Tree Pit Gardening in the City

As tree planting season has drawn to a close, hundreds of property owners have 30 square feet of new planting space in front of their homes and businesses. While the real purpose for the new green space is the tree in the middle, treating the rest as a micro garden is a great idea, as long as you remember that the tree’s health comes first!

Want to plant in your tree pit? Tree Pittsburgh has compiled some tips for planting in tree pits, as well as recommended plants, here. Most importantly:

  • Don’t plant vines or anything that will climb the tree,
  • Keep plants at least a foot away from the trunk of the tree.
  • Plant shallow rooted plants or small bulbs that won’t compete for the tree’s nutrients.

In early May, Alicia Kachmar of WildCard on Butler Street undertook a tree pit transformation to get ready for the Lawrenceville Blossom Tour, and because, well, “I [could] hear the soil and tree crying from all the cigarette butts and litter”. Check out the what she describes as the "UGLY before picture...cigarette butts, litter, a flattened paper cup, a lone brick":

tree pit before photo

The soil was pretty compacted in the tree pit, which is common in business districts. Alicia worked hard to aerate it with a weeder so that she could plant.

wildcard tree pit aerate the soil   

Then she constructed a sweet border with bricks salvaged from Botero Development, which is run by Brian Mendelson, whose wife Rebecca runs WildCard.

After a few weeks of having a newly-planted tree pit garden, Alicia credits its presence to there being less litter in front of the business: “I clear out some cigarette butts and trash each time I work” she says, “but far less than I remember gathering there before! People have really responded positively to it!”  Alicia has plans to add more to the tree pit garden as seeds grow and as she sees how the current  plants are doing.

Have you created a tree pit garden?  Send photos to Tree Pittsburgh by emailing them to or add them to our Flickr Pool of Pittsburgh Trees!

wilcard tree pit garden

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