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Vegetable Gardening With The Seasons

Want to grow vegetables in every season? Generally, vegetables can be divided into cool-season, warm-season and hot-season crops. The key to extending your gardening season to the limits is successive garden planting and planning. Planting cool-season crops in early spring, followed by warm-season plants, then ending in the fall with cool-season crops again will help you make the most of your growing season. At the same time, your planting should include staggering plantings every two weeks along with selecting early, mid-season and late varieties so the harvest is equally distributed.

Cool-Season Crops

To begin, you will want to plant your cool-season crops: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (early and late varieties), Brussels sprouts, and others (see list below). Many of these crops can be started indoors, then transplanted out to the garden when the conditions are best. To extend the season even more or to get an early start, you can try some season-stretching devices that protect plants until the weather warms up, such as Wall-O-Water, cold frames and row covers.

  • Wall-O-Water is an innovated, insulated frame fits over top of the plants to form mini-greenhouses.
  • Cold frames are boxes with translucent tops that allow sunlight in, but keep the cold winds out.
  • Row covers, like remay fabric, are put over top of the plants to keep them protected.

Warm-Season Crops

After getting your cool-season crops planted and transplanted into the garden, you may want to start seeds indoors for your warm-season crops such as cantaloupes, squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and pumpkins. Starting the seeds indoors will extend the growing season, letting you enjoy these crops even if the “warm” part of your season may not be long enough for them to fully  mature. Set out warm-season crops just after the last spring frost. These types of starter plants will also be available in late April and May.

Hot-Season Crops

Hot-season plants like lima beans, okra, snap beans, sweet potatoes, watermelon, corn and eggplant cannot tolerate frost or cold soil. These crops should not be planted until three weeks after the warm-season plants. Season extenders can make conditions more favorable to plant these crops slightly earlier, but they can be more delicate if planted too early. Like warm-season crops, however, it is possible to start these seeds indoors so the plants are more mature and more resilient to be planted outdoors as soon as possible.

Back to Cool-Season Crops

In early fall, cool-season crops can be planted again so they grow into fall and winter. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, some varieties of lettuce, parsley and spinach tend to be the most cold-hardy vegetables and can even recover from a hard frost late in the season.

With care and planning, it is possible to enjoy your growing season for far longer than the weather may dictate, and you’ll have a much more bountiful, varied harvest to show for it!

Sow & Grow In Cool Spring and Fall Soil:

  • Artichoke
  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (early & late varieties)
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce (head and leaf varieties)
  • Mesclun
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Peas
  • Potato
  • Radicchio
  • Radish
  • Spinach

Start Indoors & Transplant or Sow Seeds In Late Spring:

  • Beans
  • Cantelope
  • Corn
  • Celery
  • Chinese Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

Tooling Around in the Garden: Selecting and Caring for Garden Tools

Let’s face it – purchasing a new garden tool is usually not the first thing on your mind when you visit your friendly neighborhood garden center. Most of us tend to gravitate toward the latest and greatest herbaceous eye-candy without considering whether we have all the equipment necessary to prepare and care for it. The right tools, however, are critical to keep all your plants in top condition, and selecting quality garden tools is no simple matter. You want one that meets your needs, is available when needed, is easy on you, is long lasting and is not too expensive or too hard to maintain.

Choosing a New Tool

With so many tools on the market, choosing one that meets your needs can be a daunting task. First consider what type of work you will be doing, and what tools are required to accomplish your goal. Choosing the right tool for the job will make the work easier and more efficient. If you’re not sure, ask – our employees will be happy to assist your selection.

When you find a tool you are interested in, before you buy it, try it! Basic tools in new designs are available to the consumer every year. Those that are ergonomically designed, to align with the natural mechanics of our bodies, are meant to lessen the stress on muscles and joints as we garden. So pick up the tool and see how it feels in your hands. Make sure the weight and size are well suited to your strength and frame. Does it feel comfortable as you simulate the way it will be used? If it feels awkward, you will not be able to use it properly and may be tempted to neglect your garden chores instead.

