Plant Health Care (PHC) is a holistic approach in caring for trees, shrubs and other landscape plants to improve their health and vigor and allow them to thrive and not just survive. It involves managing pests, diseases, soils, sites, species and all the components of plants biology to achieve aesthetic, sustaining trees, shrubs and landscape plants.

PHC involves preventative care by trying to keep plants healthy before they have problems, or are infested by pests or infected with diseases. Ranger Services will always use the most effective cost efficient and environmentally sensitive practices and products in PHC management.

Wind Damaged Leaves

Proper diagnosis is critical.
This leaf may appear to have insect feeding on it when it actually has only wind damage.

PHC focuses on producing a healthy environment for the plant which in turn generates a stronger more vigorous growing plant. The plant becomes the central focus of the landscape rather than concentrating on just treating pests. Instead of responding to symptoms caused by pests, a program of preventative maintenance and monitoring is developed. If monitoring indicates pests that require attention, then an Integrated Pest Management approach is used to develop the best treatment plan using all possible resources. PHC provides a foundation for correcting the basic causes of the reduction in plant health and in turn produces a healthy plant.

Creating a good healthy growing environment is the first step in PHC management.
Mulch beds can be essential in establishing a site conducive to producing healthy trees.

Mulch Beds

Even after developing a healthy environment for your plants sometimes you still may need to control different pests. The difference is that the healthier plants can take a higher amount of stress from the pests before they begin to decline. This allows you more time to decide what course of action you may want to take if any. For example: Aphids begin to feed on your roses. The roses are healthy enough to take the pest pressure until lady beetles come in and feed on the aphids. By not using a pesticide you now have beneficial insects helping you control the original pests.

Landscape Landscape

Plant Health Care management can be caring for just a single tree or an entire landscape

Producing healthy plants is the key, and to do this requires a healthy site. This is done by thoroughly assessing the site both above and below ground; an inventory of all plant material, their current health status, and the current environmental conditions they are grown in. This also includes soil pH, soil moisture, and soil compaction. From this, different sources of stress are identified, such as too much soil moisture, too high of pH, or too much shade. Changes are then made to the site to improve the plants environment so that it can thrive.
Ash tree
Many times the fixes are very easy, like moving a sprinkler head so it does not hit an area so often, or moving a plant to an area with more sun. Sometimes changes are not that easy or possible at all, and plant removal is the only choice. Changing soil pH is not easy to do, and if it is done, it is usually temporary and will revert back. This is why placing plants in areas compatible with their needs is so important. If a tree needs a sandy low pH soil, do not plant it in high pH clay. If a plant normally grows in a moist shady area, do not plant in an area with full sun all day. If the plants needs are followed rather than solely planting for aesthetic value, half the battle to a healthy plant is done.

Plant Health Care comes down to a few basic components. Know your site, know what plants can thrive on your site, give them what they want, and do not try to force something to live where it does not want to. Follow these rules and your landscape will become healthier and easier to maintain with less pest problems.

The biggest challenge in PHC is protecting Ash trees from the Emerald Ash Borer.