Cumberland Valley Tree Service – Landscaping’s Plant Health Care Division tends to be one of the “quieter” areas within the company – at least in terms of our online presence. Tree care and landscaping both lend themselves to easily shareable, social media-ready pictures. Plant Health Care stories often require more context, and when we do talk about it, it’s usually in the form of an “alert” regarding an invasive insect.
This is unfortunate because plant health care has been a key component of our company from day one. It is one of the reasons behind our continued growth, and the knowledge contained in this department informs our tree care decisions and landscape designs.
Our Plant Health Care Division consists of a small number of people who travel alone (one person per rig – and there are only five rigs), but over the years they’ve taken on some large-scale, high-profile jobs.
The nature of their work requires absolute precision in their prevention, assessment and mitigation efforts. Any given day can include everything from insect/disease management, soil analysis, root collar excavations, construction site preservation, growth regulator applications, and more.
Literally roots to canopy.
Here are eight things that you probably didn’t know about our Plant Health Care Division – everything from the history to how you can join them.
1. We’ve been spraying since day one.
When George Pogue Sr. founded CVTS-L in 1978, among his initial investments – along with the bucket truck and a wood chipper – was a spray rig. Throughout the 70s and 80s the rig was busy with gypsy moths, Japanese beetles and spider mites.
George Sr. basically kept the division going until the end of the 90s when an employee named Mick Elder briefly took the reins. Then our current Plant Health Care Manager, Jamey Schwartz, stepped in from the Tree Care Division. “I didn’t start the division,” said Schwartz in an interview. “I just picked up the baton and started running with it.”
2. Plant Health Care is multifaceted.
Insect and disease management is a large part of plant health care, but it is only one of several parts. The Plant Health Care division also applies fertilizations to proactively promote growth in trees and shrubs. They also diagnose and treat all manner of root collar disorders. Roots of trees can be defective for various reasons usually involving inappropriate/incorrect plantings. The Plant Health Care Division can come in after the fact and try to correct some of those issues. One method is a root collar excavation where some of the offending roots are removed to improve the overall health of the tree.
Then there is the consultation side of Plant Health Care. “We do consultations on sick trees,” said Schwartz. “We also do risk assessments for trees that could be potentially hazardous. Someone could be worried about the tree falling on their house or a limb falling on their property.”
3. The Plant Health Care Division is small but growing.
Arborists have their bucket trucks and chippers, but the primary tool of a Plant Health Care Technician’s trade is the spray rig. The rig is a truck equipped with various sizes of spray tanks that hold clean water and other materials for mixing up solutions to manage insects/diseases or apply fertilizers.
CVTS-L currently has five spray rigs in operation, each operated by a single spray tech. “It can feel more like a cross between a lawn care company and a pest control company,” said Schwartz. “Our division is a bit unique in that way.”
4. All of our spray technicians have at least two certifications.
Just as the Tree Care Division has its ISA Certifications, all of our spray techs are Certified Pest Control Applicators through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. First they have to pass a “core” exam that Pennsylvania requires for anyone who wants to apply materials professionally (this list also includes farmers, pest control workers, custodians at schools, maintenance workers at pools who apply chlorine, etc.). This exam covers personal protective equipment and how to safely handle pesticides.
Then the potential technician has to pass a “category” exam, which focuses on the needs and challenges of specific industries. Because CVTS-L overwhelmingly handles residential properties, our technicians are required to get a certification for “Category Six: Shade Trees and Ornamentals.” However, some of our applicators hold additional certifications on top of these.
5. The day of the Plant Health Care worker starts early and ends late.
The Chambersburg office is the hub for the Plant Health Care Division because of its central location within our service territory, and also on account of the logistics and legality of keeping pesticides on the property. It’s just easier to store them in one place.
The work orders are usually given out when employees arrive in the morning, which is largely based on when the sun comes up. In the spring that might mean the day starts at 6:00 a.m., but as summer rolls around, that start time eventually shifts to 5:30 a.m. (sometimes as early as 5). During the busy period – April, May, June – 10 or 11-hour days are the norm (depending on workload and weather). Early starts make it so that our spray techs don’t have to work in the worst of the heat or the highest winds of the day, which are not ideal for spraying.
6. Spray work is precision work.
In an orchard, where the trees are neatly lined up in even rows, pesticides can be applied by a large vehicle that sprays large-scale quantities of materials on to the trees. However, this “blanket” approach doesn’t work on residential or commercial properties. For CVTS-L’s Plant Health Care Division, from the mixing of the materials to their application, it’s all about precision. Our sprays are much more targeted to specific trees.
We take the hose directly to the plant to minimize the risk of over application and drift. People might be surprised to learn, though, that significant thought and planning goes into what is not sprayed. We take down bird feeders, and, if they can’t be moved, we cover them up. We also cover fish ponds and gardens as needed, and we wash things off whenever necessary.
7. Our Plant Health Care Division has done some high-profile projects.
It’s not as easy to show off a job well done in the Plant Health Care Division as it is to showcase a beautiful landscape design, but we have some pretty big jobs in our portfolio. A few years ago we performed a large risk assessment project for a local military base. The project was split into two phases.
First, we did a tree risk assessment around the perimeter, and we provided a report that itemized trees that were high risk, moderate risk and low risk. As phase one, we submitted a bid proposal to mitigate the risk the trees posed for the perimeter fencing. We were awarded the contract and went on to perform the risk abatement – pruning and cutting down trees that were in the high-risk category, and so on. Additionally, we have performed plant health care services at Shippensburg University for more than 20 years. The campus has a policy in place that requires the arborists on site to be ISA Certified.
8. The Plant Health Care Division is a coveted position with the company.
While it’s true that every division of CVTS-L considers themselves to be “elite,” the case is most easily made for the Plant Health Care Division. As a rule, we require anyone who wants to work as a spray technician with CVTS-L to do tree work or landscaping for at least a year. During that time, crew leaders will assess the applicant’s work ethic and how they interact with customers and staff members.
“We view the Plant health Care Division as a job to be sought after within the company, respected within the company and something that people aspire to once they get enough experience,” said Schwartz.” Becoming a Plant Health Care Professional at CVTS-L requires experience plus certifications plus the respect of other staff members. This method ensures that the best person gets the job, and it prevents potential disruptions caused by outside hires.
Learn more about CVTS-L’s Plant Health Care Division as well as our “Roots to Canopy” approach and our “Green Solutions Plant Health Care Program” here.
Lean more about what to expect when one of CVTS-L’s Plant Health Care Professionals visits your property here.
If you’re ready to schedule a visit – or if you have any further questions – please don’t hesitate to contact us.