Tawa Tree is on the leading edge of Plant Health Care applications. We employ a full time Plant Health Care Specialist that is capable of improving and maintaining the health of your valuable trees. Call Tawa Tree today toll free at 1-877-523-9001 to set up a customized Plant Health Care program. You can also submit a service request form here.
The most common reason a tree owner calls an arborist is concern that something is wrong with a tree. It may be that some of the leaves are discolored, a branch has died, or perhaps the entire tree has been dropping leaves. Sometimes the cause of concern is a minor problem that is easily explained and corrected. Other times the problem is more complex—with several underlying causes and a remedy that requires treatments extending over several years. Unfortunately, there are instances in which the problem has gone undetected for so long that the tree cannot be helped, and the only option is removal. If an arborist had been called earlier, perhaps the tree could have been saved.
The Solution: Plant Health Care
Why Plant Health Care, Not Tree Health Care?
Why Contact an Arborist for Plant Health Care?
What Does a Tree and Shrub PHC Program Cover?
How Will My Trees and Shrubs Benefit from PHC?
What Will a PHC Program Cost?
Situations such as these led arborists to create Plant Health Care (PHC) programs. The objective of PHC is to maintain or improve the landscape’s appearance, vitality and—in the case of trees—safety, using the most cost-effective and environmentally sensitive practices and treatments available. Plant Health Care involves monitoring, using preventive treatments, and adopting a strong commitment to working closely with you, the tree owner.
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While trees are dominant ornamental features in your home landscape, they share this area with turf grasses, shrubs, and bedding plants. And all these plants have one resource in common: the soil. The roots of trees, shrubs, turf grass, and bedding plants intermingle and compete for water and nutrients. In fact, the roots of a single mature tree may extend 60 feet or more out into your lawn or flower beds. Every treatment applied to the lawn (fertilizer and herbicide, for example) can impact the appearance and vitality of a tree. Conversely, treatments applied to a tree, such as pruning and fertilizing, can influence the appearance and vitality of the underlying turf grass. The care of each plant in a landscape can affect the health of every plant in that landscape.
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Trees and shrubs represent a considerable long-term investment in your landscape. With proper care, these plants can provide beautiful surroundings, cooling shade, and many other benefits for decades. Arborists have the experience and training to detect many potential tree and shrub problems before they become life threatening or hazardous. In addition, arborists can make tree and shrub recommendations, such as species selection and placement, to keep many problems from occurring in the first place. Arborists can also consult with other landscape services you may use, lawn care for example, to ensure that the treatments are coordinated and will not be harmful to your trees and shrubs. Remember, the potential size and longevity of trees and shrubs warrants their special attention in your landscape. Bedding plants can be replaced in a few short weeks and a lawn in a single growing season, but it can take a lifetime or more to replace a mature tree.
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Every home landscape is unique, so there is no standard PHC program. Plant Health Care programs do have features in common, however. First, PHC involves monitoring tree and shrub health. This step allows problems to be detected and managed before they become serious. The monitoring may be as simple as annual visits to check on a few special trees in your landscape, or it may involve more frequent quarterly or monthly inspections of all your trees and shrubs. The monitoring frequency and complexity of your PHC program depend on the size and diversity of your landscape as well as your particular landscape goals.
Second, if problems or potential problems are detected or anticipated during a monitoring visit, your arborist will develop solutions. The solution could be a simple change in your lawn irrigation schedule—many trees are kept too moist—or more detailed suggestions, such as pruning or spot applications of pesticides.
Finally, PHC involves you, the client. Your arborist will give you information about your trees and shrubs. This information ensures that decisions are made that address your concerns and are appropriate to your landscape budget and goals. Information may be provided through a variety of means. Obviously, discussions and answering questions are important means of conveying information, but many PHC programs include written recommendations after each monitoring visit. Plant Health Care is a program tailored to the needs of the client and his or her trees and shrubs.
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Because ornamental trees and shrubs can quickly succumb to problems, routine monitoring and timely treatments can protect your landscape investment and reduce expenses. A monitoring visit to your landscape might reveal
• A hidden infestation of tent caterpillars that may soon defoliate the ornamental crabapples in your front yard
• A weakly attached branch that may fail and damage the house
• Improperly pruned shrubs that are not flowering as abundantly as they should.
Your Plant Health Care specialist can recommend treatments and changes in maintenance practices that can eliminate these problems while maximizing the safety and aesthetic quality of your landscape.
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Because each program is individually designed to fit the needs of a particular landscape, no standard price can be given without a site visit and assessment. You may have an interest in developing a plan for a few key trees in your landscape, or you may wish to have the entire landscape placed on a program. PHC programs can also be structured in different ways. For example, some programs charge a fee for monitoring and bill each treatment separately. Other programs have an annual fee that covers all monitoring visits for the season as well as many potential treatments. These more comprehensive programs provide the peace of mind in knowing that treatments for most potential problems are already covered by the program without additional charges. Individualized programs and flexibility are at the heart of PHC. You will find that your arborist can design a Plant Health Care program that fits your goals and budget.
