Image of UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden volunteers gardening in the Arboretum.



At the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, we rely on volunteer support in every area of operations. As a volunteer, you can learn new skills, meet other people who share your interests, and feel wonderful about supporting our environment. Whatever your skills or interests, the Arboretum and Public Garden welcomes you.

Interested in becoming a weekly volunteer? 

Although we are not currently recruiting, we invite you to learn more and apply. When we do recruit, our goal is to reach out to previous applicants to gauge their continued interest. Get notified of upcoming volunteer opportunities, sign up for our e-newsletter, The Leaflet.

Volunteers donate more than 26,000 hours of service each year. Depending on their skills, interests, and availability, prospective volunteers can be assigned as members of a team that meets for three hours one morning each week. At this time, most training takes place ”on the job.” Sometimes, training sessions are offered to a group of volunteers.

The Arboretum and Public Garden also welcomes volunteers who prefer to work on short-term projects. We can always use assistance at our renowned plant sales. We schedule volunteer workdays several times a year for planting or garden clean-up projects. Many service organizations enjoy coming out for a day of work in the garden. We also work with volunteers for special projects in garden design, computer programming, marketing, photography, and other fields.

Are you a student?

Typically, students are not able to take part on our volunteer teams as they meet from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m one day a week throughout the year.  We also ask for a minimum one-year commitment and student schedules are usually not amenable to this length of obligation. The good news is that we have opportunities for students, with student schedules and interests in mind. Check out our Learning by Leading program instead!

Regular Volunteer Opportunities

While we are not currently recruiting, below is a breakdown of the types of volunteer opportunities we offer. 

  • Gardening
  • Gardening Volunteers work with the Arboretum and Public Garden's horticulture staff to beautify and maintain the collections and gardens.

    Schedule: Arboretum and Public Garden gardeners commit to one gardening shift per week for approximately three hours. The hours are 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday mornings. We also ask that each of our volunteers help with three of our plant sales every year. 

    Qualifications: Volunteer gardeners should love gardening and have a basic knowledge of plant and weed identification. The ideal volunteer gardener will have the physical ability to lift 30 pounds and to shovel, hoe, dig, plant, weed, prune, and haul garden trimmings. Must be able to work outside in hot or cold weather. The ability to work independently as well as a member of a team is highly desirable.
  • Land Stewardship
  • Land stewardship volunteers work with Arboretum and Public Garden staff on campus naturalized lands including the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve.  Projects include trail repair, native plant care, weed control, light construction as well as a variety of equipment and power tool operation.

    Schedule: Volunteers meet on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday mornings.
  • Nursery Assistant
  • Nursery assistant volunteers help the nursery staff produce and care for ornamental plants in a container nursery. They propagate plants by seed and cuttings, coordinate irrigation needs with staff and irrigate plants if needed, repot plants, weed and prune plants, rake leaves, lift and carry plants, wash pots, clean and organize. Volunteer nursery assistants keep propagation records and nursery inventory, print tags, and record all activities as necessary.

    Schedule: Nursery assistants commit to one shift per week for approximately three hours. Nursery work groups meet 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday mornings. We also ask that each of our volunteers help with three of our plant sales every year

    Qualifications: Nursery assistants should be interested in learning about growing plants in containers and plant propagation methods, and be able to work in cooperation with others in sometimes crowded conditions. Experience or course work in the culture and propagation of plants is a plus but not required. Must be able to work outside in hot or cold weather. The ability to work independently as well as with a team is highly recommended.
  • Curatorial
  • Curatorial volunteers work with the Arboretum and Public Garden curatorial staff to help inventory new and permanent collections of plants, assist with plant labeling, help maintain the Arboretum plant records system, and assist with collection mapping projects. Curatorial volunteers may also help the curatorial staff collect plant samples and prepare lists as needed for scientific research and teaching.

    Schedule: Curatorial volunteer projects require a commitment of three hours per week. We also ask that each of our volunteers help with three of our plant sales every year.

