Healthy Habits – A little prevention goes a long way for Cleary Bros.

Todd Kirchner is an arborist for Cleary Bros., a 220-employee California company with landscape maintenance, construction, and tree care divisions. He diagnoses disease and pest issues for the trees in his care and prescribes treatment. Sometimes he recommends a change in cultural practices, like watering, mulching or root protection. Sometimes he just recommends letting nature do its work. But sometimes a tree needs more help getting healthy.

pear-tree-fire-blight pear-tree-treated-results

Pear tree with a severe fire blight infection (photo taken June 2015). The tree was pruned summer of 2015.

The tree was then treated with Arbor-OTC early spring of 2016 with good results (photo taken April 2016).


In those cases, Kirchner has a suite of products ready to go. NutriRoot, Arbor-OTC, IMA-jet 10, PHOSPHO-jet are all trusted pieces of his toolkit.

Arbor-OTC is a micro-injectable systemic antibiotic for the treatment of bacterial infections of trees and palms. Kirchner uses it primarily for fireblight control in pear trees. He says it’s best used preventatively rather than therapeutically. He will treat trees in the springtime and prune whatever is already damaged in the summer to remove the damage.

Kirchner uses IMA-Jet 10 to control sucking insects. He prefers it because he’s seen no sign of breakthrough — when the product’s active ingredient begins to drop in effectiveness, leading to an insect resurgence. IMA-jet 10 stays at a consistent level throughout the entire growing season.

“It has very good staying power,” Kirchner says.

NutriRoot has been a key component of Kirchner’s summertime watering program. Drought-stressed trees receive supplemental water, and NutriRoot’s surfactant been particularly important to thirsty trees in less-than-ideal soil.

“In the bay area, you have high clay compacted soil — it’s like concrete,” Kirchner says. “Nothing is getting in. With the soil surfactant, it’s able to break into the soil, allow water to penetrate and hold in the soil for longer. We saw really good results with that last summer, conservatively we kept about 300 trees alive through last year using that product on all our projects.”

PHOSPHO-Jet is Kirchner’s preferred fungicide for leaf and twig and stem diseases like sycamore anthracnose or pear black leaf spot. Even with an effective product, it’s necessary to set up a protection plan.

“You have to have the end game in mind before the project even starts,” Kirchner says. “You have to know what you want to accomplish or what needs to happen before you even begin to write a proposal or specify a treatment program.”

For instance, preemptive PHOSPHO-Jet treatment for leaf spot in the fall can prevent a lot of remedial work in the spring. Kirchner is always looking ahead. If you know a certain time of year tends to have perfect weather conditions for a fungus to develop, don’t wait. Get those trees in that affected area protected ahead of time.

“If you can save yourself from having to be a firefighter, you can put out problems before they become problems and make the client happier,” Kirchner says. “You look better and the trees look better which adds value to the property.”

Over the years, Kirchner has developed solid relationships with the people at Arborjet. From sales managers to technical support staff to the CEO, he has been pleased with his experience.

If he’s stumped about a particular tree problem, he comes to them with questions. The Arborjet team has been a useful resource, Kirchner says, and he doesn’t mind leaning on them as such.

“They have really good quality products, and they’re always coming out with something new,” he says. “But you’re not just buying a product, you’re buying into a relationship as well, with someone who wants to help you do good in your business.”

Article posted in Nursery Management Magazine, Aug. 2016

Looking Ahead by Matt Berry, Tree Division Manager at Cleary Bros.

tree in hand

Fall and winter are rapidly approaching. So, it’s time to start thinking about how best to care for your communities trees so they remain a beautiful and valuable part of our landscapes. Where do we start? Tree trimming plans? Proactive disease and insect control plans? Tree fertilization? The answer is “all of the above”. Our certified arborists can assess the health of your community’s urban forest and present you with a comprehensive tree care plan. Our objective is to provide your communities with the most up to date information that will help you make informed decisions regarding the health of your trees. Give Cleary Bros. a call. We’re ready to be your tree care professionals.

Cleary Bros in the media again! Martin Cleary on irrigation

How Cleary Bros. Landscape helps clients save water and adapt to drought conditions.

Drought hit California hard in 2012 and continues to plague the state. While the worst of it seems to be over, Martin Cleary says it’s a time that most residents won’t soon forget.

“The drought persisted for five years, so it’s pretty much burned into everybody’s memory,” says the president of Cleary Bros. Landscape, in Danville, Calif., which has been serving the Bay Area since 1987. “Now when people think of their landscape, they think of water. They are synonymous, at least here in California.”

