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Monday, March 28, 2016

Whitewash Not Meant for Stopping Rabbits

Q. I planted a couple of fruit trees and a visitor started chewing on it a bit, possibly a baby rabbit.  What should I treat it with or should I just paint it now with whitewash such as a 50/50 mixture of latex paint and water? I read this mixture stops rabbits from chewing on them.

A. I would strongly suggest you protect these trees from rabbits by putting a 2 foot tall cylinder of 1 inch hexagonal chicken wire around the outside of the tree. This excludes rabbits from chewing on the trunks.
A cylinder of 1 inch hexagon all chicken wire surrounding a new fruit tree to protect it from rabbit damage

Once the trunks get about 3 inches in diameter rabbits will no longer bother them and it can be removed. Be sure to bury the bottom edge of this cylinder one or 2 inches into the soil.
I don’t know if whitewash will prevent rabbit damage. The major reason for applying whitewash is to help prevent sunburn to the trunk and limbs of young, and even older fruit trees susceptible to sunburn. Fruit trees particularly susceptible are peach and nectarine.
Whitewashing the trunk and large limbs of an older fruit tree

 Whitewash years ago was made from a mixture of lime and water. Now most commercial whitewash is made from diluted white latex paint. I recently purchased some commercial, ready to use whitewash and I still found it needed more diluting with water.
You want a mixture of water and latex paint that changes the color of the bark from brown to a very light color. This better reflects sunlight and reduces damage from sunburn.

I have never heard of it used to deter rabbits so in my opinion it is strictly folklore unless it can be validated by others. There is a lot of anecdotal information floating around out there that is not very accurate but simply passed on without any proof.

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