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PHC: Plant Health Care

By Fred Birdsall, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

For plant selection, planting and maintenance, Colorado State University endorses a holistic system known as Plant Health Care (PHC). It is a common-sense approach based on the concept that healthy plants have fewer pests and are more tolerant of pest problems. A plant under stress has less ability to thrive.

PHC starts with finding the right plant for the right place. Consider the plant’s soil, water, and fertilizer needs as well as its tolerance to fluctuations in those conditions. Consider also its size and growth pattern, and its response to cultural factors like placement, spacing, pruning, garden design. Plants which are not predisposed to thrive in Colorado’s environment will be less tolerant of stress factors. Even the right plant in the right place can suffer stress from primary pests or disease. If unchecked, this additional stress can result in a weakened and increasingly vulnerable plant. Exactly how to deal with this stress introduces the concept of Integrated Pest Management, or IPM.

IPM incorporates a variety of pest control strategies designed not to eliminate pests but to keep them at a tolerable level. The PHC approach uses such IPM tools as selection of pest-resistant species, use of pest-attacking predators or parasites, use of non-toxic agents, and as a last resort, use of the least toxic pesticide. Because less than 10% of landscape pest problems warrant pesticide use, non-toxic IPM methods are a desirable alternative for most pest problems. Through reduced reliance on pesticides, harmful pests can be controlled while not destroying the beneficial insects in your garden. Pets, children, and wildlife are less exposed. Toxic runoff is decreased and environmental pollution is diminished.

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Pest Alert Newsletter provides timely information on insect and disease problems.

View Pest Alert newsletters 1994 to present

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010