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Plant Health Care FAQ

By Jerry Naiser

What is Plant Health Care?

Plant Health Care, also called PHC, offers a total health approach to landscape and plant health.

How PHC Landscape Programs Work

Traditional landscape pest control programs rely on cover sprays. The pest control sprays offered are based on the company’s knowledge of common pest problems and control measures in the service area. The client may have the option to choose from a number of pest control programs based on the client’s priorities. Traditional pest control programs are not necessarily obsolete or bad for the environment and may be the best option for clients who have overriding concerns about program cost or are only concerned about a specific pest problem. In contrast, plant health care (PHC) technicians consider the landscape as a whole when deciding how to best care for plants. PHC technicians control plant problems through careful monitoring of the landscape environment. Chemical controls may be part of the treatment but they are not necessarily used in every treatment.

The PHC technician maintains landscape plants by: evaluating the landscape’s environment, noting stressors, maintaining plant performance through cultural practices, investigating the landscape through monitoring, and treating problems as they occur. Because of this, every PHC program is customized to fit the client’s property and expectations.

Why is my technician recommending a Plant Health Care program?

Your technician probably recognized a problem in your landscape that might be avoided or treated by implementing a PHC treatment program. Many plant problems are related to improper matching of the plant’s requirements to the landscape site. This is often called “right plant / right site.” Grass prefer non-acidic soils. Lawn care providers often raise the pH with lime to change the acidity level. The direct sunlight and competition with grass leads to a drier soil. Plants may have been improperly planted. One common planting mistake is planting too deep. Plants may be subjected to improper maintenance techniques. Landscapes are often subjected to improper pruning, fertilizing, irrigation, and other cultural practices. Often a combination of improper plant sighting, planting, and maintenance techniques are present, compounding the program. These all can stress plants, making them more susceptible to disease, pest infestations, and environmental pressures. The combined effects of different stress agents is often called a "stress complex".

What does "customizing the program for my expectations" mean?

The whole PHC program is based on you and your need for a healthy landscape. A PHC technician will consider your expectations when deciding how to implement a PHC treatment program. One important question is when you want to resort to chemical control of pest problems. Some clients will tolerate a larger percentage of plant damage before requiring action. Some clients will tolerate very little. Often, a client will tolerate less damaged on a prized ornamental tree in the front yard as opposed to a group of shade trees in the back. This requires the PHC technician to apply a higher action threshold to some trees or sections of the landscape than others. Treatment recommendations are then made to the client based on their expectations. The key to a successful plant health care program is communication between the client and PHC technician.

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