Category Archives: Tree Beds

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.

 

Why Do We Need A Tree Guard Permit in NYC?

For those of us who love to garden outside, going inside to file a permit with our local government to install tree guards –fencing that actually make our streets beautiful—seems a bit silly. Trust us. This is paperwork well worth the effort in gaining your tree guard permit for NYC. Not only will tree guard permits help protect you from lawsuits, they also prevent trees from dying prematurely. Here in New York, we’ve witnessed repeatedly how tree guard permits improve the lives of you, your neighbors and your trees.

Avoid Lawsuits

Nothing ruins that warm neighborly feeling like an ugly lawsuit. Yet, that’s exactly what may happen if a pedestrian trips over your tree box fencing. A tree guard permit for NYC will reduce a tree guard owner’s liability in these types of situations. Better yet, obtaining a tree guard permit to install your tree bed guard can prevent this unfortunate situation from occurring all together. Here are a few New York City Parks & Recreation Department requirements for installing tree pit guards that ensure pedestrian safety.

 

To keep folks from nose-diving into the geraniums, guards must be over 18 inches in New York City, and preferably made out of metal. Low borders made of wood, concrete, or blocks (pictured above) are difficult to spot for visually impaired pedestrians. They are also obstructed by even the lowest of snow banks, creating a tripping hazard for the most cautious walkers….

To keep folks from nose-diving into the geraniums, tree guards must be over 18 inches in New York City, and preferably made out of metal. Low borders made of wood, concrete, or blocks (pictured above) are difficult to spot for visually impaired pedestrians. They are also obstructed by even the lowest of snow banks, creating a tripping hazard for the most cautious walkers….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or a similar problem arises with this flat guard whose subterranean pit creates a hole that could easily catch someone’s foot.

or a similar problem arises with this flat guard whose subterranean pit creates a hole that could easily catch someone’s foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple trees grow bulky roots that cause grated fencing to buckle, forming perilous bumps on the sidewalk.  As a result, some cities do not allow planting certain species of trees, including Norway Maples. New York City has banned grates altogether since they are neither safe for pedestrians nor trees (see above).

Maple trees grow bulky roots that cause grated fencing to buckle, forming perilous bumps on the sidewalk. As a result, some cities do not allow planting certain species of trees, including Norway Maples. New York City has banned grates altogether since they are neither safe for pedestrians nor trees (see above).

Would you want your preschooler practicing her balancing skills on one of these razor edges? We didn’t think so. New York City no longer issues tree guard permits to guard designs with excessively sharp edges or sit spikes.

Would you want your preschooler practicing her balancing skills on one of these razor edges? We didn’t think so. New York City no longer issues tree guard permits to tree fence designs with excessively sharp edges or sit spikes.

Talk about cutting it close! This guard was damaged because it sits way too near the street –a layout that can also injure people stepping out of cars. New York City Parks Department recommends that tree fencing remains at least 12 inch away from the front of the curb. The City also prefers three-side guards to avoid this problem.

Talk about cutting it close! This tree guard was damaged because it sits way too near the street –a layout that can also injure people stepping out of cars. New York City Parks Department recommends that tree fencing remains at least 12 inch away from the front of the curb. The City also prefers three-side guards to avoid this problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Dead Trees

Not all tree pit guards are good for trees. Some styles of tree fencing deny street trees of water, drainage, soil or room to grow. A tree guard permit helps rule out designs most detrimental to the health of trees, so that yours thrive for years to come.

Tree trunks grow wider as they age (Sound familiar?).  That’s another reason New York City no longer allows grates.  As you can see above, grate fencing will girdle (or choke) a tree over time.

Tree trunks grow wider as they age (Sound familiar?). That’s another reason New York City no longer allows grates. As you can see above, grate fencing will girdle (or choke) a tree over time.

New York City no longer allows solid-walled guards, which can rot trunks, compact soil and limit trees’ water supply. That’s especially problematic for young trees that need lots and lots of water to grow. Notice how spindly the tree above looks?

New York City no longer allows solid-walled guards, which can rot trunks, compact soil and limit trees’ water supply. That’s especially problematic for young trees that need lots and lots of water to grow. Notice how spindly the tree above looks?

Sunken tree pits collect wet leaves, damp soil and garbage that may damage the trunk and lead to health problems. Also notice how small this tree pit is.  Just imagine how cramped this tree will be in a few years.

Sunken tree pits collect wet leaves, damp soil and garbage that may damage the trunk and lead to health problems. Also notice how small this tree pit is. Just imagine how cramped this tree will be in a few years.

Up until the 20th century, these tall fences served as a fashionable means of preventing horses from damaging trunks.  We no longer have such problems. The old ‘Horse Guard’ tends to strangle slanting trees. And urban trees usually lean to seek sunlight through tall buildings or bend to the currents of wind tunnels.

Up until the 20th century, these tall tree fences served as a fashionable means of preventing horses from damaging tree trunks. We no longer have such problems. The old ‘Horse Guard’ tends to strangle slanting trees. And urban trees usually lean to seek sunlight through tall buildings or bend to the currents of wind tunnels.

 

 

 

 

 

Tree trunks also do not grow in perfect circles, like this circular ‘horse guard’ assumes. To avoid this issue, New York City limits guards to 24 inches in height, and requires as much space as possible between a guard and tree trunk.

Tree trunks also do not grow in perfect circles, like this circular ‘horse guard’ assumes. To avoid this issue, New York City limits tree guards to 24 inches in height, and requires as much space as possible between a guard and tree trunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily, submitting a tree guard permit in New York City is very simple. Just fill out one page (click here) and send the form along with a photo of the tree guard you plan to install to Central Forestry (Attention:  PERMITS) via email at treeplanting.permits@parks.nyc.gov or fax to (718) 760-6640 or (718) 760-6940. We suggest you submit as soon as possible, since the application can take up to 3 weeks to process. In NYC, there is no fee for the permit.

Better yet, NYC Parks Department provides this easy-to-follow set of guidelines for the dos and don’ts of street tree care. Download them here.

And, now that you’re done, get back outside and garden!