Capitol Hill Garden Club In Washington, D.C., Since 1952

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Treeboxes

October 11, 2016 6:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Tree Boxes


Featured Speaker: Steve McKindley


Our speaker, Steve McKindley is one of two Ward 6 urban foresters with the Urban Forestry Administration (UFA), a division of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation. The mission of the UFA is to manage and increase the District’s street trees.


Healthy trees improve air quality, increase ground water retention, moderate temperature, and beautify the community. The city has planted 7000 trees each winter for the last several years. Planting takes place during the months of November through April. The city contracts with landscapers to plant trees and to water twice a month during the first summer. Residents are supposed to provide water after the first summer. The city automatically replaces dead trees removed by the city. Trees that survive for two years are expected to survive on their own


The city has a number of regulations regarding tree boxes. Updated regulations can be found at the following sites.


http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/RuleHome.aspx?RuleNumber=24-109


http://ddot.dc.gov/node/508592


Residents are responsible for keeping ruble and trash out of tree boxes. Borders should allow water to flow freely into the tree box when it rains. Soil should stay at the level of the sidewalk and existing tree roots should not be covered as covering the roots prevents oxygen from reaching the roots.


Plants added to tree boxes should be planted two feet from the trunks of new trees. Only shallow rooted plants growing to no more than 18 inches high. Roses, other bushes and vegetables are prohibited.


Methane leaking from natural gas lines replaces oxygen and kills trees. Checking for and fixing leaks is important before replacing dead trees. For technical reasons the presenter was not able to provide pictorial examples of tree boxes


Authors note: Several of us have found that bi-monthly watering is insufficient for new trees and even that is not always accomplished by the contractor. We have also found that watering needs continue for at least several years beyond the second year.








Call To Action for CHGC Member Contributions


If you have tree boxes that you tend, please snap a few pictures and write a little story to be placed here to tell fellow members the highs and lows of managing 'your' tree boxes.


Or, if you just see a great tree box (or a really bad one), snap a picture for this page so we can all learn from the experiences of others.


You can send your story and photos to the webmaster, Joe Purdy, who will post them for you.  If you just have a comment, you can post it by clicking  Add Comment below.



Member Contributions!



Submitted by Marian Wiseman


I have 3 tree boxes that I tend.


The one in front of our house we cultivated about 10 years or more ago, then the city extended it and added 2 huge tree boxes in the sidewalks adjacent to us., one of which is 55 feet long. They quickly filled up with weeds, so I adopted the new spaces.


These two neighboring boxes get full sun, which my own garden does not, so I have really relished being able to plant things that need full sun.


At the meeting, I found out that I am out of compliance because of the height limitation. Also, for the tree box in front of our house, my husband fenced it in with an impervious border. I was really sorry to find out that we are breaking the rules, but I’m not going to change anything.


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1. Our own tree box. The tulips are from bulbs I bought at the CHGC bulb sale. But as you can see, the tree box has an impervious wood border, Also (another no-no), we put a fence border on the curb side. And the soil is built up above sidewalk level. Sigh.


   

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2. Here is the 55-foot tree box, left untended in front of a parking lot. The first picture shows my starting point in 2014. I also watered the 2 baby trees, of course. From a gardening standpoint, I am so proud of this. I spaded it up and cultivated it. I brought in new soil. I bought a 100-foot hose to reach it from our house. I salvaged 2 great cast-iron urns being discarded from a neighbor’s basement, painted them black, and I plant them every spring. The tree box now has hibiicus, iris, asters, 2 planters with annuals, zinnias, and zebra grass. Sadly, all are above the 18-inch height restriction. Plus, I didn’t know about not planting anything for 2 feet around the base of the tree, so I have asters all around each of the 2 tree trunks.



 

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3. Finally, here are 2 pictures from 2016 of the tree box on the other side of our house, showing zinnias that grew from seeds I harvested in 2015 from my own zinnias. For 2 years this tree box was totally forlorn and untended, and the zinnias all I have done with it so far, but I have big plans for it for 2017.



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Submitted by Joseph Purdy and Anthony Pontorno


     Vacation Photos


We were on vacation in South America and missed the meeting on tree boxes, but managed to get this photo of a tree box while getting a coffee on our way to the MALBA (museum of modern art) in Buenos Aires.  


We liked it for its' formality. 


We do not know if it would be compliant with our city's standards, though.





Submitted by Joseph Purdy



I would call these 'good neighbor' tree boxes.  Probably in front of the homes of people who have busy careers, or who don't like gardening, but who do want to be nice to their neighbors.  


These have no weeds and no trash, but look great with clean dirt or maybe occasional mulching.  


Fences can be a nice touch, and add a layer of protection to whatever you decide to plant.




















Here's an idea if you want to plant just one thing.














Here's a nice mix of plants. But I do not believe that roses are compliant with DDOT guidelines, but they look nice anyway.
















Here's another nice mix of plants.















WOW, check out this urban rain garden.  It's off K Street NW.  


We really ought to do one of these here, on the Hill.














































Some things might get a bit large for their space. These are still growing.




















And, not to be forgotten are what I would call 'all-natural, native plant' tree boxes.

Residents are responsible for keeping ruble and trash out of tree boxes. Borders should allow water to flow freely into the tree box when it rains. Soil should stay at the level of the sidewalk and existing tree roots should not be covered as covering the roots prevents oxygen from reaching the roots.


Plants added to tree boxes should be planted two feet from the trunks of new trees. Only shallow rooted plants growing to no more than 18 inches high. Roses, other bushes and vegetables are prohibited.


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