Category Archives: Tree Garden: Turning Tree Pits into Urban Garden Opportunities

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:”


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.”




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.



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 ( 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, 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 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:, 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.


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.



The Maple Leaf Forever Tree and Us

Every morning, trees tell us about the coming day, as their branches catch a gust of wind or cast a shadow off the rising sun. They mark each new season too, offering hopeful buds in Spring and gold-tinged leaves in Autumn. And they link us to generations past and future. Thirty years from now, our grandchildren could enjoy the shade of our favorite oak tree.

Trees connect us to our surroundings and to one another.

This concept serves as a driving force behind our work at Curb Allure.  Today on our fourth anniversary, we cannot think of a better way to celebrate than to share the story of Toronto (hometown of founder Kim Johnson) and its very special Maple Leaf Forever tree.

John McPherson, The House of A. Muir after a Shower in Toronto, 1907. (Toronto Public Library): Maple Leaf Forever lives on

John McPherson, The House of A. Muir after a Shower in Toronto, 1907. (Toronto Public Library)

This giant maple on Laing Street was said to inspire Alexander Muir to write “Maple Leaf Forever” , the beloved unofficial national anthem and poem of Canada. According to the Toronto Public Library, Muir came up with the song when he was strolling by the tree in front of his house in 1867 and a maple leaf fell on his shoulder.    For nearly 150 years, the Maple Leaf Forever tree stood as a testimony to Canada’s pride in both its national identity and profound natural beauty. Then, last July, a fierce storm knocked over the giant tree, devastating Canadians throughout the world.

(Steve Russell/Toronto Star): Maple Leaf Forever lives on : Protect it

(Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Determined to keep the Maple Leaf Forever alive, last month, the City of Toronto milled logs from the fallen tree and distributed them to 150 local artists, as reported in the Toronto Star. Many of the projects will be displayed publically throughout the city, including 30 wig stands to be donated to cancer patients.  While certainly the most noteworthy, the Maple Leaf Forever is just one of many fallen trees that Toronto has repurposed through an ongoing project. Here is their directory of Urban Wood Products and Services:

Michael Finkelstein made these beautiful nesting bowls out of Maple Leaf Forever wood.

Michael Finkelstein made these beautiful nesting bowls out of Maple Leaf Forever wood.

Art isn’t the only way the Maple Leaf Forever lives on. In 2000, engineer Bill Wrigley took maple keys from the original tree and planted them in his backyard, according to the Toronto Star. One sapling survived. Seven years later, Wrigley received permission to move the sapling to the Maple Leaf Forever Park, right near its “Mama Tree.” And, today, visitors can find comfort in seeing the historic tree’s “Baby”.

Curb Allure is deeply honored that the City of Toronto has asked to use one of our tree guards –with two different custom-designed panels—to protect the offspring of the Maple Leaf Forever tree. Keep an eye out for images of this special guard, which we will happily share following the dedication ceremony in late May.

Thanks to the ingenuity and passion of these Torontonians, the legacy of the Maple Leaf Forever continues.  Living trees require similar dedication from their community. If we want our neighborhood trees to welcome the next generation, it is up to us to protect them. And, as the Maple Leaf Forever and The City of Toronto have taught us, trees are well worth the trouble.



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:
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:

Love Your Block Grant: Citizens Committee for New York City
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:

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:

Grow to Learn NYC Mini-Grants
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:

Urban Forestry Grants: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
 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:

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.”

Holiday Gifts That Grow (Literally) & Support Urban Forest Protection

urban forest protection by donating to NYC urban forest organizations


Urban Forest Protection Donations

The holidays are a time for giving. So, if you’re strapped for ideas on those last minute gifts, consider donating to a cause that matters to your loved ones and supports urban forest protection.

At Curb Allure, we have dedicated ourselves to the belief that trees and gardens are the lungs (and souls) of our communities. If this resonates with you or someone you love, here’s a list of wonderful organizations that could use your donations for urban forest protection. We know first-hand that each of these groups make a real difference, namely in our hometown New York City. 