    Qualifications: Curatorial volunteers should enjoy detail-oriented work and have an interest in museums and conservation issues; research skills are valuable. Careful attention to accuracy is a must. Much work in the curatorial area is quiet and independent and suited to a well-organized person. Volunteers assisting with plant records must be willing to work with computer records. Volunteers helping with plant labels, collection maps and lists, and assisting researchers must be willing to work outdoors in variable weather conditions.
  • Nursery Caretaker
  • Nursery caretaker volunteers partner with the Nursery Assistant Manager to propagate plants for Plants Sales, Arboretum and Public Garden collections and special projects. Duties include keeping accurate inventories (both printed and in the database), maintaining nursery plants, insuring accurate plant labels are with each plant, and general nursery maintenance duties including weeding, watering, and fertilization. As needed, Nursery Maintenance Volunteers may also be called upon to help the Nursery staff with plant sales.

    Schedule: This group meets Tuesday mornings, 9-noon.

    Qualifications: Nursery Caretakers Volunteers should enjoy a love of plants and enjoy detail-oriented work. Computer literacy is required and careful attention to accuracy is more important than speed. This position is hands-on and also requires organizational skills. As Nursery Caretaker Volunteer you will get the opportunity to work both inside and outside. Members of this crew should be willing to work in all weather conditions. The ability to work independently as well as a member of a team is highly recommended.
  • Garden Inventory
  • Garden inventory volunteers partner with the curator and Arboretum and Public Garden horticulturists to record new plantings, maintain the planting records database, update garden maps in ArcGIS, and keep up to date plant inventories of the garden.

    Schedule: This group meets Tuesday mornings, 9-noon.

    Qualifications: Garden Inventory Volunteers should enjoy detail-oriented work and critical thinking skills are valuable. Computer literacy is required and you must be willing and able to learn new software. Careful attention to accuracy is more important than speed. Much of the work is best suited to a well-organized person. Curiosity and interest in exploring alternative, more effective or efficient ways of accomplishing goals is always a plus! If you enjoy puzzles, playing detective, or untangling a ball of yarn, this job is for you!!
  • Plant Sale Support
  • Plant Sale Support volunteers work with the Arboretum and Public Garden's education and resource development staff to help coordinate customer service in the check-out area at Arboretum plant sales, held seasonally in spring and fall at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery. The Plant Sale Support volunteers work as a small team to be the event day leaders/coordinators for 30-35 other volunteer cashiers, plant counters and line assistants. It's a fun and fast-paced environment.  

    Schedule: Arboretum and Public Garden plant sale support volunteers commit to working most of the seven Saturday morning plant sales each year. The work hours during a plant sale event are typically from 8:00am to 1:30pm. The sale dates are announced at least three months in advance of each season.

    Qualifications: Plant sale support volunteers should have excellent people skills, great attention to detail and be comfortable training and leading other community volunteers during a plant sale event. Should enjoy interacting with customers, students and other volunteers and be comfortable handling cash and credit card sales transactions. Must be able to stand for long periods and work outside in hot, cold or rainy weather. Training will be provided; no plant knowledge is necessary. Prior experience in a retail setting is a plus but not required. Please note that a background check may be requested.


Do you enjoy meeting new people? Would you like to learn new skills? Are you looking for a way to give back to the community? Consider volunteering at the Arboretum! It’s a rewarding place to spend your time with lots of fun, food and camaraderie.

We typically recruit and train volunteers for our weekly teams in January. For other types of volunteer positions, such as plant sale volunteers, we accept and review applications year round. To let us know of your interest in volunteering, please fill out our online volunteer application here, download and submit our general volunteer application form to the address below or email it to:

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616

We will keep your application on file and notify you of other potential opportunities. for more information, please contact us at or (530) 752-4880.

Thank you so much for your interest in providing your time to this organization! We truly appreciate it!