Caring for New Tools

When you find a tool that meets your needs and is comfortable, you will want to have it around for a long time. Plan to purchase the highest quality tools that your budget will allow. If you purchase tools simply because they are the least expensive, chances are they will not last, and you will eventually spend more money to replace them.

Proper care and storage will add to the longevity of your garden tools. Hose off tools to remove soil and chemicals after every use. Allow tools to dry thoroughly before storing. For hardened soil, use a wire brush. Occasionally cleaning metal surfaces with oil will help to keep tools lubricated and prevent rust. Keep all moving parts oiled as well to enhance performance. Oil wooden handles at least twice a year with linseed oil to help prevent drying and splintering. For ease of use, keep tools with cutting surfaces sharp by filing them as often as needed. Check frequently and tighten any loose screws and bolts. Store all garden tools in a dry place with tool surfaces off the ground.

Every garden tool you own is important to the health, beauty and productivity of your garden and landscape. Be sure you choose the best tools and maintain them well to make the most of all your gardening.

Tomato plant and garden tools

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Attracting Birds to Your Garden

One of the benefits of a garden is the wildlife it attracts, and birds are some of the most popular garden wildlife. Most birds are voracious eaters that are glad to keep the insect population down, and may eat 500-1,000 insects in one afternoon. This makes them ideal for natural (and free!) pest control. Anything you can do to attract birds will make your garden healthier and you’ll be entertained by their feeding antics along the way.

Fortunately, it is easy to attract birds to your garden if you meet their needs for food, shelter, water and overall habitat variety.

Food

While birds will certainly eat insects and may munch on seeds, berries and fruits in the garden, consider placing a variety of bird feeders in your garden to entice even more birds to visit. Platform feeders attract ground birds, hanging feeders are for perching birds and suet holders attract insect-eating birds. Suet is especially important during the winter as this helps birds maintain their body temperature by adding fat to their diet. Hang plastic mesh bags of suet or pinecones dipped in suet (or peanut butter) from the limbs of trees.

For your other feathered guests, white millet and black oil sunflower seeds will attract the most common seed-eating birds and can be sprinkled directly on the ground or added to feeders. Add other species-specific seed like Nyjer (thistle) seed (to attract goldfinches, pine siskins and purple finches) or peanuts (to attract chickadees, jays and tufted titmice) to your buffet. Various gourmet seed mixes are also available like Lyric Supreme, Delight, Chickadee, Woodpecker and Finch Mixes, each of which is blended with specific birds in mind and includes the foods those birds like best.

Shelter and Nesting Sites

Birds feel more secure if they have shelter to protect themselves from the weather and other predators. Plant native trees and shrubs birds will easily recognize as suitable shelter. If your landscape is young and doesn’t include much shelter for birds, don’t worry. Consider building a brush pile or adding a loose woodpile to the yard and birds will happily take advantage of it.

You may also want to add nesting boxes or bird houses and other materials for birds to raise their young. This should be done in late winter or early spring just as birds are beginning to look for nesting sites. Clean houses or boxes after each nesting season.

Water

One of the most important things to include in your bird-friendly garden is water. This is especially true during the winter months. Use a bird bath heater to keep water from freezing. Ideal water sources are 2-3 inches deep and 3 feet off the ground to keep visiting birds safer from prowling predators. Moving water is a magnet for most birds and will attract them from great distances for a drink or bath. A mister, dripper or circulating pump can be added to a bird bath or other water feature during most of the year, but take care to winterize the equipment properly so it does not freeze and break during the coldest months.

Habitat Variety

Because birds live in many different habitats, the variety of plant material you can offer in your backyard will determine how many birds are attracted to your garden. Consider native plants, plants with berries, fruits, sap and nectar for year-round food sources as well as nesting materials. Plan your landscape in tiers and flowing, connected beds so birds can move around easily, and include a variety of both deciduous and evergreen plantings so birds can find the habitat useful year-round.

