What My TreePeople Internship Taught Me

I’m what most Angelenos would consider a “rural person.” Let me rephrase that. I was born and bred in Michigan. Hence I’ve always considered myself nature-savvy. I need green space to feel at home.

I started interning at TreePeople because wherever I go in LA, I’m always reimagining streets and neighborhoods with more trees and lush canopies. After a month of interning here, I’ve come to learn so much, especially in the unique context of Southern California.

Here’s my list of the most mind-blowing facts I’ve learned so far:

There is a wrong way to plant trees.

It’s important to dig a hole the right size – twice the diameter of the root ball (the chunk of dirt and roots that you take out of a pot) and not so deep that you bury the root flare (the spot where the tree trunk begins to get a little wider, just above the soil surface). Burying the root flare makes a tree vulnerable to rot. 

It’s also important to pack down the soil around a plant’s roots, nice and snug. If there are air pockets trapped in the soil, roots won’t be able to grow.

The right way to water trees is called “deep watering.”

When you water plants so that only the first few inches of soil are wet, roots will grow close to the surface in search of moisture instead of going deep below to help the tree thrive. But, if you water slowly, allowing water to penetrate deep into the ground, the roots will follow. Trees’ roots need to learn to grow deep so they can reach the water table and access water during drought. 

Plus, did you know that deep watering also helps prevent aggressive tree roots from destroying sidewalks by training them to grow down, not up?

We need more natives!

Our local critters are adapted to survive alongside native trees and other plants. In fact, they count on them for food and shelter, and non-natives just won’t do! So, not only are California’s native trees and plants better suited to our climate–but they’re crucial to helping our wild friends survive, too!

Make your own memories! Intern with TreePeople to learn lessons that will live with you for a lifetime! 


By Karen Stasevich

Karen Stasevich is a volunteer and intern with TreePeople's Volunteer and Community Engagement team. She also works at a tech startup helping nonprofits connect with lawmakers. When she isn't doing that, she's usually biking around town, exploring LA's neighboring mountains or on the hunt for awesome art events.