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The Garden Mix



Make plans now to join Melinda on her famous Garden Walks at Boerner Botanical Gardens in 2014!

Nationally renowned garden expert Melinda Myers helps everyday gardeners find success and ease in the garden through her Melinda’s Garden Moments radio segments. Melinda shares “must have” tips that hold the key to gardening success, learned through her more than 30 years of horticulture experience. Listeners from across the country find her gardener friendly, practical approach to gardening both refreshing and informative! On this page, Melinda shares some more extensive garden tips, which expand on the information provided in her one-minute radio segments.

New tips are added throughout each month, providing timely step-by-step tips on what you need to do next in your garden! Visit Melinda’s website www.melindamyers.com for more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and answers to your questions.
Posts from January 2013


Celebrate National Carrot Day
Break out your favorite vegetable dip and grab a handful or two of carrots and celebrate National Carrot Day on January 3rd.  And add these tasty and nutritional vegetables to your garden plan this season.

Grow carrots in well-drained soil.  Those with heavy soils should add organic matter or consider raised beds or container gardens. Use shorter varieties if your homegrown carrots have been deformed in the past.
 
Sprinkle carrots seeds on the soil surface, lightly cover with soil and gently water. 
 
Consider using pelleted seeds or seed tapes to make planting these fine seeds much easier.  Or mix with radish seeds.  The radishes will be ready to harvest first, leaving space for carrots to reach full size.
 
And make it a bit more fun by growing purple or yellow carrots or short round ones the size and shape of radishes.
 
A bit more information: Extend your carrot harvest by making several plantings three weeks apart.  Most varieties are ready in 60 to 70 days. So time your plantings to fit within your growing season.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Garden Your Way to Better Health
Have you committed to improving your health this year?  I have good news – you can do this while planting, maintaining and harvesting homegrown nutritious food and beautiful flowers. 

You’ll work out all your major muscle groups when raking, digging and planting for an hour.  Include gardening as a major component of your workout schedule.  You’ll stretch and strengthen muscles, while promoting cardiovascular health and maintaining bone mass.  A University of Arkansas study found that yard work as well as weight training more significantly maintained bone density than aerobics, dancing or bicycling in women over 50.
And for those of us trying to lose weight, add 30 minutes of gardening to your daily or weekly routine to help shed some extra pounds.  Gardening several times a week will help keep you and your landscape looking its best. 
 
A bit more information:  One of the great benefits of gardening is you can double or triple your return on time invested. In just a half hour you can improve your landscape and burn 162 calories raking, 182 weeding  and a whopping 250 calories turning the compost pile. And anytime I can receive double or triple the benefit from my time and energy, the more likely I am to complete the task.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Seed Swap for Savings and Fun
The last Saturday of January is National Seed swap day.  So gather your gardening friends, seeds and catalogues and throw a garden party.

Seed swaps are a great way to find unusual or unique seeds.  It is also a great way to save money and get the greatest value by sharing extra seeds with friends and family.
 
Once the seed swapping is done you may want to break out the catalogues and place a group seed order.  You’ll be able to order a wider variety of seeds for greater diversity in the garden.
 
Small space gardeners, lacking room to grow every seed in a packet, won’t end up with left over seeds.   Plus, ordering larger packets is usually more economical.  And you’ll have an excuse for another party when you meet to divide up the goods.
 
Expand your group by getting local garden clubs, community gardeners or other garden groups involved.  Or, go on-line.
 
A bit more information:  Those interested in saving and sharing heirloom seeds may want to visit Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org).  They have a webinar to help you get started and forum for sharing information.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Green Thumb Award Winner Biomarkers
 
It’s that time of year when your mailbox or inbox is filled with garden catalogues.  Take advantage of the beautiful pictures and great ideas to help plan additions and changes to this year’s garden. 

And as you shop look for the Direct Gardening Association Green Thumb Award Winners.  For the last 15 years they’ve recognized outstanding plants and products available through catalogues and websites.
 
One winner, Cobrahead’s Biomarkers are easy to read, durable and environmentally friendly markers to label flowers and vegetables in your garden.  Made in Iowa of recycled plastic and corn cob fiber they come in dark green, brown or light stone, making them easy to blend in with plantings or stand out for greater visibility.
 
A weather proof label is placed on the marker.  Print the plant name with a permanent marker or use a laser printer. 