Fortunately, water management is something Cleary Bros. Landscape has been practicing and promoting for decades. So, the company was well prepared for the changes that needed to be made once water became such a limited resource. The $17.3-million (Actually, it’s $19.2m) company offers a menu of services that can reduce clients’ water usage by an average of 30 percent while maintaining attractive, healthy landscapes. The company serves a mostly commercial and municipal clientele, doing 47 percent mowing and maintenance, 13 percent irrigation, 13 percent tree care, 14 percent enhancements and 13 percent design/build services.

“All of our customers want to save water either because it’s the right thing to do, it’s financially what they have to do or they were mandated to by the water agencies,” says Cleary, who became a certified water auditor through the Irrigation Association in 1994. “It’s very politically incorrect right now to have a broad, deep-green lawn in California.”Turf conversions are a reality for Cleary Bros. Landscape’s clients.

Spreading the Word

While his clients wanted to save water, Cleary says most of them simply didn’t know where to start when the drought reached its peak, comparing them to “deer in headlights.” With three California Landscape Contractors Association-certified water managers and two certified water auditors on staff, the company began having conversations and educating clients about the different things they could do to reduce how much water it takes to have a healthy lawn and landscape. Cleary says they also utilized marketing materials and social media to help inform customers.

“A lot of customers, particularly the (homeowners associations), were not sure what to do, so there was a bit of a panic,” he says. “We started giving people information and having conversations with them to let them know what their options are to have healthy landscapes that are less thirsty.”

The company also stressed the importance of smart water management to its staff and crews. In 2012, it launched an internal marketing campaign to drive home the importance of being a water-conscious company. Employee newsletters always contain information about smart water use. Crew members are publicly praised for practicing smart water management. Each maintenance and irrigation truck is plastered with laminated sheets stressing the importance of saving water. Of the 21 points on the company’s quality assurance inspection performed after each maintenance job, at least five of them are water-related.

“We knew if we weren’t aggressive about it we were going to have problems,” Cleary says. “In maintenance, there is so much repetition that people would start doing things a certain way and it would be hard to change those habits.”

“We were trying to brainwash our guys into saving water,” he adds with a laugh. “And it’s worked.”

These efforts have paid off in more ways than one. The company’s proven track record of smart water use helped them secure new business, as customers looked for contractors who could not only save water but also save them money as the price of water increases.

“We saw a lot of maintenance contracts go out to bid around 2012 because of water concerns,” Cleary says. “We picked up about 30 accounts, most of which said saving water was one of their top-three drivers for choosing another contractor.”

Steps to Saving

When Cleary Bros. Landscape takes on a new account, an irrigation team is sent to assess the property. Within 90 days, the company presents the client an overview of the property, called a “takeover report,” which includes a list of ways the company can reduce the account’s water use. Cleary also provides the client a study that shows each option’s return on investment. From there, clients can choose what steps they’d like to take. The company also works with each client to create a multiyear plan to reduce water use in phases.

“Plans can be made for either irrigation upgrades, turf conversions, replacing older plants with drought-tolerant varieties, tree preservation or any combination of these,” Cleary says. “If there are budgetary constraints, we will focus on the things that have the most impact. But taking an integrated approach to everything tends to be the most effective.”

Cleary says reducing the amount of turf on a client’s property is the most effective way to cut back on water use.

“Lawns use the most water in your landscape,” Cleary says. “Converting turf areas to low-water-use areas has the biggest impact because turf is thirsty.”

Cleary says it’s equally important to evaluate the property’s current sprinkler system, making sure it runs as efficiently as possible and incorporating new technologies in controllers, sprinkler heads, nozzles and controllers wherever possible. Cleary Bros. Landscape checks its clients’ irrigation systems regularly at no charge and also monitors their water meters, making sure water—and money—is not being wasted.

The company pays close attention to the plants it incorporates into landscapes, plant placement and mulching. It also mitigates drought stress on trees by using growth regulators, which stimulate fine root hair growth for better water and nutrient uptake.

“Most of our upgrade and enhancement work is either entirely or partially aimed at reducing water,” Cleary says. “We’re not putting in lawns right now.”

As the state’s infrastructure continues to be stretched and water costs continue to rise, Cleary says smart water practices are here to stay.

“The rules of the game have changed,” Cleary says. “Water is a much bigger piece of it now, and it’s always going to be that way.”

Source: Adapting to drought conditions : Landscape Management

Featured Property: Heather Farms

Heather Farms

We are proud to name Heather Farms in Walnut Creek as our Featured Property of the month. Our outstanding, dedicated foreman and crew have achieved a beautiful environment. Heather Farms has long been a premiere Cleary Bros. property with many opportunities fulfilled from designing new planting and tree projects to keeping up with water conservation efforts by installing new irrigation spray heads and drip systems. Of course, it’s a team effort that also includes Cleary Bros. support staff working behind the scenes that keep us on track!  We have enjoyed our relationship with the board and landscape committee for over 17 years and want to thank them for allowing us the privilege in maintaining their property. We look forward to many more years of a beautiful relationship.