In spite of arguing about whitewashing trees and bushes we think, that this procedure is very useful for plants health. It protects from pests, bad climatic conditions and even from some animals! Our observations show that in Russia and any countries with similar climatic conditions whitewashed trees more strong, better tolerate to winter freeze and spring frosts.

At first glance whitewashing is difficult procedure because we should take into account time, preparation of composition, tools and so on… But in practice everything is really easy. In this article we quickly and easily describe all the process of whitewashing of trees and bushes for better plants health and bigger crop.

Benefits of whitewashing for garden plants
The best time for whitewashing
Preparation and description of whitewash components
 Most common and simple recipes of whitewash and how to DIY
The height of the whitewashing plants
Preparation of trees before whitewashing
Tools for whitewashing of trees and bushes
Some more useful tips for whitewashing trees and bushes


Benefits of whitewashing for garden plants

Whitewashing is the process when we paint the lower part of the trunk and even some low branches. The most useful protection for this honeysuckle, rowan, cherry, shadberry and apple trees…

1. In winter and early spring these plants can be hurt by the sun, because they don’t protected by leafs.
2. In winter trunks with dark color on the sun warmed very quickly! As a result tree could wake up earlier. Juice in the daytime begins to move along the trunk and freezes at night, so that could hurt tree’s bark.
3. In cold time plants are often damaged by quick temperature changes as a result — frostbites (cracked bark).
4. Another reason to protect trees with whitewash are pests, they often hide in tree’s bark for winter. Some climb up by trunk in spring.
5. In Russia there is a risk that in winter the bark will be damaged by hungry hares or mice, of course this will not happen with whitewashing trees.

This procedure is useful for plants of any age. For young plants of lime concentration must be not more than one half.

Some gardeners thought, that whitewashing is useful only for plants with strong and old bark, but our observations proved, the whitewashing is very useful for plants of all age (depends on concentration of course).


The best time for whitewashing

Whitewashing is doing 1 to 3 times per year. The most important in autumn, sometimes in spring and rarely in summer.

Autumn whitewashing

The most important and most efficient is autumn whitewashing! It protects trees as from climate and from pests and from animals (solves all 5 problems). It provides before winter freeze (when stable temperature not lower than +3 +4 оC). In european part of Russia, the best time for this is October-November.

Today we could by special paints, which could be used even when temperature below zero, but it is more expensive, than ordinary lime.

Spring and summer whitewashing

If autumn whitewashing was missed it could be done in spring but effectiveness from this is much lower! And of course, very important to remember about temperature when whitewashing.
The best of all is only to renovate whitewashing in spring and in summer, if it was washed out by rains…


Preparation and description of whitewash components

Ready-made solutions for whitewashing that you can buy garden stores are not described in this article — they are more expensive and they have instructions for use.

We will give you 5 recipes for the best whitewash solution and a list all ingredients for homemade mixture.

Most common recipes of whitewash

There is no strict recipe, the main thing is not to overdo it with fungicides and carbolic acid. For young plants, concentration of lime is reducing while increasing a fixing component.

Whitewash = base + fungicide + fixing component + anti-animal component

Whitewash should not flow down to the ground, it should be similar to the consistency of sour cream!

1. Water -10 liters, Lime — 2 kg, fungicide — 0.3 kg, carbolic acid — 1 tablespoon, natural soap — 100 gr, (or plants soap – 100 ml).
2. Water -10 liters, lime — 2 kg, fungicide — 0.3 kg and 1 — 2 shovels of Cow dung.
3. Water — 8 liters, lime — 2 kg, Cow dung – 1kg, fungicide — 0.3 kg.
4. Water -10 liters, lime — 2 kg, fungicide — 0.3 kg, 1 — 2 shovels of Cow dung, Carbolic acid — 1 tablespoon, natural soap — 100 gr, (or plants soap – 100 ml).
5. Best for yang plants: water -9 liters, milk or whey – 1 liter, Chalk 2-2,5 kg, natural clay — 0.3 kg and natural soap — 100 gr, (or plants soap – 100 ml).

1. Base for whitewash

Slaked lime (traditional name of Calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2) — the most common and key element of whitewash. This component is made mixture white – which is the most important feature of whitewash. As we already know that white trunk will reflect the sun’s rays which protect it from warming in winter.

Chalk (calcium carbonate or CaCO3) – could be used as alternative to lime. Calk made mixture white as lime, it has softer characteristic and perfectly fit for yang plants. But whitewash on the chalk base faster washed away by rain, so the chalk is less reliable assistant.

2. Fungicide

Fungicide, acts as a preventive agent against fungal (and not only!) diseases of trees, especially if garden in the past season were affected by any disease or pests.

Copper sulphate – the cheapest solution and, most important, that it has a wide range of effects! Copper sulphate is effective against bacteria, pests, mold and especially fungus.

