Painting trunks for sunburn and rodents

It’s that time of the year again that I paint over trunks and prune off the extra trunk growth. The wind has been blowing good lately so I’m not sure if I painted me or the tree more but it’s a job best not to put off. I picked up some indoor house paint for $11 for flat white. Additionally by painting the trunks I’m color coding in this case my ungrafted trees. Next I will buy some mismatch indoor paint and paint the trunks of the grafted. You can paint a variety a color to like a dot of red is Douglas or green is Clara frijs so on and so forth. It’s good to know what you have and hard to tell sometimes after leaf drop. The paint will keep the trees from getting sun burn and the rodents usually don’t strip the bark that’s been painted. If anything bores into the trunk you could spot it easier also. Indoor paint only is safe for trees.


I have been spending a bunch if time painting trees in the nursery. What a PIA. In the orchards I set out tree guards. Last year the critters were so bad in the nursery the paint was not not doing much, so I resorted to wraping trees in foil. That worked great but was a PIA and it had to be removed early spring.


I rubbed some trunks with toilet sealer wax and I use pruning seal on other trunks of their favorite trees. The cottontail numbers are way up this year. Paint will do for most rootstock pears because they don’t care for the flavor anyway. Red delicious a cottontail finds irresistible for some reason.

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Clark, did you experiment any with the Fedco / John Bunker recipe including the drywall joint compound? I haven’t yet, but I can certainly see where it might hold promise. Before I ever learned of Bunker’s suggestion, I actually considered mixing in some fine sand to the paint to make chewing more unpleasant. I’ve said many times how much I agree with trunk painting, but I probably like the slit drain pipe better for rodent protection.
I just really dislike that you cannot see what is going on under that pipe sleeve. It’s kinda tough to remove (especially when it’s cold) without tearing the hell out of the bark.
I do both, but am going to paint just every other year. With smaller growing trees though I’m thinking every other year is probably pretty inadequate in the second season.

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I agree with you completely. Joint compound mixed with paint is not something I do but I’m sure it’s very effective. I have used drain pipe but felt I was creating a tempting situation for wood ants. The added moisture build up from condensation or dew is something they need. I saw wood roaches hiding in one, spider webs etc.If I paint the trunks the bark of the trunk hardens much faster and within 5 years is something the rabbits cannot naw. All that said the pruning seal or toilet wax ring melt off in hot weather and are no more dangerous than what we use to graft anyway. I also feel the drain pipes though effective can be lifted by a cottontail unless a sharpy shovel is used to dig around the bottom. With you using both methods I can see how effective that would be.

I use joint compound and interior paint. Although i live in the suburbs, no voles around here. Rabbits yes, but with the yard filled with dog urine they rarely if ever enter the yard. Plus the milorganite on the grass which I have heard deer hate, so I suspect keeps other pests away too.

This is what they look like when I get done with them


Drywall compound makes it more brittle. It will crack and pop off in patches by spring. I’m not sure if it is from tree activity or thermal expansion/contraction. I had to rub the trunk to get all the loose stuff off before I could repaint. Only half of the old coat came off, which made me a little worried about the integrity of the next coat. It seems to have stayed on through the summer. I’m mostly worried about borers at my location. I try to put a coat on just before I expect them.

Do you mix you paint with water? If so, what is tne ratio?

You’re putting too much in the paint.

I tried to approximate the 1:1:1 ratio. Since I was using premixed drywall compound I put a little less water in. The water estimate was the sketchiest. I put less water and drywall compound in this year. I won’t know the result until next spring. If I still have the same problem I will go probably go to 1:1 water and paint.

Many say mix the paint 50:50 with water but Alan posted a Cornell study on GW in 2012 that I base my treatments off of\/grantspgm/projects/proj06/fruit/kain.pdf. I always use interior undiluted white latex paint though exterior is fine to as long as it’s water based and plain paint. Here is another North Carolina State University expert confirming this method

I have read all these articles since GW. This was my first time painting trees so I took a middle of road approach.

My paint was old, about 8 years old. It was interior latex paint. I mixed it 40/60 water/paint. I love to hear from others’s reports on their experiments next year.

If nothing, my trees look good (to me) in satin, off white color :slight_smile:


I wonder what would happen if you bought a bunch of habañeros, put them in a blender with some water, blend them smooth, then mix that with the paint. Would the rabbits not like them, or would they develop a taste for spicy food. I keep thinking about doing that, then forget when I’m in the produce section of the store. There is also a bitter spray to keep dogs from chewing stuff. Maybe spray the trunk before painting it.

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I read an article About rabbits’s taste. They have extra taste buds. The author theorized that rabbits may be able to differentiate non poisonsous from poisonous vegetation. Most poisonous vegetation tastes bitter.

I do not know rabbits can taste spiciness. I figure instead of spiciness, I would love to try painting tree trunks with something very bitter.

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Maybe use horseradish and rosemary… or aspirin… I dont know. I have both growing in my yard.

Rabbits can taste capsicum as most mammals can. I powder peppers and use it to keep the squirrels away. Plus I use super hots, for example jalapenos have between 1 thousands and 20 thousand scoville units of heat. What I use has 1 million scoville units. So imagine the hottest jalapeno you ever had, this stuff is over 50 times hotter. I use mask and gloves when handling. I grow them myself. Carolina Reaper can be as high as 1.5 million scoville units. It holds the world record for hottest pepper. For consumption I grow Scotch Bonnet peppers from Jamaica about 100-350 thousand scoville units.I use them for jerk sauce and as one would use cayenne pepper, which is rated at 30-50 thousand scoville units. The reaper might even kill the rabbit if he dared to eat anything with my spray on it. Not from the heat but the severe gas it can cause.
I grow other super hots for fun, they are prolific plants and fun to grow. Interesting looking peppers too!
Currently i have seeds for
Bhut Jokia (Ghost pepper)
Bhut Orange Copenhagen
Carolina Reaper
Fatalii Gourmet Jigsaw
Trinidad Scorpion yellow
and a few others.


Deer B Gone is said to be so bitter (many times that of quinine) that it discourages rabbits and deer. Haven’t tried it, but know people who have and swear by it. Recommended by Montana State University agronomists.

I listen to a lot of garden shows podcasts, and the most suggested repellent by far is Plantskydd.

I recall reading a study on deer repellents, and Plantskydd was indeed the most effective deer repellent. Kinda pricey, and I hear it’s a bear to apply. I use the #2 choice - putrefied eggs. It works like a treat, and leaves a white coating that is fairly rain-proof. Might even help with preventing sunburn on trunks.

How to make putrefied eggs

  1. Get one to two dozen eggs. And a sturdy one gallon jug. I like windshield washer fluid jugs.
  2. Crack the eggs, whip them up, and pour them into the jug.
  3. Add water to the jug - dilute the eggs by 1/2.
  4. Set the jug somewhere warm. First batch can take a while.
  5. Pour it in your sprayer and apply!

Don’t ever clean out the jug, just keep on adding more eggs. I find it rots quicker/better if you add a little micronized blood meal to the jug. Sieve the blood meal - if you add pieces larger than dust they can clog up your sprayer. And un-clogging a sprayer filled with rotten eggs is an experience you don’t want to repeat.