I’m so excited today because I haven’t done an interview in a while so I’m so happy to be here and this guest sent me two books that I know you are going to love!!!
The Organic Gardener’s Cookbook: Easy Growing Tips and Delicious Recipes for Your Home-Grown Vegetables
And we all know I love convenience and easiness because we are all so busy out there! So welcome to Don Rosenberg from Instant Organic Garden.com…
Thanks! I’m honored!
I was so honored when you sent your books. I think it’s a fit for my listeners who I call Green Future Growers because we’re all looking to grow a greener future so whether they grow a small box garden like me or a giant mini farm like my husband I know you’re gonna help us make it easier.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Charlotte, NC
What I do obviously applies pretty much everywhere… part of it, I have been gardening organically for the last 35 years… I had a little house, in the back of it was a traditional garden… maybe 20×30 feet.
In the Carolinas you have:
Carolina red clay
So I dutifully set about growing a garden, watched all the
- victory garden
- and gardening shows on PBS
- bought the books etc.
I borrowed the neighbors tiller and started grinding up the soil…That’s basically all everybody knew…You get your 10-10-10 pour it in the ground, maybe if your really smart you add some compost and I was totally unhappy with the results!
I would start to plant, I’d put in some lettuce seeds. The soil would look good after I tilled it and I’d plant the seeds and 4-5 days later things would sprout… The problem was I didn’t know what was mine and what was there’s what I’ve learned since then is, and it’s an ongoing process I’ve learned that weed seeds are dormant in your soil for 20-50 years.
When you expose them to sunlight they sprout and weeds are always gonna grow faster then the domestic vegetable seeds you plant!
So your life as a gardener 2/3 of work in the garden is weeding and pulling the weeds you woke up when you tilled it!
That’s interesting because there’s the big no till movement I learned about when I podcasted maybe that’s where it’s came from?
Part of what you are going to learn about me, is not really flattering… for one I’m a guy and I don’t want to be lazy…
If I can have a more productive garden with less work in the same space… I’m a happy camper! What I’m trying to do is make e life easier for myself alright! If I get a better result, and healthier plants!
Well, well see if we really believe that your lazy… I’ll bet your really not as we talk! But even if you do want to grow efficiently and effectively is important. Even on the flip side if you do want to grow a huge garden, the more tips you learn will help! It will help you grow more why not try to be the most productive person you can be?
TOTALLY… the other thing is my business is to build vegetable gardens for you in your backyard!
My clients are basically city folk gardeners, they’re moms with 2-3 kids, and they want to grow a garden. They have a big house and a tiny yard and they don’t have room for a traditional 20×20 garden that is just beyond their capabilities. So
What I have been able to do we will certainly go into this in more detail. Is show them how to grow a 400 vegetable from my square foot garden in about 50 square feet of ground area.
I don’t know why I love to hear about business ideas right now in my life, IDK, people might be excited to be potential clients if they are in your area, or maybe to look for someone in their area doing it or maybe start their own business in a different area!
I do have Local Affiliates I teach them everything they need to know about my new approach to gardening!
I really do think it’s a new approach to gardening!
- all the techniques on marketing
- set them up on my website
- business in a box
Then they have to get out there and pound the pavement and meet people
- go to craft shows
- spring fairs
- schools and give talks
- drum up some business.
That’s definitely something that we do!
If you’re not good at math this is the only part of math that will confuse people.
You can grow 400 sq. feet worth of garden in about 50 sq. feet on the ground.
A 400 square foot garden to think 20 x 20 garden that’s a lot of work!
My solution … when you think about a 400 sq. 20×20 feet garden and about 100′ is paths, to get to you from one part to the other so you can’t grow so what we’re really talking about is an effective 300 other foot garden.
My secret is building raised beds
These are the 3 secrets of what I do
- raised beds
- weedless soil – I’ll give you the soil recipe
- limited space which means: using tips and techniques of planting times to get most productivity out of a small space.
So back to our math. Each of these beds is 3 x 8 feet 24 sq.’ so well consider 25 sq feet on the ground.
One trick is to add a trellis for climbing plants and we have special trellis netting.
Climbing plants for the spring is gonna be
And for the summer it’s gonna be
- green beans
- lima beans
- sweet potatoes that don’t grow up on their own but you have to train them if you weave them through the netting.
The trellis is 7ft x 8ft wide so you’re adding 56 square feet of growing, for math purposes we’ll lower down to 50 feet.
If you think about a trellis, if your a green bean you don’t care if your growing up a trellis or growing on the ground…. You can grow bush beans that are 2-3 feet tall. that pop out all at the same time 2 weeks and you’ll have your harvest and be done. Pole beans then 5-6-20 feet tall and grown they produce over a long period of time.
