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Explore and Care For NYC’s Urban Forest

Tree Guards

Two young trees, full of green leaves, stand in front of a brick building
Tree guards are fences around the perimeter of a tree pit that provide a physical barrier between a tree and our sometimes harsh urban environment. These tree guards reduce soil compaction, shield the trunk from physical damage, and prevent pet waste from entering the tree pit. Tree guards have been proven to extend the longevity of trees, reduce mortality rates, and can also provide a small protected planting bed for gardening.

How to Distinguish Helpful and Harmful Tree Guards

If not installed properly, tree guards can be harmful to the tree. Harmful tree guards have the potential of undermining the structural integrity of a tree, worsen tree health, and even kill a tree.

A harmful tree guard may cause one or more of the following issues:

  • Raising the soil level around the base of the tree, creating conditions that encourage root girdling (a dangerous root condition) and trunk rot.
  • Constricting a tree’s growth by being built too close to the tree trunk.
  • Preventing water from flowing directly from the sidewalk into the tree bed.

Helpful tree guards:

  • Do not raise the soil level.
  • Are built around the edges of the tree bed and does not touch the tree trunk or over tree roots.
  • Allow for water to flow directly from the sidewalk into the tree bed.

How to get a Guard

  • In some communities, local elected officials are able to provide tree guards around newly planted trees. Please contact your local elected official to see if they fund or if they will consider sponsoring tree guards for your neighborhood.
  • You can donate to the NYC Parks Tree Time to have a guard installed in front of your property. Some block associations even coordinate with residents to establish a uniform style of guard on their block. To find out more, email or call (718) 361-8101.
  • You can hire a private contractor or look into other lower cost alternatives. To make this process easier, we have pre-approved tree guard designs listed below. Please keep in mind that all permitted tree guards are three-sided, at least 18 inches tall and no more than 24 inches tall, installed on the outer perimeter of the tree bed, and are positioned at least one foot short of the curb with the curbside open. Tree guards should allow for water to flow from the sidewalk into the tree pit. Please be sure to first apply for a Tree Work Permit with the Central Forestry office as all tree guards are required to have a permit prior to installation.

Do-It-Yourself Tree Guard Design Templates