In 1976, New York City faced severe spending cuts to all forestry and tree-related community service. In response, concerned citizens launched TreesNY, which has since developed an impressive list of urban forest protection programs to fulfill its mission “to plant, preserve and protect New York City’s urban forest through education, active citizen participation and advocacy.”  Programs include Citizen Pruner Tree Care Course, Greening the Bronx Reforestation Project, and Youth Environmental Literacy. Its most recent program, FruiTreesNY, has begun planting orchards throughout the five boroughs. Visit website:  

New York Restoration Project

Founded by famed entertainer Bette Midler, the New York Restoration Project has been “transforming open space in underserved communities to create a greener sustainable NYC” since 1995. NYRP offers a wide-range of programs, such as Hurricane Sandy outreach, Gardens for the City, and environmental education in NYC public school. Today, NYRP is perhaps best known for joining forces with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration to launch Million Trees NYC, whose goal is to plant one million trees across the five boroughs by 2017. So far, this tremendously popular initiative has put over 800,000 trees in the ground. Visit website:

City Parks Foundation

Have you ever enjoyed a SummerStage performance in Central Park? Then you’ve already benefitted from the services of City Parks Foundation, created to “provide free and accessible arts, sports, education and community-building programs within NYC parks.”  Aside from super-fun activities like performances, free tennis lessons and youth summer programs, City Parks also fosters environmental outreach by hosting the annual conference Partnership for Parks for community groups and It’s My Park Day volunteer events. Visit website:

Alliance for Community Trees (AC Trees)

The only national organization on our list, Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) is “a vibrant network of over 200 nonprofits and agencies that promote the environmental, economic, public health, and social benefits of trees and urban forests.” Not only is AC Trees responsible for planting 15 million trees with 5 million volunteers, but it also provides grants and awards to members; raises awareness about trees and urban forests through its National NeighborWoods® Month   in October; and advocates for policies that protect and sustain trees and urban forests for the benefit of people and communities. Visit website:

Based on our experience, donors cannot go wrong with any of these nonprofits to support urban forest protection. However, we are curious about who’s making an impact in your community. What’s your favorite tree, garden or parks organization? We’d love to hear. Happy Holidays.


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!”










How to Curb a Dog

Curb your dog

We’ve all read the signs urging pet owners to “Curb Your Dog” around our cities, but what is the curb your dog meaning?  And how can city dog owners learn to ‘curb’ their pets effectively? To find out how, we sat down with two experts, Phyllis Couvares, founder and owner of Follow My Lead Dog Training in New York City (, and Michael Moore, who with his wife, Marixa Gonzalez, runs Wags West dog walking ( also in NYC. Here’s what they had to say:

What exactly does “curbing your dog” mean?

Michael: It’s commonly understood as taking your dog as close to the curb as you can get. It means not allowing them to urinate near buildings, in the middle of sidewalks, or on trees. Avoiding trees is particularly important because the urine can damage trees and flowers. People generally do not understand how bad dog urine is for trees. This is why you will see curb your dog lawn signs.

Phyllis Couvares of Follow My Lead Dog Training - Learn how to curb your dog

Phyllis Couvares of Follow My Lead Dog Training

Phyllis: Most people do not see curbing as a priority. Until the first time they are confronted by a passerby, most people simply do not realize how rude it is. The curb your dog signs should be taken seriously.

Why do dogs seem to love urinating on trees?

Phyllis: Because the ground surrounding trees is absorbent dirt, which is much more appealing to a dog than pavement. Puppies are naturally drawn to absorbent things. That’s why an “un-housebroken” puppy will choose to urinate on Wee Wee Pads®, rugs, and comforters rather than the kitchen floor.

It is much easier to accustom a puppy to go on pavement than it is to change the preference of an older dog. So please curb your dog while it is a puppy.

What are some techniques you recommend?

Moore of Wags West with Boo - Learn how to curb your dog

Moore of Wags West with Boo

Phyllis: For young puppies that usually have to relieve themselves pretty quickly when taken outside, you would walk them up and down the sidewalk close to the curb. By avoiding tree wells, puppies will get used to, even prefer, pavement.