All the plant cares about is how many square feet of leaf surface is getting the sunlight. So if you grow your pole beans up a trellis your getting 50 square feet of growing surface fro your pole beans, lima beans or your sweet potatoes… so that 25 foot bed, when you add a trellis is more times 75 square feet.
Are you staying with this?
I’m totally there, I’ve been teaching 2nd grade so maths pretty fresh and we’ve been teaching algebra, I’m like you poor kids! Ah!
Oh good this is x sqaured x3
So one bed is 75 feet
Now let’s go back to 25 feet
Still use vertical growing!
I grow all of my tomatoes up stakes, and you can do that with peppers and eggplants!
If your good jackie, I I will teach your listeners to grow an 18 foot tomato that is 7 foot tall.
OK! A tomato plant right?
Yes! but it’s 7 feet tall!
So we now have a 75 foot trellis garden, and a 25 foot regular garden. So that dds up to 100 square feet which is pretty small math.
When you are growing in a raised bed and the rails are 11 inches tall and soil is 10 inches deep with organic soil…fertilized with organic fertilizers its never stepped in, never compacted. In those conditions. the plant roots grow straight down.
Did you say 11 inches tall?
The rails are 11 inches tall…
So what are the rails? I’m thinking 1 x 12? 2 – 2 x 6s?
How to build the beds in the book. The easiest thing is to do a 2 x 12. (it’s heavy) You cut it and cut it, make it 9 feet, it’s 12 feet long, cut it to a 3 foot by 9 foot so that becomes a 3×9 bed…
Back to our math… I have something to prove.
in that hundred square the rails are
11 inches tall
soil is 10 inches deep
In those conditions the plant roots easiest straight down which means you can actually plant 3 times closer together! So that 100 square feet becomes 300 square feet of productivity.
Let’s build a visual picture in our minds of what one of these trellis beds
On the back you’ve a trellis garden…
In a summer garden
- 2 grow of green beans
- 1 variety of lima
- and 2 varieties of cucumbers
Maybe each varieties variety occupies 1 1/2- 2 feet of space on the ground but they’re only using about an inch and half of soil surface becasue it’s planted on the back edge of the garden and those roots will fill in the garden…
So that’s the back wall where the trellis is…
in front of the trellis you might have up to 4 tomato plants growing on stakes right next to it. In front of the tomatoes – those plants you can put maybe 5 of
- green peppers
those are a little shorter, growing right in front of the tomatoes and still off to the right you have
- room for one really big zucchini or squash plant
that is just the single trellis bed. In the other beds you can grow
- summer lettuce
- summer crops
or any other summer crops, whatever you want. It’s amazing how productive one trellis bed can be…
I can totally visualize it, we have a lot of beds like that. For years we’ve been gardening in deep beds… his range from the size your talking about or hip high..
When I talk to people, people say I don’t want to bend down, I want beds that are waist high.
My listeners know I talk about that a lot… We have many that are low.
If you’re gonna grow short plants like beets, spinach, or broccoli. But if you’re gonna grow tomatoes, or the base of the tomato is up in the air. They will grow and not stop so the top of your tomato plant is 10 feet in the air.. One of the reason’s people like the elevated beds they say it’s easier to weed but
You see the weeding is easier when you are in one of these beds and you use weedless soil so you don’t have any weeds!
In a regular garden, even a raised bed 11 zucchini inches… you might just be bending over a bit, I mean the wind will blow, the birds will poop, not gonna have weeding of garden.. maybe just 3 minutes every 2 days
We don’t get a lot of weeds in mike’s beds! I totally agree with you!
But now what happens… people will build a raised bed and its so sad … I’ll give a talk and people come up and say Don, I was doing everything wrong! Yes I was doing raised beds, and I was putting in compost… but I was tilling it in with my native soil, cause I thought that was the correct going. but I have more weeds!
If you bypass the native soil and use this weedless soil eliminates 2/3 of the work right there.
So where do people get the soil. Getting good soil is always a challenge for us. We were just talking inches about that this morning, I need fresh soil!
These are city folk not gonna be having giant gardens of 2 acres of raised beds, or 10 raised beds that are 3 feet by 10 feet. That’s not what we’re talking about.
A family of four can very easily grow a majority of the vegetables they eat in a trellised bed and a raised bed without a trellis. Again that’s 50 square feet that’s a small amount of soil… that you need, the cool thing is you don’t need to replace the soil every year.
- Add a little bit of compost every year…
- add organic fertilizer every season
not a need for a lot of soil…
I’m talking about building new beds to expand or grow more.