We carry a complete line of bird feeders, houses, seed mixes and suets as well as garden accents; all the accessories and plants you will need to start attracting birds to your backyard. Stop by today!

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Insect Control Begins Now

It’s hard to think of insects in winter, but don’t forget the havoc these tiny creatures can bring to your garden – defoliating leaves, contaminating produce, even destroying complete plants. Before these pests begin to be a problem is the perfect time to take steps to control them.

Why Winter Control?

Late winter is the right time to control insects for two reasons. First, the insects and their eggs are just coming out of dormancy. The shells and protective coverings are softer and more porous in late winter, and so are more vulnerable to the effects of oils and sprays. Second, the oil-water mixture should not freeze on the tree or plants, which could damage the plant and make the spray far less effective. When you spray, the temperature should be above 40 degrees. Delay spraying if freezing night temperatures are predicted. Choose a calm day for spraying to be sure stray breezes and cross winds do not spread the spray to plants you don’t want covered.

Insects to Control

In late winter, before any leaf buds begin to open, spray Bonide All-Season Oil or Dormant Oil Spray on fruit trees or other ornamental trees or shrubs to suffocate over-wintering aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whitefly, pear psylla, scale and spider mites that cling to the bark. The treatment will also destroy the eggs of codling moths, Oriental fruit moths and assorted leaf rollers and cankerworms. Don’t wait until the buds have burst in early spring, as the coating of oil will also smother the emerging plant tissue.

Tree Spraying Tips

While small shrubs can be easy to treat, larger trees are more challenging to be sure you don’t leave any area untreated where insects can thrive. Spray the whole tree at one time, concentrating on the trunk, large branches and crotches, rather than spraying down a whole row of trees at one pass. If you’ve experienced extremely bad infestations of insects, you might treat your trees a second time. But be sure to spray before the buds are near the bursting point. Dormant oil can also be used after the leaves have dropped in the fall. Never spray when any foliage or fruit is on the trees or you risk unwanted pesticide contamination.

After you spray, be sure to store any remaining oil properly and out of reach of children and pets. Containers should be labeled clearly and kept in cool, dark spaces to preserve their usefulness. Avoid reusing any sprayers to minimize the risk of cross contamination or inadvertent use.

Spraying for insects in winter may not be the most glamorous job, but you’ll appreciate the improvement in your trees through the spring and summer when you’ve nipped your insect problems in the bud.

 

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Early Spring-Blooming Perennials

When winter is long and dreary, it can seem like your precious flowerbeds will never burst into life again. Early spring flowers, however, are precious proof that winter is on its way out, and some can even bloom in bright, cheerful colors right through lingering snow. Yet we often forget these beauties, overcome with the bold, familiar bulb displays of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and more. This is unfortunate, because many of these perennials have a subtle charm that complements bulbs and shrubs which bloom in early spring, and they add even more variety, texture and color to your landscape.

Perennials for Early Spring Blooms

When choosing the best plants to be a stunning early spring display, the amount of sun or shade the location receives is the most critical factor for the plants’ success and the gorgeousness of their growth.

For a sunny location, opt for…

  • Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
  • English Daisy (Bellis perennis)
  • Mountain Pinks (Phlox subulata)
  • Rockcress (Aubrieta)
  • Candytuft (Iberis)
  • Wall Cress (Arabis)

For part to full summer shade locations…

  • Pasqueflower (Anemone pulsatilla)
  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
  • Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia)
  • Dead Nettle (Lamium)
  • Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis)
  • Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)

Planting Perennials for Early Spring Blooms

When you choose which early spring bloomers to add to your landscape, consider the plants’ overall mature size, soil requirements and both watering and fertilizing needs to be sure they can reach their full potential. If you choose to plant them in fall, take extra care to protect tender roots and give the plants time to thoroughly establish themselves before the first hard freeze. Good compost and mulching around the new plants can help protect and nourish them through the first winter, and they’ll be ready to burst into colorful bloom in just a few months.

