Whitewash for Tree Trunks

Q: Call me crazy, but I want to paint the trunks of some trees white for an upcoming party. I have seen trees out in the country that farmers painted white with whitewash. Where can I get whitewash or can I use something else?

A: Although whitewash was used for centuries to paint walls, fences and stonework, there are reasons it has fallen out of favor. To summarize in three words: It’s a mess!

One old recipe calls for mixing a half-barrel of quicklime with water, twenty pounds of sugar and three pounds of zinc sulphate. Because quicklime is so caustic, the process is not for the faint-of-heart.

Dr. Tom Crocker, Extension pecan specialist, says farmers now use plain old white latex paint to cover the lower part of their tree trunks. When the trees are young, the southwest side of the trunk becomes hot on sunny January days. When temperatures drop at night, unprotected bark will sometimes crack. The white paint prevents heat build-up and averts tree damage.

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