Trampled across, shat upon, dumped on. We let the wasteful abuse of these poor downtrodden sods carry on day after day. Most people are blind to it until they end up tripping up and only then realize what peculiar and ubiquitous little things they are. I’m talking about tree pits, those usually muddy, gravelly openings in our pavements from which a tree grows or perhaps used to grow. I urge you to show them compassion.
These little openings in our hard landscape are direct and public access to the earth and from that ground comes great potential. Their creation is almost always to serve the grander ambition of planting a tree. But this opening can be more than a conduit for a tree trunk. In the early years of a tree’s life the pit serves a crucial purpose in helping the tree take in water. Theoretically a protruding plastic tube or a pavement plughole should provide this, but how many times have you seen anyone re-fueling a tree with a thirst-quenching nozzle? Never I bet. Watering is left to nature and so it’s down to that tiny little tree pit to capture what it can and offer it up for what ever can grow within it. The tree relies on its pit for water until its roots have found other deeper sources of water.
The tree hugger in you will see now how vital a healthy tree pit is. At the very least don’t trample them, litter them or worse still, let your local authority fill them with that deceptively fancy looking resin-bonded gravel which only prevents the tree pit of providing any service it may provide, except as a dog toilet. Better than that, show the tree pit some active compassion. Clear the scrappy tangle of weeds, lightly fork over the soil so it can absorb more water, enrich the ground and in dry weather occasionally carry out a can and give it a really good soaking. Get comfortable with these PDAs and then get more expressive. Plant something joyful there. The open ground is your canvas. Let this tree pit show its potential! Around a mature tree plant daffodils, tulips, crocus, sunflowers, hollyhocks, petunias, cornflower, nasturtium, poppies, mint, marjoram - I’ve had them all flourish in tree pits by guerrilla gardening there, regardless of who should really be tending them. Gardening here is conspicuous compassion and like a wrist band or the red paper poppy it will mark you out to passers by as appreciative, conscious and grateful for the service the tree pit is providing. Get talking to them – I mean the passers by - win them round as compassionate gardeners. Together we can turn these the put upon tree pits into a network of micro parks.
If you tend a pavement tree pit in London or know of a beautiful pavement garden then you might like to consider participating in the new Chelsea Fringe London garden festival this May and June. Please contact Richard@pimpyourpavement.com