Many of these plants are good mid-level bloomers ideal for flowerbeds. They can fill in around other small accent trees and shrubs and provide a lush background for other blooms or mounding plants in front of the bed. They can fill in around trees for a more naturalized look, and can be great in borders. Just be sure to plant at least a few where you’ll have a good view of their beauty from indoors and you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of their early blooms even if it’s a bit too cold to be outdoors in your garden!

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Keeping a Garden Journal

Do you remember exactly when you planted your seedlings last year? What was the date of the first frost? Did you see a unique cultivar at the nursery and wanted to give it a try? How well did that new pest-control technique work on your prize flowerbed? Whether you are recording your landscape, a vegetable garden or both, the details make the difference, and a garden journal can help you keep track of those details to build on your own gardening expertise.

What to Record

A garden journal does not have to be intimidating, and you do not have to be either an expert writer or an expert gardener to keep one. You are simply keeping record of your garden and notes on what worked, what didn’t, want you wanted to try, what you wanted to change and more. You might keep one journal just for your landscape, another for your vegetable garden, even one for an indoor herb garden. Depending on the journal type, you may record different things in different ways, but don’t worry – it’s your journal and you can keep it however you want.

  • Your Landscaping Garden Journal
    Use a journal to record your landscaping activities. A simple sketch of your landscape provides a basic plan. Track the dates of planting and blooming, fertilizer applications, pruning and other maintenance duties to determine if the activities are worthwhile and effective. Map the placement of bulbs and perennials so you don’t have to remember over the long season when they disappear. Note your color combinations. Did they look good or was something missing? Maybe you saw an article with some ideas to try, so tuck it in and remember try it.
  • Your Vegetable Garden Journal
    A journal can help you keep notes about your vegetable garden. Use graph paper to design your plantings. Next year you can use this sketch to plan your veggie rotation to keep your soil rich and your harvest productive. Note the dates of pest treatments, fertilization, thinning and other activities. By recording the details in a garden journal, it serves as your memory, reminding you what you planted, how it did and what you could do better and easier. Wouldn’t it be nice, at the end of the season, to see how much money you saved by growing your own produce? Keeping track of expenses and harvest quality will do it.
  • Your Indoor Garden Journal
    Whether you just have a few houseplants, a simple windowsill herb garden or an elaborate setup for starting seedlings, you can use a journal to keep track of all your plants. Note when you add new plants to your displays, the frequency of watering, foliage changes, bloom cycles and herb harvesting. Note seasonal changes in your plants, and when it is necessary to repot.

A garden journal provides a great place to save sketches, lists and photos. Depending upon your personal use, they can store excess seeds and plant tags, bed rotation and fertilizing schedules, even gardening brochures.

Now is a perfect time to start a garden journal. You’ve been cooped up in the house during the long winter and probably have lots of ideas about the upcoming garden. Beginning a garden journal now ignites your creativity, sets your goals for the upcoming year and lets you plot your upcoming journey. Twelve months from now, when you look back and review your goals and plans, you’ll see how much you’ve done. Then, you can look forward to the next year and make a great plan, thanks to the notes you’ve kept.

Come see our assortment of garden journals. Whether you prefer loose-leaf or bound, simple lined paper or adorned with sketches, we have just the right garden journal to get you excited about the upcoming gardening season. 

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Reaching New Heights with Tall Perennials

Did your garden seem to come up short last year? Were there areas where some height could have added excitement, texture and pizzazz to your landscape? If so, grab your garden journal and make some notes! We have an excellent list of perennials coming this spring and it’s sure to include the colors, heights and types of plants to add a vertical punch to your garden. Our top picks include…

PerennialChart

Of course, this is just a partial listing of taller perennials available in the coming months. Delivery trucks filled with beautiful, healthy and vibrant plants arrive nearly every day. Make your wish-list and come on in to see us on a regular basis. That way, you’ll have the best selection of our incoming beauties and can choose the perfect tall plants to add a vertical lift to your garden

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Feeding the Birds

When a bird’s natural plant food has waned or withered away in late winter, a few well-placed feeders can entice a feathered friend to stay nearby. There are four basic types of feeders, but the type of feeder and food it’s filled with will determine which birds will visit. Which do you want in your yard?