A bit more information: The mission of the Direct Gardening Association, formerly the Mailorder Gardening Association, is to provide the finest gardening products, information, and service through the catalogs and magazines of its members. Their Green Thumb Awards program is designed to recognize new products for their innovation, uniqueness, appeal to gardeners and more.  An independent panel of professional garden writers and editors select the winners. 
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Pruning Fruit Trees

Increase your harvest with proper pruning. 
 
Late winter or early spring before growth begins is a great time to prune fruit trees. As growth begins in spring the wounds will close quickly, reducing the risk of disease and insects moving in through pruning cuts.
 
Prune to establish a strong framework on young trees or maintain the framework on established trees.

Start by removing any crossing, damaged or parallel branches on established trees.  Prune out water sprouts - those branches that grow straight to the sky - and suckers at the base of the tree.
 
Make cuts flush with the branch bark collar, the swollen area at the base of the branch, where a branch joins another branch or above a healthy bud. 
 
Leave the basic framework intact and remove no more than one fourth of the crown.  Heavy pruning will encourage excess growth and that will mean more work for you next season.
 
A bit more information:  Apples, pears, plums and many other fruit trees are often pruned in a central leader or modified central technique.  A properly pruned central leader tree will look like a Christmas tree.  With a modified central leader the side branches are about the same size as the central leader (trunk).
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Kid-Friendly Gardening
 
Whether you garden with your own children or those of family and friends consider making a portion of your landscape kid friendly.
 
Reserve a bit of space for a lean-to or teepee made from landscape trimmings or a sunflower house grown from seed.  This allows the kids to be close at hand, but have their own space to dig and play.
 
Leave plenty of space for digging and play as well as planting, weeding and harvesting. A container of rye grass will quickly sprout and can be mown with kid-friendly scissors.  This makes a perfect play area for action figures and dolls.
 
Bring the kids into the garden with fun theme-based designs.  A pizza garden with Roma tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil and oregano provides the ingredients for you to make your own.
 
Or create a rainbow with ribbons of red, orange, yellow, green and blue and purple flowers.  Have your floral rainbow end in a pot of gold marigolds or zinnias.
 
A bit more information:  Bring in the butterflies and birds for kids of all ages to enjoy.  Include plants that provide nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies and seeds for the birds. Add a colorful bird bath as a focal point and water for the wildlife.

For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Add Pockets of Color and Interest

Now is a great time to plan for added color in your landscape. 

Look for areas where small perennial flower combinations can add seasonal or season long color to shrub beds or small bare spaces in your landscape.  Consider long blooming low maintenance perennials that add interest with minimal effort on your part.  Select combinations that peak in one season for areas used or viewed during that time of year.  Extend your season long enjoyment with combinations that look good throughout the growing season.
 
Purchase or make artwork that can add form and color to existing gardens.  This is definitely a low maintenance solution that adds your personal stamp to your garden design.
 
And don’t forget about containers.  Pots filled with flowers, vegetables, trees and shrubs can extend the season and allow you to brighten otherwise unplantable areas.
 
A bit more information:  Add an element of surprise by using containers in non-traditional ways and locations in the landscape.  Set a few containers into existing gardens for a vertical accent.  Change out the plantings for added seasonal interest. Elevate the pots on old chairs, upturned pots or supports to create a focal point.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Making and Using a Cold Frame
Get a jump on the growing season by using a cold frame. Build your own and be kind to the environment and your budget by using reclaimed wood and old window sashes or storm doors.
Most cold frames are 3 x 6 feet or sized to fit the recycled window sashes or other material used for the cover. Make the cold frame tall enough to accommodate the growing plants. The back wall is usually 18 to 30 inches high.  The front wall is usually shorter, about 12 to 24 inches, for greater light penetration.

Cut the side walls on a slant to accommodate the change of height from the back to the front wall.  Use 2 x 2’s for the corners and to stake your cold frame in place.

If possible, face the front of the cold frame toward the south for maximum light and solar heat and the back against a building for added insulation.

A bit more information:  Vent cold frames on hot days and cover with carpet or other material for added insulation on extremely cold nights.  Or use floating row covers to extend the season if building a cold frame doesn’t fit your gardening goals or construction skills.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Managing Salt Buildup (white crusty substance) on Houseplant Soil

Improve the health of your houseplants and the look of your indoor garden with a little container clean up. 
 