It is harder to teach older dogs to become comfortable using pavement because they can “hold it” much longer than a puppy and are willing to wait for the place most comfortable for them. With older dogs it is best to plan for a longer walk and to avoid trees completely. The trick is to reward dogs with several tiny pieces of really special treats for going on the pavement. Then give them more each time they do it again. Put your mind to this training for 10 days and you will have your dog completely at ease with curbing.

Michael: We try to take our older dogs to the park as soon as possible. Dogs like to walk on soft ground. They can find places to go in the park that are soft but also far enough away from trees and flowers. Besides, the park is more fun!

March Madness! (NYC Tree Pit Fence Planting Style)

Mixed Tulips with Cabs in a NYC Tree Pit FenceRegardless of what our thermometer might say, the calendar indicates that it’s officially springtime in New York City. Congratulations! We’ve survived the winter.

Spring is the ideal time to become a gardener. This is particularly true for urban settings where each tree (or bioswale) can become a miniature garden –perfect for practice. Here are a few tips for getting started with planting in NYC:

Do a Little Spring Cleaning:Tulips in a NYC Tree Pit Fence

• Remove any debris from your urban garden or tree pit guard and turn the soil in late March.
• Flush the tree bed with water to remove salt residue left over from winter road and sidewalk treatments.
• Ask your local NYC garden nursery to make suggestions on how to improve the quality of your soil. In New York City, Urban Garden Center (on Park Avenue and 116th Street) always has good suggestions.

Plant a Sidewalk Garden in Your NYC Tree Pit Fence:

• Add a little more color to your NYC tree box fence by planting a combination of annuals (plants that survive a single growing season) and perennials (plants that return for several growing seasons).
• Annuals tend to be better choices because their root systems will not compete with trees for water. While bulbs for annuals must be planted in the fall you can still purchase pre-grown bulbs for tulips and daffodils in pits. Just be sure to select ones with buds that are still tight.
• Other developed flowers, such as pansies and violas, are usually available this time of year in flats (around 32 plants each)
• Plant perennials such as Hosta only when you trees are well established.

Add Garden Planter Boxes:

• Start your flower boxes around May 1st. Plants in flower boxes are more susceptible to cold and frost. A few flowers to consider for your planter boxes include:Forget me nots in a NYC Tree Pit Fence

o Dwarf Iris
o Edging lobelia
o Forget-me-nots
o Glory of the snow
o Japanese pachysandra
o Periwinkle
o Spring beauties
o Snowdrops
o Wax begonia
o Wishbone flower

Note: Double check with your garden nursery to see which of these varieties will do well in your particular garden planter box. Be sure to describe the climate, sunlight, and water access specific to where each box will be place.

Nowhere to Garden? A Few Ideas:

• Join a community garden. Many city parks departments and other organization have public space available for gardeners. For instance, San Francisco Garden Resource Organization (aka SFGRO) provides a complete map of community gardens and other related opportunities. Check out what’s happening in your city.

• Volunteer for a gardening committee or other garden-relate nonprofit in your community. In 2001, New York City residents began The Daffodil Project, in which volunteers planted thousands of yellow daffodils around the city in remembrance for victim of the 9/11 Attacks. Other cities also have volunteer opportunities for gardeners, such as Boston Natural Area Networks, which works to preserve, expand and improve urban open space.

Protecting Your Trees from Dog Urine

We love dogs. We’ve got dogs on our website (an adorable bulldog taking a stroll in our intro). We count dogs among our biggest fans are dogs, like sweet Genevieve pictured below. Even on Facebook some of our best “friends” are –yup—dogs!


However, we do not like dogs to relieve themselves in urban tree pits guards. Despite common myths, urine does not “water” the trees nor do dog feces act as fertilizer. As explained in detail by a recent blog post in the Atlantic Monthly, large amounts of the ammonium present in urine eats away at bark, which protects trees from burrowing insects and disease. Just look at this photo posted on dog walkers blog The Monster Minders. See how the bark on this tree has suffered?









