Monday, September 30, 2013

Tree Guards: the Good, the Bad, and the Downright Dangerous‏

We need trees as our partners to beautify our streets, temper the Summer heat, and, most importantly, to clean the air we breath. What can we do to protect our precious trees?

A well designed tree guard keeps people, dogs, and objects out of the tree pit but leaves plenty of room on the street side to allow cars to open their doors and passengers to step out. It allows rainwater to flow into the pit to feed the tree. The pickets are staggered so no one will be tempted to place anything on them. The pits can either mulched or planted with small bulbs or shallow rooted annuals and small herbaceous perennials. Here is the plant list from NYC's Parks Dept.  Signe and Guiliana from the W 150 St Block Association in Manhattan point out that it is ideal when the neighbors and their children take an active interest in building and caring for the tree guards to protect the trees. Who can refuse when a child asks you not to let your dog poop or pee in the tree pit?

Here's an example of a "Good" tree guard:
Note that for the newest tree guards, the NYC Parks Dept would like to omit the streetside rail.
An unprotected tree:
Stones block rainwater and compact the soil in this treepit and the lack of any tree guard invites intrusions such as this bicycle.

Photo taken on Church Ave in Flatbush

A "Bad" tree guard like this one, however, is at risk of damage from annoyed or unaware drivers and their passengers. In addition, the stones around the perimeter are blocking the flow of rainwater.

Photo from

A "Killer" tree pit grill is strangling this unfortunate tree:

Photo taken on Church Ave in Flatbush

Sadly, almost all the tree pits and tree guards we see in our city are in urgent need of improvement. What can we do for the trees near our homes, schools, and workplaces?

Citizen's Committee for New York City offers FREE workshops on how to construct suitable tree pit guards and invites New Yorkers to file for grants to cover the cost of materials.
Note that permits are required before any work is done near a city tree.

How about helping a tree near you?