Precautionary measures. Copper sulfate is not dusty and not volatile, so you can dissolve it in water without special precautions — it will be enough disposable plastic gloves.

In alternative you could use bordeaux mixture, iron sulphate and almost any preparations based on copper.

Very important to dissolve it in water BEFORE adding to the whitewash mixture, because undissolved pieces can hurt the tree’s bark!

3. Fixing component

It is important to remember, that whitewashing is not painting, you can’t paint your trees forever, because it is alive and needs in air! So we use fixing component, which could fix your whitewash mixture for 4 – 6 months, than it should be renovated! So it is necessary to give preference to natural fixators and not to overdo it with various glues…

Natural clay – natural component, which gives viscosity and fixes whitewash on the trunk. In addition, the clay closes the small cracks in the bark, which prevents them from getting pests and infections and at the same time perfectly breathable!

For whitewashing most useful white or yellow clay, but you could use any you have.

Natural soap – in Russia we have natural and cheapest soap laundry bars, find analog in your country.

Plants soap (green soap) – is a good way too, it is more expensive, but more easy to use (according to instructions). It made of animal fat, vegetable oil, potassium salts of fatty acids, water.

Glues – some gardeners use different types of glue, but it’s risky, because it’s difficult to find natural one and you risk that your whitewashing mixture will not be breathable. If somebody want to now (or already know and could tell) which Glue could be useful, please, write in commentary.

Cow dung (cow pats, cow pies or cow manure) – this well-known soil is very useful for whitewashing mixture but it must be fresh (not rotted). This component at first of make mixture more viscous and sticky, secondly has antiseptic properties and thirdly slightly feeds the tree through the bark.

Milk and whey — increase the adhesion of the solution and extend the life of whitewash. In addition, milk and whey suppress pathogenic microflora present in the tissues of trees, protect plants from fungal diseases and at the same time slightly feeds the tree through the bark.

4. Anti-animal component

Carbolic acid (Phenol, phenolic acid) – rodents and hares hate the smell of carbolic acid and won’t touch the trees. But if you have pets, who like to walk in the garden, use ½ of recommended concentration.
Phenol is a toxic substance, so it is important to observe the correct concentration and use protective equipment!


The height of the whitewashing plants

Ideally, when almost all tree is covered (except the top and thin branches), but in practice it is difficult to carry out it most often completely whiten a trunk sometimes skeletal branches 1/2 or 1/3 part of their length.


Preparation of trees before whitewashing

It is very important to properly prepare the trees for whitewashing. It needs to do 3 consecutive steps: cleaning, disinfection and covering trunk wounds.

cleaning → disinfection → covering trunk wounds → whitewashing

Cleaning the trunk. Very often, especially on old trees, appeared lichen or moss. All of these must be remote by a stiff brush or scraper. Damaged and rotten bark and wood must be cut out to healthy tissue with a knife.

Disinfection. The cleaned surface must be disinfected. This is especially important for old trees, because when cleaning and removing diseased tissue, the trunk is injured.

Could be used: copper sulfate (0.4 kg + 10 liters water), potassium permanganate (1 gr + 1 liter water), diluted ash and even soap solution…

Covering trunk wounds. After the disinfection, all deep wounds should be sealed by tree-pruning paste. There are many receipts of DIY tree-pruning pastes (I will write about them). But now I advise to use high quality paste from garden shop because wrong paste could melt in the sun or freeze in the cold and not only damage the wound, but also spoil the trunk and whitewash…

Tools for whitewashing of trees and bushes

Very important to start whitewashing immediately after the preparation of trees. The most convenient tools for this depend on the age of the tree. But there’re no strong rules, you can use any brush you have now or you think more comfortable! Just some advice:

For old trees with a wide trunk and rough bark (especially with cracks and wounds) the most convenient will be paste paint brush. This type is the best because of soft and long hair so it can put more mixture into all cracks and wounds.

Young trees are convenient to whitewash with a sponge, especially if the concentration of the mixture is low and the mixture is more liquid

For bushes more convenient to use brushes with long handle.

Some gardeners, especially with big garden and a lot of trees use a spray gun. This is a controversial decision:

  • It is necessary to ensure the most homogeneous mixture, which is not always possible
  • Part of the composition will be wasted
  • It is difficult to fill with a mixture of cracks and damages in the bark.

Some more useful tips for whitewashing trees and bushes

1. The thickness of the layer of whitewash on the tree must be not more than 3 mm. This is in theory, in practice, just try not to overdo it.
2. Try to make the mixture more homogeneous, preferably without lumps. The consistency should be equivalent to sour cream of average density.
3. Whitewash your trees in warm and dry weather.
4. Very important to paint your tree from top to bottom, to spread flowing down mixture more evenly.
5. Whitewashing shrubs begin with internal branches so as not to get dirty.

Many-year practice of whitewashing has shown that this procedure:

  • protects from climatic factors
  • improves health
  • protects against insects and rodents
  • reduce costs and usage of chemicals.

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