Scrape off any white crusty substance collecting on the lip of the container or soil surface.  This build up of salt from minerals in fertilizer and hard or softened water can damage plants.  High levels of these excess salts can prevent plants from absorbing the water they need, stunt growth and burn root tips, leading to rot.

Repeatedly and thoroughly water, called leaching, to wash any remaining salts out of the soil.  Water the plant thoroughly until the excess water drains out the bottom of the pot.  Use twice as much water as the container will hold.  For example a 6 inch pot holds 10 cups of water, so use 20 cups to wash out the salts.  Wait 30 to 60 minutes and repeat.
 
Repeat every six months or so to prevent plant damage.
 
A bit more information:  Reduce the risk of salt build up by always watering thoroughly and pouring off excess water.  Fertilize only when your plants are actively growing.  And use a dilute solution, about one fourth to one half the recommended rate, when fertilizing.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Create a Seed Starting/Growing Chart
 
Get a jump on the growing season and save money by creating a growing chart. 

Start by inventorying your current seed collection.  Decide what seeds you want to keep and grow this season and those you want to pass along to gardening friends.  You may choose to make seed art with older or improperly stored seeds and invest in fresh seeds that are sure to germinate.
 
Check catalogues or your favorite garden center for any seeds you need to purchase.  Place your order early for the best selection.
 
Next, look at the back of the packet to determine when you need to start the seeds indoors or out.  Record the start date on your calendar, garden chart or a spreadsheet to make this process easy.
 
And while you wait, prepare a space and organize supplies for starting seeds indoors.  Clear a space, check your grow lights and gather the needed seed starting mix and clean containers.
 
A bit more information: Not sure your seeds are still viable?  Most seeds if stored in consistently cool dark conditions will last several years.  Check the seed viability with a germination test.  Put 10 seeds wrapped in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag.  If half the seeds sprout, you will need to plant the seeds twice a week.  For more details on checking seeds for viability click here to watch my video.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Sealed Lid Seed Sprouting

Increase seed starting success and fun with the sealed lid method my friend and horticulturist Bob Polomski learned from his father. 
 
Gather a few translucent containers, like a margarine, whipped or sour cream container headed for recycling.  Cut small pieces of paper towels into squares the size of postage stamps.  Place them on the lid.  This will be the bottom of your sprouter.
 
Wet each square of paper towel with a few drops of water.  Place one seed on each moistened square.  Set the container on top of the lid to form a mini greenhouse.  Place in a warm location and wait for the seeds to sprout.
 
Once the seed root appears, use a tweezers to plant the seedling into a small container filled with a well-drained potting mix. Gently tamp in place and moisten.
 
You’ll save time, money, and growing space by only planting and growing the number of seedlings you need.
 
A bit more information:  Put other recycled items to work when starting plants from seeds.  Fast food salad containers are great for starting seeds in potting mix.  Just fill the container with a seed starting mix or moist well-drained soil. Plant seeds as directed, moisten, and cover with the lid to create a miniature greenhouse.
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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2013 All-America Selections Vegetable Winners

Add flavor and variety to this year’s vegetable garden with the 2013 All-America Selections (AAS) Winners. 

AAS winners are tested in the U.S. and Canada and selected for their improved flavor, pest resistance and overall suitability to the home garden.
 
Melemon melon was selected for its earliness and superior taste. The judges compared it to a honeydew melon with a delicious tanginess.  These productive vines produce uniform and personal-sized fruit.
 
Jasper cherry tomatoes produce an abundance of small sweet fruit over a long period of time.  The fruit hold their quality and flavor both on the plant and after harvest.
 
Harvest Moon watermelon produces sweet crisp pink to red fleshed watermelons on shorter vines. The dark rinds have the yellow dots, like Moon and Stars watermelon, but are seedless, higher yielding and earlier ripening.
 
A bit more information:  In addition to its flavor and long harvest, Jasper tomato is resistant to late and early blight and Fusarium races 1 and 2, wide spread diseases of tomato. Grow these vining plants staked or towered.

