While we northern fruit gardeners enjoy these beautiful Indian Summer days, we hate to think of the impending winter. Yet this is the perfect time to take a proactive approach to protecting our fruit trees from winter damage. Now, while the weather is still warm is the ideal time to paint the trunks of young trees in order to protect them from what is commonly called sun scald or Southwest injury.
Sun scald is caused by bright sun reflecting off the snow cover onto the trunk and lower branches. The reflected heat causes uneven expansion and contraction of the bark on the southwest side of the tree. Bark splitting often results. White paint will reflect many of the sun’s rays and keep the trunk a more uniform temperature, thus avoiding injury.
To protect your fruit trees, use a brush or car wash mitt to apply white latex paint up to the first scaffolds. On open center trees, paint the scaffolds out from the trunk nine inches or so too. Repaint the trunks every few years as they grow in diameter and the paint flakes off. Young stone fruit trees seem particularly prone to injury, while older, larger diameter trees with tougher bark generally overwinter well.
©2013. Adapted from the Backyard Orchardist: A complete guide to growing fruit trees in the home garden by Stella Otto. Available at www.stellaotto.com.