Feeder Types and the Birds They Attract

While birds will visit a variety of different feeders, the best options for winter birds are…

  • Tray / Platform Feeders
    A tray or platform feeder with low sides and a wide, open base placed one to three feet above the ground will lure ground-feeding birds like juncos, towhees and mourning doves. Grouse and quail may also visit this type of feeder, and these feeders are ideal for offering food to large flocks of birds.
  • House Hopper Feeders
    Hung from a tree or hook or mounted on a pole, “house” style feeders with seed hoppers and perches on the side will usually entice grosbeaks, cardinals and jays, as well as sparrows and finches. These feeders help keep seed dry and can hold a larger quantity of seed so refills are not as frequent.
  • Tube Feeders
    Long, cylindrical tube feeders suspended in air will bring in an array of small birds, including finches, titmice, nuthatches, siskins, redpolls and chickadees. These feeders may have either mesh-like sides where birds can easily cling, or they may have multiple perches to accommodate more birds. Sock-style feeders are also popular.
  • Suet Feeders
    A cage-like feeder that holds a cake of rich, fatty suet is a bird magnet for woodpeckers, wrens, titmice, nuthatches, titmice, mockingbirds and jays. A standard suet cage can hold just one cake and can be hung from a pole or branch. Larger suet feeders may hold multiple cakes, and some suet feeders are even designed as logs or other shapes to hold suet plugs or balls.

Best Winter Bird Foods

Birds will seldom drop or pick out unwanted seeds if you fill your feeder with only one type of seed rather than a generic mix. Black oil sunflower seeds are the most widely preferred, though white millet is popular for smaller finches, sparrows and ground-feeding birds. A tube feeder containing Nyjer (thistle) seeds will whet the appetite of goldfinches, siskins or redpolls. Jays, chickadees and juncos love peanuts or cracked corn as a treat in a tray feeder. Suet is another fine treat that offers great calories to keep winter birds healthy.

No matter which type of bird feeder you offer or how you fill it, you are sure to enjoy the company of a hungry winter flock. Keep the feeder filled and clean, and the birds will continue to visit all winter long.

Year-Round Container Gardens

The best gardens provide interest all twelve months of the year. In the spring and summer, gardens are full of color with bright, cheerful bulbs, pastel spring-flowering trees, vivid, multi-colored bedding plants and striking perennials; fall gives us shades of yellow, gold, orange, red and purple with the changing of the season, as well as abundant fruits and berries. Winter has its attractions as well with evergreens, hardy plants and persistent berries. With a little planning, container gardens can give us color and variety every month of the year.

Planning for Winter Container Gardens

While most gardeners have no trouble creating lush container gardens for spring, summer and fall, winter is more of a challenge, especially if you hope to enjoy the same plants in every season. Fortunately, many plants are suitable for winter container gardening. The best choices include evergreens, shrubs with berries, those with contorted branches or interesting bark and buds or later winter-flowering shrubs. These plants remain in the containers for year-round interest, while bulbs, annuals and perennials can be switched out for colorful seasonal interest. Consider how all the plants will change seasonally so you can create a living tableau that will retain gorgeous shape, form, color and texture throughout the year.

Planting and Care for Year-Round Container Gardens

When planting containers for all-season interest, frost-proof pots should be your choice. This includes fiberglass, polyethylene and structural foam planters. These pots resist winter damage, insulate to help regulate the soil temperature and retain moisture better than porous pots. They are also lightweight, so they can be more easily moved to a sheltered location in poor weather, or shifted to a sunny spot on a warm day.

