Tag Archives: planting

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.


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 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!”










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.

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.





Planting Spring Bulbs

November 9, 2012

Planting Spring Bulbs by Curb Allure BlogIn the wake of Hurricane Sandy, spring flowers are probably the last thing on your mind. October & November have been dominated by clearing out fallen trees and dead leaves; not nurturing daffodils and tulips. Yet now –just before winter’s first frost— is exactly the moment to begin planting spring bulbs inside tree guards in New York City and beyond. It’s also nice to think of sunnier days to come.

This is the fun part. Bulbs planted in the fall will be a welcome sign of spring in late March or early April. Spring flowering bulbs are the relief we need from winter doldrums. Remember the uplifting impact spotting tulips can have on you?

Choose your spring flowering bulbs carefully and you can enjoy spring flowers for five months straight from February all the way to June. Enclose your bulbs with metal tree guards to protect them all year round. Here’s how to get started:

What Bulbs Should I Buy?

  • Tulip bulbs can be planted quite late, even during a December mild spell. It is worth experimenting with several varieties.
  • Winter-hardy annual seeds that germinate become dormant and revive with the first spring sunrays to produce much earlier and stronger spring flowers than those that will be sown next spring.
  • Smaller bulbs like muscari and crocus are a good choice inside your tree guard because they are planted in the top 2-3” of soil and do not disturb the tree roots. Here are some other options for tree-friendly spring bulbs.

  • Allium
  • Crocus
  • Daffodils
  • Hyacinths
  • Irises
  • Narcissus
  • Tulips
  • Geraniums


How Do I Plant Them?

  • Plant between four and six bulbs per square feet. The rule is actually four daffodils per square foot, but you can bend it a bit to keep your tree pits looking full.
  • Keep in mind that bulbs should be planted one foot away from tree trunk.Stick to planting bulbs around trees with established root systems.
  • Dig holes between 6” and 8” deep for larger bulbs, and 3” to 4” for smaller ones.
  • Make sure the bulbs and surrounding trees are protected with tree box guards. Tree box guards add style and protection to your bulbs and trees. Are you worried that pets will ruin your hard work and beautiful plants? Add accessories such as Urine Shields or Pet Reminder Signs to insure your bulbs make it through the winter!
  • As for laying out how your flowers will grow, be creative!  Many people like to make patterns of flowers, such as muscari or hyacinths at the edges, short- or medium-length tulips/daffodils next and the taller tulips/daffodils in the rear.
  • Purchasing bulbs annually gets a bit pricey. You can also add a splash of color to your tree pits by adding Curb Allure planters that fasten to the top of your metal tree guard. Remember: planters are a spring project, as their flowers are more susceptible to cold and frost.
  • If you simply do not have time to plant bulbs, consider calling local professionals such as Urban Garden Center in Manhattan. While garden centers may not advertise such services, they are ready, willing and able to help out.
  • Plant a variety of bulbs and keep a journal of your experiments as a reminder of successes. Each year, your tree pit fence garden is bound to get better and better.