Spring is here, which means that it’s time to start sprucing up your home’s outdoor space. Sure, that might mean new patio furniture. But we’re thinking more along the lines of greenery. More specifically plants and trees. If you don’t have a green thumb or aren’t exactly garden center savvy, that’s okay. There are actually free trees from the government available in 2023 ready for you to plant.
Planting a tree isn’t just an activity to get you out into the fresh air. Trees, as you know, are an important part of our ecosystem. That’s why through reforestation programs, many government agencies provide eligible residents with free trees to plant on their properties. It’s kind of the ultimate home hack. Here are a few ways that you can get trees from the government without spending a penny.
After all, who doesn’t love to get free things?!?
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How to Get Free Trees From the Government in 2023
1. Get free seedlings from the National Wildlife Federation.
The National Wildlife Federation provides native tree seedlings for free to partners who will plant them through local restoration projects or community tree giveaway events. One example is giving students seedlings to plant at home, then having them take care of the tree. Visit the “Request Trees” tab on the National Wildlife Federation’s website to apply for free seedlings. (2023 season is closed)
2. Third Graders in New Jersey can get free seedlings from the Forest Service.
Through a program with the New Jersey Forest Service Nursery in Jackson, every third grader in the state is entitled to one free seedling. The request must be made by a teacher or official class representative. Visit the Parks and Forests department’s website for information.
Related: 12 Inexpensive DIY Raised Garden Bed Ideas
3. Seattle gives free trees to city residents.
Since 2009, the Trees for Neighborhoods program in Seattle has helped local residents plant over 12,300 trees across the city. Participants receive up to four trees per household. In addition, assistance in selecting a prime planting location is provided, as well as help in applying for permits to plant trees along the street. They also give free health evaluations for the first few years to monitor how your tree is growing. You can sign up for the email list here. Expect to be notified in June 2023 with information about the tree species available and the application process.
4. Get free yard trees from Portland Parks & Recreation in Oregon.
Residents of Portland, Oregon can get free trees for their yard through the city’s Urban Forestry program. Each Portland address is eligible to receive two free trees which must be planted on private property within city limits. The 2023 Yard Tree Giveaway doesn’t open until September, but you can fill out the online interest form here and be notified when registration starts.
5. Adopt free trees in Austin, Texas.
The NeighborWoods program is a partnership between the City of Austin Community Tree Preservation Division and the local nonprofit TreeFolks. This organization provides free trees to city residents and Austin Energy electricity customers. Between October and March each year, the TreeFolks NeighborWoods program gives away 5,000 free trees on a first-come, first-served basis during tree adoption events. Check out the upcoming event dates here, as well as who qualifies for a free tree. (2023 season is closed)
6. Register for a free native tree in Arlington, Virginia
If you live in Arlington, Virginia, you can get one of 500 free young native trees in October 2023. The annual Tree Distribution Program is run by the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation, which provides one free tree per residential property. You can register starting Sept. 5, 2023. Visit the county’s website for details.
7. Plant a free tree in your yard or street front in Los Angeles.
City Plants, a nonprofit organization run in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and six other nonprofit groups, distributes approximately 20,000 trees a year across LA’s neighborhoods. You can request up to seven trees per household to plant in your yard. Additionally, you can make the ask for a school or request a tree to be planted on the street in front of your home or business. Visit City Plants for details.
8. If you live in Orlando, Florida, ask the city to plant a tree in front of your house.
From June 1 through Aug. 31, the City of Orlando offers a service where homeowners can request a tree to be installed. Once homeowners fill out an application, a crew member will inspect the site to determine the placement of the tree according to their Right Tree, Right Place policy. Trees will then be planted on the qualifying properties in the winter. The Street Tree Program opens in the summer of 2023 for applications.
9. Get free trees to plant along streams in New York State.
The Department of Environmental Conservation in New York runs a Tree for Tribs program every year to help reforest the state’s tributaries. Anyone who owns or manages land in New York State with at least 50 feet along a stream or waterbody is eligible to receive a free “buffer in a bag” of seedlings. The program is also open to organizations and individuals with permission to plant trees on a property with water access. Visit the DEC’s website for the application process. (2023 season is closed)
10. Maryland gives free trees to homeowners with a waterway on their property.
In a program similar to New York’s Tree for Tribs, there are 21 counties in Maryland where residents can get “Backyard Buffers” through a joint program between the Maryland Forest Service and the Potomac Watershed Partnership. Homeowners who have a waterway on or adjacent to their property are eligible to receive 20 – 30 free native tree and shrub seedlings. These are intended to create a streamside buffer. Sign-ups open in February for the 2023 program, and you can find the details here.
Get 10 free trees through an Arbor Day Foundation Membership.
The Arbor Day Foundation is a privately owned organization, not government-run. However, anyone can get free trees by becoming a member for as little as $10. The donation includes a subscription to the foundation’s monthly newsletter, a guide to planting and caring for trees, discounts in their online tree nursery, and 10 trees as a free gift. (Okay, so technically, you’re paying $1 a tree.) The selection of trees available for you to choose from depends on your local climate. You can also opt to donate trees to a partnered forest.
TIP: Don’t see your state listed above? Remember, many government offices, both at the state and local level, will give out free trees, especially around Arbor Day in April — which is April 28, 2023. You can always reach out to them directly to ask or follow the agencies on social media for updates.