Looking for opinions and experience with painting vs whitewashing the trunks of trees.
I am about to plant 11 acres of pecan trees. It is a significant investment and this is my first large scale planting. I have a grasshopper, rodent and deer problem, as well as the Texas sun. Which is better to protect the young bark of the trees until they get a bit older? I have whitewash recipes and can mix up dilute latex mixtures. (I plan to dissolve some rodent repellant for good measure.)
Whitewash is tried and true, but don't know what level of insect or rodent protection it affords. It has worked for years, but Latex wasn't available to Ol' Granddad. I think the latex would be a better deterrent, but don't know how well it will let the bark breathe.
Latex = rubber suit, does not let bark breathe at all and will create more problems than it will prevent, it also does not discourage rodents from chewing the bark.
Latex acts like a rubber band, if the tree tries to grow, the coating restricts the bark from swelling and you are in effect girdling the tree.
Latex will adsorb heat (even if it is pure white) and hold it on the tree trunk (think about how you would feel wearing a rubber coat standing in the sun all day long) not a good thing for the tree.
Whitewash is indeed the tried and true product for painting tree bark, it is a permeable membrane allowing respiration as well as growth without restriction.
When mixing whitewash you also have the option of adding cayenne pepper for a further deterrent, the pepper will heat them up nicely as well as adding an odor they can't stand.
it also works as sunburn protection for the bark at the same time. Second best are the plastic sleeves developed to protect small tree trunks from nibbling, you want the types that are spiral cut not the straight line cut ones.
You can also use 1/4 inch wire mesh (hardware cloth) by creating a ring at least 6 inches in diameter larger than the tree root ball and bury it 1 foot into the soil, be sure you use 3 foot wide hardware cloth so enough is above ground to discourage climbing by the rodents.
(this is my preferred method)
Another consideration: I recently heard a podcast (sorry I cannot remember which one) in which a tree expert explained that tree trunk painting with whitewash was a method of feeding a tree, like foliar feeding with leave sprays. In particular he believed that mineral supplementation was possible/practical/desirable via such a method. It sounds a bit implausible to me but I'm mentioning it for whatever it may be worth.
I have come across recipes for whitewash that calls for a large amount of salt. I am wondering what purpose in the mixture it serves, and also if it will actually act as an attractant. By including it am I basically providing salt licks for every critter in the county to come harass my trees? I had not heard or considered cayenne pepper as a deterrent. I like that idea.
Anybody care to share recipes or formulas for a proven whitewash that will deter animals chewing? So far the most consistent mix consists of 3 cups hydrated lyme. 1 cup table salt. 3 gallons of water mixed in a 5 gallon bucket. Add powered deterrent and mix til dissolved. Most natural deterrents are centered around bloodmeal. If there is better formula that is proven to you, I am interested in the input.
"To do good, you actually have to do something." -- Yvon Chouinard