Urine creates a salty crust on the soil, making it difficult for water to seep down to feed the roots. By stomping inside the tree pits, dogs compact the top soil, transforming it into virtual concrete. And here’s the kicker: As creatures of habit, dogs tend to relieve themselves on the same tree again and again – compounding the damage.

urban tree pit guards needed -


Steel tree guards do not fare much better (as shown above). Like bark, urine eats away at the metal of urban tree pit guards, turning a property owner’s investment into a pile of rust. While Curb Allure has taken several steps to fend off the damage of dog urine –including rust-resistant aluminum frames, galvanized undercoating on our steel products, powdering all of our metal products with plastic urine shields (pictured below) — our urban tree pit guards are still not 100% safe from the wrath of Fido. Eventually, even aluminum will corrode under extensive exposure to ammonium.

UsedUrineShield - urban tree pit guards -








How can tree owners protect their trees? Try frequently watering the tree box guard’s corners –where dogs tend to aim—to wash away excess urine. Also avoid wrapping newly-planted trees with burlap because it will hold the urine closer to the bark, according to the New York Times. Also avoid wrapping newly-planted trees with burlap because it will hold the urine closer to the bark, according to the New York Times.  To keep dogs away from your trees altogether, try a few household items, such as evergreen branches, citrus, or chili peppers.

Only dog owners themselves can protect the trees by training pets to relieve themselves in the street’s gutter (a practice known as “curbing”).  Shooing dogs away from your trees can be a very touchy subject. Few people are aware of the damages animal waste incurs and no one likes for strangers to yell at their beloved pets. That’s why we recommend posting a “Curb Your Dog” on the tree fence itself as a gentle, polite reminder to keep Fido away!


 It’s easy enough to make your own laminated sign. Look at the gorgeous one made by the students at Hunter Elementary in New York City.


 Know of any other clever ways to keep dogs away from urban street trees? Let us know!!



Resolving to Build A Better Community in 2013

Five Ways to Improve Your Neighborhood Urban Trees in 2013

January is the month for improvement. This year, rather than vowing –once again— to lose weight, save money, or get organized— why not think outwardly? Resolve to improve your NYC community instead by improving your neighborhood urban trees in 2013.

Trees and gardens are vital to the health of a neighborhood. At Curb Allure, we’re delighted to report that tree guards are becoming an important part of this equation. Just look at this recent Wall Street Journal article, Myrtle Avenue Dresses Up Its Trees, which highlights artistic tree guards. However, aside from installing tree box guards around your block, there are several others way to get involved. Here are five new ideas:

1. Mulch Your Christmas Tree. Many cities and towns offer programs to mulch your old trees for fertilizer or other gardening purposes. Each January in New York City, the Parks & Recreation department holds its annual Mulchfest throughout the five boroughs. This year’s event starts this Saturday, January 12. If your community does not offer such a program, try adding some of your old Christmas tree branches to your tree pits. Not only will they protect the tree, but the smell will be Resolving to Improve Your Neighborhood Urban Trees in 2013 | Curb Allure Blogheavenly!

2. Curb Your Dog. Believe it or not, dog waste is NOT fertilizer. According to the New York Times, acid in dog urine eats away at bark, stripping the tree’s natural defense system. And you can just imagine how that urine corrodes metal tree guards. Rather than letting your dog relieve himself in a tree pit, “curb” him  —actually bring him to the curb of the street to urinate.

 3. Learn How to Care for Your Urban Trees in 2013.  Pruning trees properly takes a little bit of knowledge. Trees New York offers Citizens Pruner, a five session program that legally trains people to prune the city’s street trees. Call your local parks department for similar classes.  If none are available, several useful websites are available with step-by-step directions, such as the International Society of Arborculture’s Trees Are Good website. (FYI, this site is a treasure trove of tree knowledge).

 4. Join A Block Association. Whenever you walk down a particularly lovely street, there is usually a block association behind it. Not only are these neighborhood organizations a great way to get involved in street beautification projects, but offer a fantastic opportunity to get to know your neighbors. Start with saving your Manhattan trees with tree pit fences. Beauty and friends. What can be better than that? If your block does not have an association, start one today.

 5. Fund Spring Planting. If you live in a building, now is the time to approach management for a planting allowance. Most buildings will gladly allocate money to beautify their grounds –particularly if eager tenants (like you) agree to do the planting and maintenance. And to make sure these trees and plants flourish, protect them with tree box fences to keep them safe from the elements

Enacting just one of these changes in your community will feel spectacular. Maybe better than losing five pounds.