At Fox Tree Service our guys are trained to inspect properties thoroughly before beginning any applications and our arborists go to customers’ properties throughout the season to check trees and woody ornamentals for signs of insects and fungal plant diseases. A customer recently e-mailed us to ask us why? “I’m signed up for a regular spray program, so I don’t understand why your technician spends twenty minutes looking at the trees before he begins spraying? Is he just killing time or trying to take a break?” Mrs. Kins, Sag Harbor, NY

On the contrary, the reason why we inspect trees is quite simple: in plant health care, timing is everything. By looking closely at trees during the growing season, our technicians can not only determine which pests are best controlled immediately (spider mites, lacebugs, aphids, sawflies, etc.) but also can monitor for insects that need to be treated at specific dates in the future (determined by growing degree days) such as scale insects, bark borers, leafminers, etc. Our arborists also do thorough inspections to look for old damage or other signs of insects and disease that may alter the program for the following season. They also look for ongoing cultural issues that may need a different type of plant health care: girdling roots, nylon burlap left behind by landscapers, over-irrigation, poor drainage, compaction, chemical injury caused by other contractors, herbicide damage, over-mulching, etc.

cottony maple scale on twig

cottony maple scale on twig

Many insects and almost all plant diseases have to be controlled at specific times in their life cycle, not just when they are first noticed. A good example are cottony scale insects, such as cottony taxus scale (on hollies and yews) and cottony maple  scale (on maples, dogwoods, etc.) These insects can be readily seen in May and June but a treatment at that time will be useless. Equally so will be spray treatments in August, September, October. They need to be treated in the spring dormant season or in mid to late July. The reason for this is that the insects’ eggs hatch and the “crawlers” emerge from under the protective wax coating of the female scale insect at those times, making them vulnerable. At Fox Tree we time our treatments to the various life-cycles of the myriad of destructive pests out there. We do not do what other companies do, which is the “spray-and-pray” technique. We are thus able to save our customers from wasting money as well as protecting the environment from needless pesticide applications.

cedar-apple rust on crabapple leaf

cedar-apple rust on crabapple leaf

Plant diseases are another example where the treatment must be done at the proper time, more often than not in spring when the leaves first emerge. Fungicides generally act as a protective coating, preventing disease fungi from penetrating the leaf or needle cuticle (skin) and causing tissue damage. If you haven’t coated the tissue of new leaves and needles and continued to provide protection through spring and into early summer (when the cuticles have hardened off and the plants are able to protect themselves) then it’s going to be completely ineffective to spray fungicides later. They have no curative effect and cannot erase existing disease. Of course, some diseases, such as black spot on roses or fruit diseases such as flyspeck and brown rot, require regular treatments throughout the growing season to maintain the protective coating. However, if the spring treatments were not made, later treatments are pretty ineffective.

Any good integrated pest managemant program requires monitoring and proper timing. This type of plant health care greatly reduces the use of pesticides in your landscape and negates the use of unnecessary spraying. Please call Fox Tree today to set up an inspection of your property and we’ll be happy to create an effective program for your landscape.