Category Archives: Gardening

One “Patch of Land”; Four Different Names

Street trees have a lot in common with the city dwellers who tread beneath them. In exchange for a life of cultural stimulation and community interaction, they’ve chosen to occupy more –ahem! — modest spaces. (Think about your 500 square foot apartment versus a 5,000 sq ft house in the suburbs) Like urban denizens, real estate is at a premium for city trees, making their patch of land all the more sacred. That’s precisely why a city tree’s “patch of land” (aka the square of ground carved out from sidewalks for trees) has so many names. Here is what cities call their “patches of land:”

NEW YORK CITY

Tree guards Custom Panels in Queens New York

Queens, New York

Here in New York City, “tree pit” was the term used for a tree’s home. However, as of late, the Department of Parks & Recreation changed the name to “tree beds” (as pictured left). “Ultimately we were interested in finding a term that was more closely tied to tree stewardship, and would encourage New Yorkers to care for trees throughout the City,” said NYC Parks Director of Street Tree Planting Matthew Stephens. “The thought of weeding, watering, planting, etc. in a tree bed versus a tree pit, has a distinct effect on how enjoyable tree stewardship can be perceived.”

 

 

WASHINGTON DC

Photo by Amy Kover

What city’s image is more closely linked to trees than Washington DC?

Home of the storied cherry blossoms, DC refers to its tree bed as “tree boxes.” And while the most famous cherry blossoms dwell in the National Mall, others –like the tree pictured right—grace the streets of residential and business districts. To help people create the most sustainable “tree boxes,” Casey Trees, a DC-based organization, provides a super informative Tree Space Design handbook to highlight the best practice for street tree care in the DC area.

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

The City of San Francisco uses the term “tree basin.” In the photo above, a few city residents of the Potrero Hill neighborhood proudly display their new tree, which they received and planted with the help of Friends of the Urban Forest (www.fuf.net). Friends of the Urban Forest provides an amazing array of programs for tree planting, care and community outreach. They even help with tree replacement for empty tree basins like this one below.

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

In addition, City of San Francisco provides this useful guide for sidewalks & basin care.

PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia, which adheres to the tried-and-true term “tree pit,” has adapted some of the most innovative practices around. To help remove excess storm water from the street, Philadelphia Parks & Recreations joined forces with Philadelphia Water Department to create tree pits that are level with the ground.

Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation displaying a tree pit in need of tree guard protection

Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Next, they installed tree guards to warn people that they are about to tread on a tree’s home.(Quite a lovely guard, if we do say so ourselves!)

Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

BOSTON

Boston is another “tree pit” city. As you can see below, Beantown sports some lovely tree pits, particularly in the early spring. Surely, snow-bound Bostonians dream of the return of these gorgeous daffodils.

Courtesy of the Boston Parks & Recreation Department

Courtesy of the Boston Parks & Recreation Department

No matter what people call them, these patches of land unilaterally serve as beautiful city oases in which green things can take root, grow and spread fresh air and joy to the people below. Take note, a tree bed by any other name is truly just as sweet.

 

Improving Your Neighborhood, One Mailbox at a Time

Keeping your street beautiful may seem merely like a cosmetic concern, yet statistics show that the cleaner, more well-maintained, and –yes— leafier a neighborhood, the more benefits enjoyed by all.

According to “Broken-Window Theory,” well-kept streets help deter crime. Now, there’s a new study  conducted by Kees Keize at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, that proves this theory  true. A few interesting tidbits:

  • Researchers left a cash-filled envelope sticking out of a mailbox with the money in plain view of pedestrians. One mailbox was covered with graffiti, while the others were clean. A quarter of the people walking by stole from the graffiti-covered mailbox whereas only 13% took the envelope from the clean one.
  • On a wall where people leave their bikes, researchers posted a “No Graffiti” sign and then left flyers on each of the bicycles.  Next they added graffiti to the wall despite their own warnings. Of the 80 bicycles monitored, 69% littered the wall with graffiti, as opposed to just 33% on the wall without.

Inspired, we decided to go beyond tree guards and join the U.S. Postal Service’s Adopt-A-Mailbox program in which citizens take responsibility for painting and maintaining a nearby mailbox. Here’s how it worked for us in New York City:

Our sad looking neighborhood mailbox.

Step 1.  Become A Post Box Care Captain. Contact your local post office to find out about the program. In New York City, you can call Cherry Liu at the US Postal Service (email: Cherry.C.Liu@usps.gov), who will provide the application form to fill out and return. Within one week of submission, Ms. Liu called us back with our approval and information about where to obtain the materials.

380 W 33rd St., Room 4061

380 W 33rd St., Room 4061

Step 2. Pick Up Materials. In New York City, we went to 380 W 33rd St. to Room 4061 (Entrance pictured above), where I received a can of blue paint for my mailbox and green paint for my relay  box (these ones serve as holding areas for mail so letter carriers do not have to carry all of their routes at once). I discovered that to care for both relay and mailboxes, you must adopt two of each. In addition, you are required to specify your adoption territory (i.e.:  East 75th to East 77th between Park and 5th Avenues). Not only is maintaining boxes very close to your house much easier, but you care more since you’ve got to look at those boxes every day.

Rather than a drop cloth, we just used some old cardboard.

Rather than a drop cloth, we just used some old cardboard.

Step 3. Keep It Tidy. To avoid dripping paint all over the sidewalk (very counterproductive given that we’re combating graffiti!), put down a drop cloth or just use cardboard boxes to protect the sidewalk as well as nearby cars. Cover the key hole with tape to ensure no paint gets inside.

Curb Allure joins Adopt A Mailbox Program and starts sanding local mailbox

Step 4. Smooth Things Out.  Sand any rusted spots if necessary.

