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Roadside Tree Boxes - A Garden Waiting To Happen

For those who live on typical city streets in an American suburb, there is one strip of land by your property you probably look at a lot, but never do anything with, that little chunk of land between the sidewalk and the street. They all look similar, they are either a little chunk of grass, or possibly a dirt and grass island, with trees as decorations.

Some cities refer to these areas as tree boxes, little roadside boxes created by driveways, sidewalks and the road. They tend to stand out from the nice landscaping you do on your lawn.

Now, you may be able to change that and decorate them as well. Before you do anything, you need to call your city to see what can or can't be done with that chunk of land. While it will still be city property, they may allow you to plant things, as long as you keep them neat. Some cities will require you tell them what you are going to do before you start planting, others will make you get a permit to put in a tree, but most are flexible to a resident wanting to help take care of the area around their home.

Some of the common ways to spruce up this piece of land, without having plants that are out of control, are to plant a small herb garden, others go with a tree and a flower ground cover. Some go all out.

In the Georgetown area of Washington, DC, these tree boxes have become not only something to decorate, but something to compete with. They hold an annual contest called the Georgetown Tree Box and Front Garden Contest. Every year about 400 people complete and there is a lot of prestige to winning the event.

This may well have you looking out your front window thinking what you could do to jazz up the tree boxes in your neighborhood. Again, you may want to start by talking to the city. In addition to being able to let you know what rules and regulations they have relating to decorating that area, they also will be able to give you an idea of what plants will grow well in your tree boxes. After all, they are planting medians and other areas of the city all the time.

A few tips:

You don't want the plants to be too high, or too bushy, as they can become a visibility concern as people try to turn into, or out of, driveways. Too much horizontal growth can also get in the way as people are trying to open their car doors.

Remember, the pavement surrounding the tree boxes is very hot, on all four sides. That means the soil in the tree boxes will be warmer than in other areas of your yard. Not all plants will appreciate this.

This is a small place, do not over pack it with plants or they will likely beat up each other as they compete for the limited amount of garden space.


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