My Green Heaven Planting Trees in the Urban Jungle

When someone says the words "tree-lined street," what comes to mind? Whatever you're envisioning, chances are it's easy on the eyes and the spirit. The phrase connotes a certain placid, upscale sensibility, which can translate neatly into rising property values. (There's a reason realtors are so fond of the expression.) But if you're amongst the ranks of the treeless, maybe this is the year to do something about that. Planting trees is a dramatic and inexpensive way to give your building a major makeover. The following tips and wisdom may help you begin to turn your block into a leafy wonderland.

Laying the Groundwork

Before you start digging and mulching, you might consider a few basic tips: First of all, design by committee rarely leads to anything pretty. A good bit of advice is to limit the number of people involved in the tree decision-making process to no more than three. Next, decide on a budget - for both installation and maintenance - beforehand. Although most plantings are quite reasonably priced, it is possible to put in finicky exotics and such, which can cost quite a bit. Better to know what you can afford before you fall deeply, madly in love with that flowering Hawaiian showstopper.

Finally, think about your timeline. According to Neil Mendeloff, president of Plantworks, Inc., an exterior/interior landscaping company with nearly 30 years of experience in New York, city permits are issued between March 15th and June 15th for spring plantings and between October 15th and December 15th for fall plantings. "Ideally," says Mendeloff, "you should allow about two months lead time if the job requires cutting the sidewalk - though we can make due with less if there's already a pit."

It Isn't Easy Being Green

So you know what you can spend, and you know your time frames. Now you're ready for the tough part - getting your permits. As far as the city is concerned, plantings can be broken down into three categories, each with its own set of rules. The first category consists of planters (large, above-ground pots that rest on top of the pavement) placed right next to your building. Mendeloff explains it like this: "The area from the outer wall of your building to three feet out into the sidewalk is considered the building's personal space, and no permits are required to put planters there. Anything beyond that three-foot area is encroaching on the city's right-of-way, and you need to get permits for that."

Once your project moves into the city's right-of-way, plantings can be broken down again into sidewalk planters, and in-ground plantings - in which the tree is planted in a hole in the pavement called a "box" or "pit."

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