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Most homeowners with yards enjoy the thought of an inviting landscape they can show off and enjoy. But creating a beautiful outdoor living space takes effort and patience.

“Attempting to force beauty onto trees and shrubs with bad pruning methods and over-zealous spraying for pests is a haphazard approach that wastes time and money, with only sickly plants to show for it,” says Tchukki Andersen, CTSP*, Board Certified Master Arborist and staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

“A plant health care (PHC) program can take the effort out of your landscape work and give you back the time you envisioned having to enjoy it,” she says.

What is plant health care? Plants, and trees especially, are valuable assets for your landscape. As such, they require long-term, quality care in order to provide return on your investment. A PHC program accomplishes this by using specialized monitoring and problem-solving methods designed to prevent high-cost plant/tree replacement in the long run.

How does this work? The goal of PHC is to maintain tree and plant health in your yard by providing proper growing conditions for the plants. Most health problems associated with trees can be linked to past environmental stress or declining growing conditions. Healthy trees have natural defenses, but when a tree is stressed, it is more vulnerable to harmful insects and diseases. “PHC technicians work closely with homeowners to reduce those tree stressors and manage pest problems before they become harmful,” says Andersen. “Managing plant pests and problems rather than eliminating them offers a proactive and holistic approach to maintaining tree and shrub health.”

There are actually people who do this? An arborist qualified to provide plant health care will make proactive visits to your property to inspect for signs of any plant health problems. Considering your landscape goals, the PHC technician will help guide your plant health regime. Your expectations and concerns about your trees are vital to the success of the PHC program.

What are the treatments? Managed landscape plants require specialized “treatments,” as many living things often do. In the past, landscape pest control treatments were primarily pesticide or fertilizer applications made regularly, whether the plant needed it or not. PHC spray treatments are not necessarily obsolete or “bad” for the environment, if performed by a qualified technician for a specific pest. In fact, some spray treatments may be the best option for clients who have overriding concerns about program cost or are only concerned about one specific pest problem. Nowadays though, good plant health care provides specific treatments at specific times, which better targets pests and reduces waste. But the best treatment methods are those that work in combination with natural processes or are the least environmentally intrusive. A PHC technician may recommend any one or a combination of the following treatments:

  • • Maintenance or restoration pruning
  • An integrated pest management (IPM) program to deal with any insect and disease issues
  • • Mulching bare soil beneath tree canopies
  • • Testing to determine any nutrient deficiencies and a program to address them
  • • Evaluation of current irrigation practices and a suggested program for correct irrigation cycles