(c) 1998, 2004 International Society of Arboriculture. Updated July 2005
Mulches are materials placed over the soil surface to maintain moisture and improve soil conditions. Mulching is one of the most beneficial things a home owner can do for the health of a tree. Mulch can reduce water loss from the soil, minimize weed competition, and improve soil structure. Properly applied, mulch can give landscapes a handsome, well-groomed appearance. Mulch must be applied properly; if it is too deep or if the wrong material is used, it can actually cause significant harm to trees and other landscape plants.
Benefits of Proper Mulching
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• Helps maintain soil moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and the need for watering can be minimized.
• Helps control weeds. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds.
• Mulch serves as nature’s insulating blanket. Mulch keeps soils warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
• Many types of mulch can improve soil aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time.
• Some mulches can improve soil fertility.
• A layer of mulch can inhibit certain plant diseases.
• Mulching around trees helps facilitate maintenance and can reduce the likelihood of damage from “weed whackers” or the dreaded “lawn mower blight.”
• Mulch can give planting beds a uniform, well-cared-for look.
Trees growing in a natural forest environment have their roots anchored in a rich, well-aerated soil full of essential nutrients. The soil is blanketed by leaves and organic materials that replenish nutrients and provide an optimal environment for root growth and mineral uptake. Urban landscapes, however, are typically a much harsher environment with poor soils, little organic matter, and large fluctuations in temperature and moisture. Applying a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch can mimic a more natural environment and improve plant health.
The root system of a tree is not a mirror image of the top. The roots of most trees can extend out a significant distance from the tree trunk. Although the guideline for many maintenance practices is the drip line—the outermost extension of the canopy—the roots can grow many times that distance. In addition, most of the fine, absorbing roots are located within inches of the soil surface. These roots, which are essential for taking up water and minerals, require oxygen to survive. A thin layer of mulch, applied as broadly as practical, can improve the soil structure, oxygen levels, temperature, and moisture availability where these roots grow.
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Mulches are available commercially in many forms. The two major types of mulch are inorganic and organic. Inorganic mulches include various types of stone, lava rock, pulverized rubber, geotextile fabrics, and other materials. Inorganic mulches do not decompose and do not need to be replenished often. On the other hand, they do not improve soil structure, add organic materials, or provide nutrients. For these reasons, most horticulturists and arborists prefer organic mulches.
Organic mulches include wood chips, pine needles, hardwood and softwood bark, cocoa hulls, leaves, compost mixes, and a variety of other products usually derived from plants. Organic mulches decompose in the landscape at different rates depending on the material and climate. Those that decompose faster must be replenished more often. Because the decomposition process improves soil quality and fertility, many arborists and other landscape professionals consider that characteristic a positive one, despite the added maintenance.
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As beneficial as mulch is, too much can be harmful. The generally recommended mulching depth is 2 to 4 inches. Unfortunately, many landscapes are falling victim to a plague of overmulching. A new term, “mulch volcanoes,” has emerged to describe mulch that has been piled up around the base of trees. Most organic mulches must be replenished, but the rate of decomposition varies. Some mulches, such as cypress mulch, remain intact for many years. Top dressing with new mulch annually (often for the sake of refreshing the color) creates a buildup to depths that can be unhealthy. Deep mulch can be effective in suppressing weeds and reducing maintenance, but it often causes additional problems.
Problems Associated with Improper Mulching
• Deep mulch can lead to excess moisture in the root zone, which can stress the plant and cause root rot.
• Piling mulch against the trunk or stems of plants can stress stem tissues and may lead to insect and disease problems.
• Some mulches, especially those containing cut grass, can affect soil pH. Continued use of certain mulches over long periods can lead to micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities.
• Mulch piled high against the trunks of young trees may create habitats for rodents that chew the bark and can girdle the trees.
• Thick blankets of fine mulch can become matted and may prevent the penetration of water and air. In addition, a thick layer of fine mulch can become like potting soil and may support weed growth.
• Anaerobic “sour” mulch may give off pungent odors, and the alcohols and organic acids that build up may be toxic to young plants.
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It is clear that the choice of mulch and the method of application can be important to the health of landscape plants. The following are some guidelines to use when applying mulch.
• Inspect plants and soil in the area to be mulched. Determine whether drainage is adequate. Determine whether there are plants that may be affected by the choice of mulch. Most commonly available mulches work well in most landscapes. Some plants may benefit from the use of a slightly acidifying mulch such as pine bark.
• If mulch is already present, check the depth. Do not add mulch if there is a sufficient layer in place. Rake the old mulch to break up any matted layers and to refresh the appearance. Some landscape maintenance companies spray mulch with a water-soluble, vegetable-based dye to improve the appearance.
• If mulch is piled against the stems or tree trunks, pull it back several inches so that the base of the trunk and the root crown are exposed.
• Organic mulches usually are preferred to inorganic materials due to their soil-enhancing properties. If organic mulch is used, it should be well aerated and, preferably, composted. Avoid sour-smelling mulch.
• Composted wood chips can make good mulch, especially when they contain a blend of leaves, bark, and wood. Fresh wood chips also may be used around established trees and shrubs. Avoid using noncomposted wood chips that have been piled deeply without exposure to oxygen.
• For well-drained sites, apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch. If there are drainage problems, a thinner layer should be used. Avoid placing mulch against the tree trunks. Place mulch out to the tree’s drip line or beyond.
Remember: If the tree had a say in the matter, its entire root system (which usually extends well beyond the drip line) would be mulched.