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PHC  (Plant Health Care) By Jerry Naiser

Frequently Asked Questions About Plant Health Care

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 what are called “cover sprays.” The pest control sprays offered to the client are based on the company’s knowledge of common pest problems and control measures in the service area. The cover spray type, method, and timing are pre-determined by the company.

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 one 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 actual or potential causes of plant stress (stressors);
  • maintaining plant performance through proper cultural practices;
  • investigating the landscape through monitoring;
  • and identifying 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 potential or actual problem in your landscape that might be best avoided or treated by implementing a PHC treatment program. The following are examples of some common problems:

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.” Example of this type of mistake are easy to find, the following is a common one in the eastern US. Dogwoods thrive in moist, acidic soils, especially if there is light, partial shade, but they are often planted in the middle of grass lawns in direct sunlight. Grass has different requirements than Dogwoods. Grass prefers 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. The dogwood becomes stressed and more susceptible to plant diseases and insect infestations.

Plants may have been improperly planted. One common planting mistake is planting too deep. Planting too deep and other planting mistakes are often the source of plant problems.

Plants may be subjected to improper maintenance techniques. Landscapes are often subjected to improper pruning, fertilizing, irrigation, and other cultural practices. The following is one common example. Landscapes have a variety of plants with different nutrient requirements. They are often given one uniform fertilizing program that doesn’t meet their individual needs, causing stress to plants not suited to the fertilization practice.

Stress Complex. Often a combination of improper plant sighting (wrong plant / wrong site), improper planting and improper maintenance techniques exist, compounding the program. These all can cause plant stress and decline, making the plant more susceptible to plant diseases, pest infestations and environmental pressures. The combined effects of different stress agents is often called a stress complex.

The technician said the program will be customized according to my expectations. What exactly does that mean?

The whole PHC program is based on you the client and your need for a healthy, vigorous landscape.

Your Expectations

A PHC technician will consider your expectations when deciding how to implement a PHC treatment program. One important question is just when do you, the client, want to resort to chemical control of pest problems.

Some clients will tolerate a greater percentage of plant damage before requiring action. Some clients will tolerate very little plant damage. Often a client will tolerate less damaged on a prized ornamental specimen tree located in the front yard as opposed to a group of shade trees growing in the back yard. This requires the PHC technician to apply a higher action threshold to some trees and/or sections of the landscape than others. Here, communication and understanding between the client and plant health care technician is key!

Treatment recommendations are then made to the client based on that client’s expectations. The key to a successful plant health care program is communication between the client and PHC technician.

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