When the Almstead Tree and Shrub Care Co. ran into issues with “traditional treatments” more than ten years ago, the company began to organic services to its tree and shrub care service line.
“For instance, high nitrogen traditional fertilizers were making bleeding canker worse on beech trees, so we switched to using low nitrogen organic fertilizers and biostimulants for those trees,” said Ken Almstead, CEO of the Tri-state company. “The amount of information available on organic services is so much greater now that if we were to start today, we would probably implement all of the different components of our organic program in a much faster timeframe.”
Here are some tips for companies looking to add organic tree services.
Understand the science of soil biology. Sending samples for soil biology testing should be a regular part of your program. If you are brewing compost tea, use a microscope to check the populations of soil microorganisms in each brew to make sure what you’re producing will actually benefit the plant material you’re planning to treat. Not only will understanding the science ensure the integrity of your business, but it will also help you gain clients. The scientific reasons for using organic products, especially those that focus on improving soil conditions, are incredibly convincing—and the ability to explain soil biology to potential clients clearly is a valuable skill.
Come up with a comprehensive care plan for each tree. Organic plant health care isn’t a one-size-fits-all service. Think about the starting conditions of each tree and plan treatments from a long-term perspective.
Pay attention to cultural practices. Look at things like the irrigation system, how a tree is mulched, and how much traffic goes over its root system. Work with your clients, and their landscapers and other contractors (like landscape architects) when necessary to make appropriate changes.
Order specialized soil tests. Track the populations of soil microorganisms in the root zone of a tree you’re treating over time and make adjustments to your care program accordingly. In our region (the tri-state area), there are several programs that offer organic expert type certifications for individuals or businesses, but they are all opt-in. It’s still very worthwhile to go through some coursework, though, as it’s really essential to understanding how to offer organic services properly.