting hole.
  • Cover the roots with soil, gradually compacting it as you add more on.
  • Cover the tree until it as deep as it was in the pot.



In the forest, native trees grow naturally surrounded by a deep layer of old leaves and branches, covering the ground around them.
After planting your tree, spread out wet newspapers or cardboard, and cover with wet straw, bark chips (untreated), or compost to 90-120 mm depth. This will protect its roots, trap moisture and control weeds.


Watering should only be necessary in hot, dry conditions. Watering should be done thoroughly but not often (once a week maximum).

After care

Until your tree is established (2 or 3 years) and starts shading/covering the ground, you might have to continue weeding around it.

When your tree has grown enough and reached a good height, you should be able to plant smaller plants underneath it (try and make your garden forest!).

Claim your Kiwi Guardians medal

Tell us about the tree you planted, where you chose to put it, and how the planting went, and we'll send you a Kiwi Guardians Toa Tiaki Rakau Tree Planter medal.

  • What type of tree did you choose?
  • What did you plant it – your garden or a local green space?
  • Are you making sure it gets all the water and nutrition it needs?
  • Have any birds visited it yet?

Click on the yellow button at the top of the page to claim your Kiwi Guardians medal.

Each Kiwi Guardians action has a different medal – see how many you can collect.

If you share something online use #KiwiGuardians so we can see what you've done and share it with others!

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