For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Low E Glass Impact on Houseplants
You can conserve energy and still grow healthy houseplants. Light, water and nutrients are the keys to growing healthy plants. Many energy conscious indoor gardeners are concerned when considering replacing their windows with Low-E glass. Fortunately it only reduces the visible light needed by our plants by an additional 5 to 10%. A side benefit to your plants is the Low-E glass moderates temperatures indoors keeping plants, especially those growing near windows, warmer at night and cooler during the day. And no matter what type of glass is in the windows – keep them clean to maximize the amount of light reaching your plants. Adjust your watering and fertilization practices to match the indoor growing conditions. Less light, lower humidity and the type of potting mix and containers used all impact the watering frequency and fertilizer needs. A bit more information: Plants need a variety of light (color/wavelength) for proper growth and flowering. Blue light promotes leaf and stem growth, while red combined with blue promotes flowering and bud development. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Don’t Let Aggressive Bargain Plants Take Over the Garden
So you've found a plant that blooms all season, tolerates a wide range of growing conditions and needs little maintenance. Sound too good to be true? It probably is. Lots of fast growing easy care plants are overly aggressive. They crowd out their more timid neighbors and often need concrete barriers or regular weeding to keep them in check. Invasive plants go one step further. These plants leave the bounds of our landscape and invade our natural areas. They crowd out native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife. These should be eliminated from gardens in regions where they are a threat. And beware of bargain backyard plant sales. These are often filled with aggressive plants that have overrun the seller's garden. Ask the seller about the aggressive nature of the plant before purchasing. Years of weeding is not worth the money saved on bargain plants. A bit more information: A good example is common yarrow (Achillea millefolium). This perennial flower can be found in both weed and perennial books. It tolerates hot dry conditions and readily reseeds and spreads. Select less aggressive species and cultivars that do not reseed. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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So far, SO GREAT!
3 & 1/2 months and counting since my family and I packed up our stuff in NJ and made the trek to Milwaukee! Anytime you leave what you've "known" for years and years, you always worry that: It won't work It's not a great fit It'll take a LONG time to FIT IN Well, I'm here to say that all of those answers couldn't be farther from the truth! From DAY 1, my radio family here at The Mix has welcomed my family and I with OPEN ARMS (My favorite JOURNEY song btw) and it's like we've known each other forever! At the same time, my new family of radio listeners (ALL OF YOU reading this right now) have also made me so incredibly comfortable and happy and as stated above, it's like I've known you well, longer than the 3.5 months I've been here! You've helped my family and I find a place to live, great restaurants (my family and I love to eat), great places to visit to entertain my kids, a travel baseball team for my oldest son Anthony and of course, great karaoke so I can get my sing on! I will continue to ask for your advice on different things along the way and I know WITHOUT A DOUBT, you'll be there to answer whatever questions my family and I have! For that, I'm very grateful! Just wanted to take a few minutes to say THANK YOU for welcoming Me, my wife Sarah, and children Anthony and Benjamin with such warmth and kindness! We look forward to being a part of the community for a long time to come! Thank you for listening to 99.1 The Mix! I'm havin' a BLAST! Hope YOU are too! Sincerely, Mark Summers
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Invite Frogs and Toads into the Garden
Celebrate National Frog Month by inviting insect and slug-eating toads and frogs into your garden. Start by providing water. A pond at least 20 inches deep with gently sloping sides will work. Include water plants that provide oxygen, shelter from predators and weather and breeding sites. Include a few rocks or logs in the pond for basking and a few alongside the water for shelter. Build a rock pile in the garden. Select a location that receives sun and shade each day. Position the rock pile in more sun if your summers are cool and more shade if your summers are hot. Line the bottom with stones for added protection from winter cold and leave cavities between some of the bottom rocks for nesting, shelter and hibernation. Use a pipe 1 to 2 inches in diameter and less than 2 feet to create an entryway. A bit more information: Look, but do not touch the frogs and toads you attract to your landscape. Bug repellent, lotions and oils on your skin can harm these creatures. For more information see Oregon State University Extension's publication Attract Reptiles and Amphibians to Your Yard. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Grow Potatoes in the Garden or Container