Subscribe to our e-newsletter and be informed of volunteer opportunities


If you have questions that are not answered here, please contact Roxanne Reynolds at (530) 752-4880 or

  • Who volunteers at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden?
  • The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden has over 120 regular volunteers who participate in weekly teams in the areas of gardening, nursery propagation and care, education, curatorial record-keeping, facilities maintenance and more. These active volunteers range in age from college-age young adults to seniors. Volunteers include students, working professionals, stay-at-home parents, and retirees with diverse interests and experience.
  • Why does the Arboretum and Public Garden need volunteers?
  • Volunteers, working alongside the Arboretum and Public Garden’s professional staff, help make the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden an incredible resource available to the entire community. Volunteers play a critical role in developing, supporting and sustaining the world-renowned gardens, excellent education programs, and innovative activities that create a bridge between campus and community. Collectively, volunteers contribute thousands of hours of time each year, enabling the Arboretum to have a tremendous impact with its limited budget.
  • What time commitment is required to volunteer at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden?
  • Most of the regular volunteer teams meet weekly for approximately three hours per week. Due to the significant amount of time we invest in training and orienting new volunteers, we ask that new volunteers be prepared to commit to providing three hours per week of service for a minimum of one year. Most teams meet on a specific weekday morning each week as indicated on the Volunteer Team Description and Interest Sheet.
  • Usually I can commit to volunteering 3 hours per week but I may be away occasionally for vacations or medical appointments. Can I still volunteer?
  • We expect that regular volunteers are committed to being able to attend most volunteer days. However, we understand that everyone has vacations or appointments that periodically conflict with regular volunteer days. These absences, if not excessive, can be arranged with your team leader. Also, most teams take a planned hiatus for several weeks over the winter holidays.
  • Do I need to have any special skills or prior knowledge to become a regular volunteer?
  • We don’t require any special skills other than an interest in learning. You will receive both the general orientation and specialized training needed to be successful in your specific team. However, we encourage you to think about your work 2 you love being outside any time of year and can’t wait to get your hands dirty working with plants, then the Gardener teams are a good match.
  • I’ve heard you have other teams but I don’t see them listed on your team information sheet. Are those available to new volunteers?
  • The teams listed on our volunteer recruitment publicity materials are the only teams currently recruiting for new volunteers. We do have other active volunteer teams not listed but those teams are full and don’t have space for additional volunteers at this time. In some cases we have wait lists and give priority for filling any open slots to experienced volunteers already active at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
  • When would I need to select a specific team?
  • We ask you to indicate your initial team preference on the Volunteer Team Interest Sheet you submit with your Volunteer Application. Many people know right away which team would be the best fit for them based on their interests and availability. If you are unsure, please rank your preliminary interests and you will have the opportunity to make a final selection during the volunteer training class.
  • Is the day I volunteer flexible or does it need to be the same day each week?
  • Generally each team meets on a specific day of the week throughout the year and you will work with the same group on the same day each week. The one exception to this is the cocents who volunteer mainly on the weekends leading public tours. Docents can select the date(s) they will lead tours when the schedule is arranged about 2-5 months in advance.
  • What if I have special skills, experience or knowledge I could offer?
  • We welcome people with special knowledge, experience and skills in all areas (e.g., GIS background, photography/videography, master gardeners, retired faculty) to contact us about volunteering or indicate special skills on their volunteer application. Although most of our volunteers work on regular weekly teams, sometimes we are able to arrange special projects or assignments for volunteers with unique talents. We still encourage all new volunteers to complete the introductory training so they can become familiar with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s mission, collections and programs.
  • Do I need to be a member of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden to volunteer?
  • No, we don’t require volunteers to be members of the Friends support group. However, most volunteers choose to join because of the excellent benefits, which include discounts at plant sales, discounts at local nurseries, free admission to other botanical gardens, a quarterly newsletter and more. If you are not already a member of the Friends, you will be given the opportunity to join during the training class.
  • What are some of the benefits of volunteering at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden?
  • People volunteer at the Arboretum for many different reasons and find many rewarding aspects to their service, such as learning new skills, making new friends, supporting environmental education and giving back to the community. Through your service you will have the chance to work with outstanding people who enjoy working with plants and people in a positive, friendly environment. Volunteers are respected and appreciated for all they do in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and we make it a priority to recognize and thank our excellent volunteer teams throughout the year.