Plant containers as you normally would, following good horticulture practices – enriching the soil, providing proper drainage and arranging plants for the best visual appeal. Be certain to give your pots shelter from the prevailing winds and water your plants when needed to keep roots from drying out. To water, check the soil moisture when temperatures rise above 40 degrees and add cold water as necessary. You may want to shift the containers’ location each season for the best light and weather protection. In winter, it may also be useful to add an insulating blanket around the pot or to provide more wind protection by stacking hay bales around the container.

Plants for Winter Interest in Year-Round Containers

While some plants are stunning for a season, the following plants are proven winners in winter and will bring great interest to your containers.

Evergreens

  • Buxus (Common Boxwood)
  • Pinus (Dwarf and Semi-Dwarf Pines)
  • Thuja (Dwarf Arborvitaes)
  • Juniperus (Dwarf Junipers)
  • Tsuga (Dwarf Hemlock)
  • Picea (Dwarf Spruces)
  • Taxus baccata (English Yew)
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’ (Golden Japanese False Cypress)
  • Pieris Japonica (Japanese Pieris)
  • Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)
  • Microbiota (Siberian Cypress)
  • Euonymus fortunei (Wintercreeper)
  • Sciadopitys verticillata (Japanese Umbrella Pine)

Deciduous

  • Amelanchier arboreo (Downy Serviceberry)
  • Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Fothergilla)
  • Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick)
  • Ilex verticillata ‘Nana’ (Winterberry Holly)
  • Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (PeeGee Hydrangea)
  • Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster)

Late Winter/Early Spring Accent Plants

  • Helleborus (Christmas and Lenton Rose)
  • Primrose
  • Ajuga
  • Violas or Pansies
  • Crocus*
  • Snowdrops*
  • Dwarf Iris*
  • Ivy

*Plant these bulbs in fall for winter flowering.

No matter what you choose to plant, it’s easier than you think to design delightful containers that will catch everyone’s eye all winter long.

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Feng Shui in the Garden

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese philosophy that believes in attracting and guiding the flow of cosmic energy to influence your health, wealth and happiness. If you are already familiar with Feng Shui, you should know that it is assumed by many that the same fundamental principles that apply to your home also apply to your garden, maybe even more so since the energy in your home is brought in from the outside.

Feng Shui means ‘wind’ and ‘water.’ According to Chinese tradition, everything in the world contains ch’i, the cosmic life force. Ch’i means to flow freely like wind and water, but it is alleged that its movement can be blocked or trapped. This, it is believed, can cause disharmony or misfortune in your life. The movement of ch’i is thought to be influenced by several things such as colors, shapes and sound. The purpose of Feng Shui is to ensure that ch’i is flowing smoothly and gently without being allowed to stagnate or move too quickly. This harmony in your environment is understood to create harmony in your life.

Bringing Harmony to Your Garden

Feng Shui starts with basic gardening maintenance. Ch’i is believed to stagnate in areas where junk accumulates. Clean up your patio or deck and screen your garbage cans from view. Throw away any broken pots, planters or tools. Good cultural practices are also considered important in the flow of ch’i. Mow your lawn, pull up weeds, edge your beds and remove dead plants. Prune any broken or damaged limbs, stake plants and take steps to control insects and disease.

Ch’i requires smooth curves to flow. It is funneled by straight lines but impeded by sharp angles. It does not need to be costly or time consuming to remedy these types of structural problems. A straight walkway can be softened with the addition of curved beds on either side. You may also try planting perennials that mound or spill onto a walkway to break up straight lines. To help ch’i flow gently around corners, consider the addition of a tree, shrub or climbing vine. A curved bench or fountain is another option.

Bright colors, especially red, are used in Feng Shui to attract ch’i. Poor Feng Shui, it is believed, is remedied by placing the five elements recognized by the ancient Chinese – wood, fire, earth, water and metal – in their appropriate direction to beneficially affect the movement of ch’i.

Why not try some of the elemental remedies below in their appropriate directional orientations? They may assist with the flow of ch’i in your garden and perhaps you will reap the benefits of good fortune Feng Shui reportedly imparts.

Feng Shui Remedies
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