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'Ugly mix' discourages Xmas-tree rustlers

Christmas-tree sized evergreen protected by 'ugly mix'. As you prepare for the holidays, there is a grim reality to face: Others may covet your evergreens. Your spruces, firs and other species may be the target of Christmas-tree hunters looking for a late-night bargain.

If you've had problems with tree rustlers in the past - or you want to reduce worry - try painting your tempting trees with "Ugly Mix," a crime-busting solution developed by Gerardo Sciarra, a gardener at Cornell Plantations.

Ugly Mix is an easy and inexpensive way to temporarily render your tree unattractive during those vulnerable weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then within a few weeks after the holidays, the mix deteriorates and your trees return to their former glory.

First step is to whip up the mix. You can find ingredients at your local garden center and grocery store. In a large bucket, stir together:

15 oz. of hydrated lime
4 oz. of Wilt Pruf
2 oz of Red Food Coloring
1 gallon of water

This makes enough to treat about four 5- to 6-foot-tall trees.

Pick a day that is dry and above freezing to apply the Ugly Mix. (If the mix freezes before it dries, it won't stick to the tree.) Keep the mixture well stirred during application.

Use a broom or brush to apply to the trees. Be sloppy and random. Remember, the whole idea is to make the tree look as ugly as possible. The mix should dry in to 2 hours, depending on conditions.

Because the mix is water soluble, you may need to retreat trees if it's rainy. Unused mix can be stored for several weeks, but stir well before reusing.

Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.

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