What is white, red or yellow, can be eaten fresh, fried or even raw and is one of the most important staples of the human diet? If you guessed potato, you are right. Grow your own in the garden, planting bag or containers. You can plant small potatoes or pieces of larger potatoes to start new plants. These contain "eyes" that grow into potato plants. You may have seen this happen on potatoes stored in the pantry. Buy certified seed potatoes at garden centers or from garden catalogues. Cut whole or large seed potatoes into smaller pieces containing at least one good "eye". Plant them in a 2-3 inch deep furrow, 10 to 12 inches apart, leaving 24 to 36 inches between the plants. As the plants begin to grow, mound the nearby soil over the tubers until the rows are 4 to 6 inches high. Keep the planting weeded and wait for the harvest. A bit more information: Save space and have some fun by growing your potatoes in a planting bag. Fill the bottom few inches of the bag with potting mix. Set the potato pieces on the mix. Cover with several inches of soil. As the potatoes grow, continue adding a couple of inches of soil at a time until the bag is full. Harvest by dumping the bag and lifting out your potatoes. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Brown Needles and Leaves on Evergreens
A walk through your garden this spring may reveal browning on both needled and broadleaf evergreen trees and shrubs. Winter winds and sun, exposure to deicing salt and record low temperatures are likely the cause. Evergreens continue to lose moisture through their leaves and needles throughout the winter. The winter sun and wind increase moisture loss. Those gardening in areas with frozen soil are likely to see the most damage. But even those in warmer regions may see winter scorch on newly planted or exposed evergreen plants. We can't turn the needles and leaves green, but we can provide proper care to speed recovery. If the branches are pliable and buds plump you should see new growth this spring. Broadleaf evergreens will replace the brown leaves with fresh new growth. Brown needles will eventually drop and the new growth this spring may mask the damage. Wait for warmer weather to see what if any new growth appears. A bit more information: Once plants have started to show signs of new growth, you have a decision to make. Is the plant healthy and attractive enough to nurture and keep? Or, would you be better off starting with a new plant and one better suited to the growing conditions. A difficult decision, but one that can save you time, money and frustration in the long run. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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A Multi-Season Beauty – The Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Add seasonal interest and bird appeal to your landscape with the white fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus). This slow growing small-scale tree can grow up to 20 feet tall and wide. The slightly fragrant white flowers cover the plant in spring. The male plants produce slightly larger and showier flowers, but the female plants produce an abundance of blue fruit in late summer. Though the fruit is somewhat hidden by the leaves, the birds seem to have no problem finding and devouring it. But don't worry however as they won't leave behind a mess. The fall color can vary from a good yellow to a yellowish green. And the smooth gray bark become ridged and furrowed with age. Fringetree is hardy in zones 4 to 9, grows well in full sun to part shade and though it prefers moist fertile soil, it is adaptable to a much wider range of conditions. It can be found in nature growing along stream banks and the woodland edge. A bit more information: Use fringetree as a small tree or large shrub, as a specimen plant, near buildings, or in mixed borders as an understory. And be patient in spring as it is late to leaf out. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Daisy – the April Birth Flower
Celebrate April birthdays with a bouquet of daisies. This April birth flower symbolizes childhood innocence or according to the Farmer's Almanac they were given between friends to keep a secret. Many flowers share the common name daisy. It comes from the English name "days eye" referring to the fact many daisy flowers open during the day and close as the sun sets. Bellis perennis, known as English daisy, is most often designated as the April birth flower. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8, grows about 6 inches tall and flowers from spring through mid summer. You will find this plant listed as an attractive perennial or nasty weed. In the south the plants often burn out after flowering during the heat of summer. In cooler climates they are often dug after flowering to maximize enjoyment and minimize spread. The young leaves can be eaten in salads or cooked. A bit more information: Sweet peas are also considered the April birth flower. This is especially true in April. This flower represents modesty and simplicity. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Garden Longer with Less Aches and Pains – It’s National Garden Week
Avoid sore and strained muscles that often arise after a long day in the garden. A few simple changes in your gardening habits can keep you gardening longer and with fewer aches, pains and strains. Use long-handled tools to extend your reach and minimize bending and stooping. And if you need to get a bit closer to the ground, try placing only one knee on the ground or using a stool and keep your back straight. Keep your tools handy by wearing a carpenter's apron with lots of pockets or using a tool caddy. An old wagon, wheeled golf bag or trash can make moving long-handled tools a breeze. Use foam or wrap your tool handles with tape to enlarge the grip and reduce hand fatigue. Or better yet, invest in ergonomically designed tools with larger cushioned grips. They are designed to position your body in a less stressful position, allowing you to work longer. A bit more information: Further extend your energy by taking frequent breaks. Use sunscreen, wear a hat and drink lots of water. For more ideas, check out my 10 Pain-free Gardening tips. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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