Health care provides life insurance for home’s trees

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,” said Tchukki Andersen, 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 said.

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,” Andersen said. “Managing plant pests and problems rather than eliminating them offers a proactive and holistic approach to maintaining tree and shrub health.”

An arborist qualified to provide plant health care will make proactive visits to a 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.

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:

n maintenance or restoration pruning; n an integrated pest management

(IPM) program to deal with any insect and disease issues;

n mulching bare soil beneath tree canopies;

n testing to determine any nutrient deficiencies and a program to address them;

n evaluation of current irrigation practices and a suggested program for correct irrigation cycles;

n planting pest-resistant varieties of trees and shrubs suited to your specific site.

Most people want to know what the pest problems or the overall problems are in their landscape. Your PHC provider observes your trees and shrubs for changes in their health, and will work closely with you to devise solutions as needed. A custom-designed PHC program for your trees and shrubs will, over time, provide a beautiful and healthy landscape that the entire neighborhood can enjoy, and that will add value to your home.

Qualified PHC technicians save time and money for homeowners. The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) has many professional PHC providers who will tap into a huge reservoir of information and experience to make educated decisions and avoid costly mistakes. Homeowners who would like a professional arborist to assess their trees should contact the TCIA, a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938.

An easy way to find a tree care service provider in any area is to use the “Locate Your Local TCIA Member Companies” program. People can use this service by calling 1-800-733-2622 or by doing a zip code search on