Curb Allure joins Adopt A Mailbox Program by painting a local mailboxMailbox Roller

Step 5. Start Painting, Already! To get this part right, we suggest painting over the graffiti with a brush and then again with a roller. This way, you get nice even strokes.

Mailbox Wet Paint Step 6. Don’t Forget The Wet Paint Sign.  Ack! No one wants to ruin your work of art nor do they want green paint on their shorts.

Tada!

Step 7. Enjoy Results. Repeat.  Look at the glorious fruits of our labor!

The idea behind “Adopt-A-Mailbox” is that people take better care of their surroundings when they have a sense of ownership. They’re 100% right. When we finished sprucing up our mailbox, we were practically glowing with satisfaction. We think we may have spotted the trees nodding with approval too.

 

 

Grants for Neighborhood Plants

Curb Allure exists “because every street deserves to be beautiful” (Pssst. That’s even our tagline!) Yet as we work closely with cities, neighborhood organizations and other community-minded groups, we often see how challenging achieving this goal can be.  Growing and maintaining trees, flowers and green spaces requires a lot of work and money, especially for local grassroots organizations who depend upon volunteers and donations.

Luckily, resources are available to those who dare to ask.  Here is a list of mini-grants available in New York City to help launch your favorite neighborhood project.

Neighborhoods Grants: Citizens Committee for New York City:
Amount:
Up to $3000
Citizens Committee for NYC is a non-profit organization dedicated to “helping New Yorkers —especially those in low-income areas— come together and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods.”  As one of its many grant programs, Neighborhood Grants awards resident-led groups up to $3000 for projects that focus on improving community or schools throughout NYC.  Recent recipients have transformed empty lots into community gardens, organized tenants to advocate for better housing conditions, and started school recycling drives.
Due Date:
January 27, 2015
Grant guidelines, click here.
Additional information, visit: http://citizensnyc.org/grants/neighborhood-grants

Love Your Block Grant: Citizens Committee for New York City
Amount:
Up To $1000
Citizens Committee for NYC has also partnered with New York City services to forge Love Your Block which provides grants to improve and beautify City neighborhoods. Through this program, not only can resident-led volunteer groups receive up to $1000 in funding, but they also get a little extra help from the Departments of Transportation, Parks and Recreation, and Sanitation. For example, Love Your Block grants have provided assistance for tree removal, tree planting, garbage pickup and providing wood chip mulch for gardening projects.
Due Date:
Late 2014/Early 2015. Exact dates to be announced.
For grant guidelines, click here.
For additional information, visit:  http://citizensnyc.org/grants/love-your-block

FREE Mulch and Compost: New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY)
Amount: Up to 30 bags each. (Mulch bags weigh approximately 30 pounds, compost weighs roughly 40 pounds.)
New York City Department of Sanitation will provide small amounts of free compost and mulch to improve the soil in NYC street tree beds.  In exchange, recipients must display official NYC Compost and Mulch signs (provided at pickup). Those requesting mulch or compost must be able to pick up bags and physically load them from one of the DSNY compost and mulch distribution locations. Trees on private property do not qualify.
Due Date:
Ongoing basis
For request form, visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/compost/req_compost-mulch-trees.shtml

Grow to Learn NYC Mini-Grants
Amount:
From $500 to $2000
New York City public or charter schools who are registered with Grow to Learn, the city-wide school garden initiative, may receive funding to create or expand their school garden. Grow to Learn recognizes gardens in all shapes and sizes, including ones within classrooms, on rooftops or via partnerships with community gardens.
Due Date:
March 5, 2014
Additional information, visit: http://growtolearn.org/view/mini_grant

Urban Forestry Grants: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
Amount:
 Up to $50,000, depending upon the population of the municipality. Cost-share grants.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) annually announces the availability of community state assistance grants for tree planting and urban forestry projects. These grants are reimbursement cost-share grants that must be equally matched by local resources.
Please note, these grants are not available for privately-held property, but are for municipalities, public benefit corporations, public authorities, school districts and not-for-profit organizations that have a public ownership interest in the property or are acting on behalf of a public property owner. Due Date:  Contact DEC to be notified of fund availability
Additional information, visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5285.html

The beauty behind these grants is that they are geared toward the small guy, namely community-minded people and organizations who want to improve their neighborhood. If you are aware of any such program (or offer one yourself), please let us know.  We are always on the lookout for ways to help our fellow “street beautifiers.”

The Art of Curbing

There are a million way to kindly tell people: “Keep your dog away from my tree!”  Here are some of New York City’s finest Curb Your Dog signs:

Simple and kind curb your dog signs is a great way to go

Simple & kind is a great option for a curb your pet sign…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or a goofy dog inside a flower curb your dog sign, as shown on Bleeker Street.

Or a goofy dog inside a flower curb your dog sign, as shown on Bleeker Street.

Curb your dog signs NYC

Flattery will get you everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An abundance of flowers make for a natural deterrent to protect urban trees

An abundance of flowers surrounding the urban tree & tree guard make for a natural deterrent.

 

Curb your Dog Signs do not need to be fancy.

Curb Your Dog Signs do not need to be fancy.

 

 

 

Sometimes simple hand-made Curb your pets tree guard notes have the greatest impact. "Out of the mouths of babes!"

Sometimes simple hand-made notes have the greatest impact. “Out of the mouths of babes!”

And, of course, there’s always Curb Allure’s classic tree guard Curb Your Dog Signs!

And, of course, there’s always Curb Allure’s classic tree guard Curb Your Dog sign!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It really doesn’t matter how you show your urban tree love and protect city street trees. Just get the word out: “Please Curb Your Dogs!”