Community Tree Nurseries

All over the country volunteers are busy growing trees, from individuals in their gardens to schools and large enterprises.

This pilot is led by: Norfolk County Council

What is a community tree nursery?

A community tree nursery (CTN) is a group of people who come together to grow, gather and then sell or give away trees. They are often classed as a social enterprise or charitable group and are usually run by volunteers. They provide an invaluable contribution to the UK tree supply chain and are increasingly important as a source of broadleaf home-grown trees, particularly those of local provenance and rare species.

There is a great potential for community tree nurseries to help meet increased demand for trees, particularly as they tend to grow local/regionally appropriate species. However, previously relatively little was known about CTNs across the country.

About the pilot

This pilot includes the first UK wide assessment of the viability of community tree nurseries, including how many there are and how they are contributing to the sector. We hope this data will feed into policy, and help local authorities make decisions on how to use particular pieces of land for tree growing.

This pilot represents a first step on a pathway to realising a thriving network of CTNs across England which contribute to the supply of diverse, sustainable, biosecure and resilient tree planting stock.

Watch our video

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The pilot included:

  • An investigation into community tree nurseries (CTN) to identify ways to enhance their contribution to the production of planting stock for trees outside woodlands, via a national survey.
  • Creation of a knowledge sharing toolkit to help in setting up and running a new community tree nursery, with options for different scales and models, and including case studies.
  • Establishment of a demonstration hub to provide inspiration and training/ masterclass sessions, and act as a focal point for helping new nurseries to set up and to support existing nurseries.
  • Piloting a CTN Plant Healthy certification group scheme.


We found approximately 80 CTNs in the UK and an appetite for more. Their diversity is their strength and they operate in a number of ways.

They grow an estimated 500,000 trees a year which are either given away or sold at a minimal cost. Nearly all of these trees are broadleaf, and many are grown from locally collected seed or are rarer species like the black poplar, and this represents an important contribution to the national tree supply.

  • A City and Guilds qualification
  • Provision of holistic therapy sessions
  • Support for homeless people
  • Support for young people and adults with learning and or physical disabilities
  • Support for people with complex needs including drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Childrens education and development (CTNs in schools and clubs)

Highly effective ways of supporting CTNs:

  • Financial grants: the ability to offer funding up front is extremely beneficial to CTNs who don’t often have funds immediately available.
  • Peer-to-peer networks: these provide up to date information, and practical tips from experienced experts.

Related resources

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Pilot 2: Subsidised Tree Scheme

This pilot looks at the best way of providing those trees and assesses the interest and their survival rates.