Ccrider2240,Texas: “How many of you guys run plant health care (PHC) in your business? What percentage of income does this attribute to your gross sales?”

BCWetCoast,Vancouver: “It can be an extremely profitable business line if you have it staffed right. A single spray tech can generate the same revenues as a two-man climbing crew with less overhead (i.e., less equipment required) and no damage risk. Also, PHC services are generally required yearly, so repeat sales are easier. As I said, though, it needs to be staffed correctly with someone who has the expertise for insect and disease diagnosis.”

Mckeetree,Texas: “A single spray tech can generate the same revenues as a three-man climbing crew. If we did not do PHC, this deal would not be worth it. It’s the only way a small company like us can make any real money in this business.”

Treeeman82,NewYork: “I’m trying to start the PHC end of my company. Got the sprayer last summer. I’ve been licensed for almost eight years now, but never had a desire to spray. Got the sprayer and started doing it, found I actually enjoy the work, not to mention the money. I mean really, how often can you take your saws out and bill $300-plus per hour for just one person with low risk and low costs?”

Canyonbc,California: “Wow! Didn’t know there was that much money in spraying—makes a lot of sense, a lot of study I would imagine behind it all: the licensing, and the initial equipment. Where do or did you guys acquire the information for PHC and to do spraying?”

BRCCArborist,Virginia: “Spraying is state to state. Not sure about California specifically, but here in Virginia, pesticide application licenses are granted by the state department of agriculture and consumer services, so I would check your state’s ag department first.

“Here in Virginia, if spraying commercially, you also have to own/work for a business with a pesticide business license. I’m sure it’s the same [in] most other states, too.”

ATH,Ohio: “Yeah, I have to pay for two licenses every year. One for myself and one business license. I have to show proof of insurance every year, and many insurance companies are not interested in covering you for pesticide use. I have not pushed applications too hard, and am sure I have lost money if I account directly for all of the expenses. On the other hand, I have kept some clients because I was able to offer treatment.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF MACKISSIC.

BCWetCoast,Vancouver: “You should determine what are the major insects and diseases that are treated in your area, what are the treatments and timing. There are many insects/diseases that you will be asked about that have no available treatment.

“Next, you need to determine what pesticides are available for use in your area. In our area, which covers 10 different municipalities, there are three that prohibit the use of certain chemical pesticides. So, you have to determine which treatments and products are allowed in what area.

“I would start the first year developing a customer base with a dormant oil spray and fertilization program. You can then build on this as your expertise and demand requires. But, as I said, you need someone who can spend the time getting up to speed to be able to do the diagnosis and prescribe treatments.”

ATH,Ohio: “I would also say that while the conversation here has led towards the regulated pesticides, it should be noted that true plant health care goes much, much further than this. Fertilization, soil care, mulching, watering and proper pruning are all part of caring for the health of a plant. Heck, even proper planting needs to be included. We can do a lot of PHC before we even start up the spray rig. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you could avoid a lot of spraying if everything else is done right. The other buzzword to go along with this is IPM (integrated pest management). The idea being if the plant is otherwise healthy, less chemical will be used to correct problems that could have been prevented.

“If you get into fertilization, find a good lab to do your soil tests. Especially since you say you are dealing with higher-end customers. Most folks will understand the need to pay a little more when you explain that you want to make sure you are putting the right fertilizer down rather than just using whatever you have in the tank that day.”

“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the forums at Arboristsite.com. Visit them, and join in the discussions!