Let’s say you’re a mom with 2 kids. You want to build a new beds 3 x 8 feet put a trellis in the back you’re talking about 22 cubic feet of soil, which is really not bad. It’s gonna be a pain to do it. You might have to load them in your car… Be careful you don’t want to pop your car tires… you load them in your car, it make take 2-3 trips to do it but you only have to do that once.
Instant Organic Garden Soil Recipe
Here is your recipe:
I started Instant Organic Garden 10 years ago. I went everywhere looking for information and consulted with people and one of my early consultants was the former Dean of Horticulture at Harvard. I said, “What can I use as soil that anyone can get anywhere in the country?” We went back and forth and back and forth and we finally settled and this is amazing because soil is not magic: What you want is something that is
- gonna hold the nutrients
- drain well
- hold moisture
- and not have weed seeds in it.
It’s called Timberline topsoil normally we would run like the wind from the word topsoil, beccasue topsoil usually contains all htose weed seeds but it’s basically
- a compost
- ground up leaves
mixture that has no weed seeds in it, any bagged product is not gonna have weed seeds. I mix that about 3 parts of that topsoil with one part of composted cow manure and I use
mix that 3 parts topsoil evenly with one part cow manure
both include trace elements that you need in order for a garden to be happy. You don’t want to just use nitrogen, phosphorus and postasium. You want to use something with trace elements and you mix that into the top five inches of your soil something mix it with the Timberline topsoil and the Black Kow cow manure and you will get outstanding soil for growing anywhere in the country.
What does something like that cost to fill up a bed? So let’s back up a little… you build your raised bed box. Are you digging out sod? Where are you putting this?
You’re starting to understand anywhere process? Because I’m a guy and I’m lazy. Why would I dig up sod if I don’t have to do… But besides the point we don’t want to dig up sod and expose the weeds to sunlight.
Do you put plastic on top of it?
not at all, what I am doing, I build it onto the ground or maybe an existing garden bed, remove the mulch and down to the bare soil and put the bed right on top of it.
It has to be level becasue one it
- looks ridiculous
- if there’s a heavy rain there goes the soil.
So it has to be leveled into the ground. Put it right in the lawn put the bed down,
- mark where it is
- want rails to be down in the ground
- one time you’l have to dig a mini trench
8 foot long 2 inch wide trench for each side, your basically gonna chop out a little space for the rails to drop down into the ground. I have pictures of all this on website
If the ground is not level the trench is gonna be because on high side then on the low side. So you leave the grass in the bed deep when you put ten inches of soil what does it do it
- smothers the grass
- grass decays
- worms crawl into your bed…
What happens is that over the years, now you have a happy garden with good organic matter and what happens is your roots dig down into the soil into your clay soil in the Carolinas and the 2 sort of meld together but you never woke up the weed seeds… you leave them alone and they are covered with the grass…
This is excellent and this totally meets the needs of my avatar. They live in Missoula with a regular yard in their backyard and they want to do exactly this. so this is awesome!
Your workload instead of digging and tilling which is a tremendous amount of time and work and no fun!
- workload is planting you seeds
- maybe pulling an occasional weed
I do not count harvesting as work in the garden what because you are choosing your vegetables in the produce you are harvesting.
Plus at some point you had to work to make the money to go to when store.
Of course, you and I don’t have to spend a lot of time about health benefits of growing their own vegetables because most listeners know already that fresh produce is better for you… even Organic at the store over priced at teh super market and even produce picked up at the farmer’s market….when I was first getting started this I learned that vegetables start to lose their nutritiously content as soon as they are harvested.
Green beans for instance, lose fifteen percent of their nutritional value every day.
So if you buy something from the organic store and wait 3 days before you eat it, and it might have been picked 7 days ago, the nutritional content of that bean is not very high…
The other thing is if you go to the farmers market and buy beans and let’s say you go on what Saturday and beans were picked on Friday that’s fantastic! You buy yourself a weeks worth of beans at the Farmer’s Market, yes the ones you eat on Saturday are pretty fresh, but the others are going 3, 4, 5, 6-7, 8 days old. What if you walk out into your backyard, pick what you and the family are gonna eat…cook them up eat them,
There are farmer’s markets that are open every day, but who wants to drive to the market every day and buy a every of beans etc… You talked about future gardening… this is the solution and this is a very large part about what I am doing
When I was gardening I had 2 young boys, and watching them be finicky eaters and saying “I don’t like veggies!” My son David, I hope is not listening… he didn’t want to eat any vegetables
- he was growing beets
- watching them grow
- cleaned them
- watched them
- cooked them
he watched them and loved them! He watched as he grew them. So let’s wax poetic, and think about if your a mom and you love your children and you want them to eat fresh… not from the farmer’s market or organic good store growing them in the well and you love your kids
- they also learned that it’s easy
- doesn’t take up a lot of work or space
Think about your 2 choices
your children grow up and live at your house till the age of 18, hopefully they leave after that and don’t come back…
Let’s say they bought it at the organic food store, and bought stuff every couple of days. When they get on their own, they’re 21 to start their family, they don’t have the money to spend $3.50 for an organic tomato. What do they do?
