You've probably heard of IPM or Integrated Pest Management. But what about an even more holistic approach? Try PHC or Plant Health Care.
So PHC encompasses so much more than IPM. Instead of focusing only on pests such as insects, diseases and weeds, PHC will look at factors than can stress plants such as improper planting techniques, water, soil, soil compaction, plant location, among other elements.
What are the benefits of the PHC approach you might ask? It detects problems early before they become major problems. It can extend the life of trees, shrubs and perennials. It saves money by addressing a minor problem before it becomes an expensive problem.
You are being proactive instead of reactive. The approach reduces our reliance on chemicals and also encourages spot treatments and timely applications. It reduces the loss of beneficial insects and spiders by being more selective and precise in targeting controls.
So what are the steps for implementing PHC? Think prevention by using proper planting techniques, insuring that soil conditions are adequate, selecting a site with the right amount of sunlight, watering with the right amount of water with the correct frequency, and adding mulch to retain moisture longer.
You must learn to tolerate some insects. If you attempt to sterilize your landscape of insects, you will often create a worst situation. If your idea of a satisfying garden is one that must be perfect, perhaps you need to direct your attention to some other hobby or endeavor. Forcing your landscape to conform to something it is not or wasn't meant to be will only bring woe and disappointment. Loosen up!
You also must walk through your garden spaces on a regular basis. Otherwise you won't catch something before it becomes a big problem. And if you are not frequently in your garden, why do you have one in the first place? Maybe think "zeroscape."
When you find something that doesn't seem right, google is both your friend and foe. There is a lot of good stuff on the internet but there is also a bunch of bad advice and unfounded "science." Your local CSU Extension office will have a master gardener program with qualified volunteer experts to help you solve your plant problems. We are pretty good plant detectives!
Last but not least, once you plant your landscape, be consistent in such duties as watering, fertilizing as needed, mulching, yanking and replacing plants that are doing poorly, selective pruning, deadheading, removing weeds before they go to seed, and don't forget yearly aeration of your lawns.
I have more to share with you about the PHC approach so stay tuned for further discussion. Until then, the Cedaredge Tree Board will be having a signup for our June 23 free Sick Tree Day. First come first served.
Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge in 2007 after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a Colorado Master Gardener.