Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tree Bed

A year or so ago the City came and took down a dead tree in front of our building leaving our tree bed a bare doggy toilet. Despite efforts to plant some small annuals by the neighbors, it continued to be tempting acreage. The problem was the dogs, the rather large stump that took up most of the surface, and an unknown time frame as to when the City would come and give us a new tree.

I don't begrudge the neighbors letting their dogs go to the bathroom in there, I guess it's kind of like a little vacation, but it was obviously planted and maintained with a fence around it. I knew in order to keep the dogs out, I needed to get a taller fence. I spent much of the summer wandering around hardware stores looking for a solution but most places didn't have anything short enough or attractive enough. (Orange hazard fencing was about as close as I came). I had a fantasy of sharpening one end of some bamboo sticks and creating my own fencing but that seemed like a potential hazard if someone pulled it out. I finally found a very simple solution at the big box hardware store down the street: decorative, thin wire fencing. Light, easy to stick in the group and above knee height to make it hard to jump into.

I should also note that one factor in planting this is teenagers. Our stoop and block are frequented by roving bands of drunk, bored teens and pre-teens. It is not uncommon to find upended plants, beer bottles, and other teen romper room trash to be strewn about our street. For example, over last weekend someone pulled a vacuum out of the trash someone where and went to town on smashing it in front of our building. There is a very good chance that they will destroy it. Knock on wood, kids have been pretty good so far.

Okay, fencing and dogs taken care of. Next the stump and potential new tree. I knew we couldn't take the stump out ourselves. It likely has deep roots that run under the sidewalk and it would take a professional to remove it out and a likely redo on the sidewalk. I'm going to leave that to professionals. I decided to just buy some very large pots and treat the tree bed like a 4' X 8' container garden. If and when the City comes, I can move the pots to someplace else.

Once I figured that out the rest of the thing was very easy. I went down to one of my favorite stores, Liberty Gardens in Red Hook and explained my project. Like a good wine store, a good nursery should be able to just tell you what you should buy. Full sun, full wind, top of the hill, dogs, teens, cars, and trash? Mix of annuals, perennials, evergreens, and flowers? Relatively inexpensive? Needs to all fit in a minicooper?

Check, check, check, and check! Once I purchased the plants and got them home it took me about 90 minutes to get the fencing in, plants and shrubs transferred into larger pots and arranged in the tree bed. I've gotten tons of compliments and thank yous (though I'm sorry I didn't get it done in time for Greenest Block in Brooklyn) and I'm quite sad I hadn't figured it out before.

I'd love to have planted everything in the ground but this was honestly the right amount of time for me to have spent on this. I encourage everyone to container garden their tree beds. Most around our block had the basics of wrought iron fencing up and some dirt. Make sure you don't pick expensive, flashy plants, make the containers as heavy as possible and I highly recommend the thin wire fencing.