Situation: During Earth Day and Arbor Day, tree giveaways are very popular. Many of these activities do not have any associated education on appropriate tree selection or care. Since 2016 the Residential Horticulture Agent in Osceola County has coordinated a tree giveaway with educational classes to help people choose and care for their trees responsibly. There is a collaboration with the Florida Department of Forestry and Osceola County Government.
Methods: Classes are offered in two different locations during two weekends in the spring and are taught in English and Spanish. Classes cover trees and site selection, in addition to trees planting and care. During the class types of trees available and their characteristics are discussed. After participants are done with the class Master Gardener volunteers help participants choose appropriate trees. They take home a tree, an USB with all educational material. Other Organizations like Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area and the Utilities sponsor and promote the program. Results: 377 residents have participated in the Annual Tree Give Away Program (2016-2017). Sixty percent of participants increased knowledge on the benefits of trees in the landscape and their proper care. Fifty-three percent of the participants surveyed can list at least one benefit of having trees on their property. 1,500 3-gallon trees have been given to residents during the workshops. Homeowners’ associations and schools have also participated in the program. Conclusion: Participants will realize an economic benefit by having well adapted, healthy trees in their landscape (www.treebenefits.com/). T the USDA Forest Service estimates that the value of a small tree planted in a yard is $10 (benefits less maintenance costs and mortality), so the economic benefits to Osceola County residents can be estimated at $15,000 to date, and increasing as trees grow (Central Florida Community Tree Guide PSW-GTR-230, 2010).