Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Proactive Protection from Southwest Injury

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