They either don’t eat organic or they buy them regular with the pesticides and so on. So none of them are fresh… So even though you had control of their diet for that 18 the first but what about the 70-80 years? They don’t know anything about growing a garden. But if you put a garden in your backyard and you get them involved and water and harvest and cook. Now they’ve seen that ta garden can be easy
years up setting home… Even if it’s just a small yard as a starter home with a good sunny balcony, common plot in an apartment… They have a small house or neighbor or a friend… their kids are going to see how easy it is to grow their own vegetables what you have done is you’ve created generations of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren who are gonna grow up and can see that a garden eating healthy fresh produce.
My listeners know if you get them started… My mom laughs when she listens watched I didn’t want to get out there… a lot of my guests said they weren’t into it when they were kids… and the other thing I have to say is it is easy to change a generation… you don’t get in a car today without a kid wearing their seat belts … they’re like “Seat belt… seat belt… ” we never thought that and besides millennials are so into healthy eating.
Yes and they don’t have the time.
Can I just ask quickly because I know your busy and I was late… was the something about naturally deterring pests? That’s a question a lot of my listeners say a lot is what do I do about bugs?
This is another thing that I learned and it’s quite fascinating…. you and I will never be able to cover all of this in 3 hours of discussion that’s where my website and books come in…
Say your website again?
Healthy plants resists pests and diseases naturally.
Everything that we are doing… We’re not doing anything artificial. We’re not taking soil and turning it up and adding synthetic fertilizers to soil because when you do that it causes the plants to grow un-naturally quickly… Those plants are weak spindly growth… that is exactly what is susceptible to pests and diseases!
Then you have things crawling on your plants and the average gardener… in the south they have a rule if it crawls it dies. You pull out the 7 dust and fumigate the whole backyard
when you use pesticides you kill the 90% of insects that are beneficial that would have eaten the 10% of the bad bugs if you’d just give them half a chance!
So when you use organic fertilizers…
they stay in the soil.
they feed the plants naturally
as compared to synthetic fertilizers are basically like sugar water… like an electric shock for your plant…. it makes them they grow fast for a couple of weeks and then they need another shock.
stay in the soil
don’t have to keep reapplying them
plants grow at a normal place
healthy steady growth
resist the bugs and diseases
Be patient. Use an organic control specifically for that bug if you don’t see it handled naturally.
Is the solution because you have healthy plants!
No pesticides, remember I’m a guy and I’m lazy… and maybe a little smart…
You’re very smart!
Why go through all the trouble of storing pesticides in your garage and mixing and clothes strong on gloves and gas masks…?
Do you want to ask? I always ask…
What was your very first gardening experience?
I grew up in Roanoke, VA. My father had a garden and I wasn’t the slightest bit interested and a funny story he always grew 12 tomato plants and as you know for a family of 4 you need 2, you don’t need 12.
When I grew up I asked, Dad, I always wanted to know, “Why do you always grow 12 tomato plants?”
And he said, “That’s easy Don, if 11 of them die we’ll still have tomatoes.”
So that’s how I grew up. My grandfather when we lived in Florida, he was also a vegetable gardener. He also had
- mangoes trees
I wasn’t interested until I grew up and got married and had my family, and I said lets grow some stuff. That is where my journey started…
So you might not know, Mike grows the vegetables and I like to grow the flowers…
Well, my rule is if I can’t eat it I don’t grow it..
But the plants we’re growing, the plants and varieties
check out all these different seeds that we have:
- purple beans
- black speckled beans
- yellow cucumbers
- golden beets
And all sorts of stuff, so the gardens were beautiful but I like to eat what I grow.
What about herbs?
Well, herbs are a whole other subject, they require different kind of soil, what I tell people is to grow them around your garden in pots.
The soil we’re growing in, we’re growing lettuce, then harvesting the lettuce and planting tomatoes, then growing the tomatoes and harvesting the tomatoes then planting lettuce… so there is this in and out and in and out.
lots of nutrition
most of the herbs
areMediterranean succulents like
do well in Mediterranean, gritty well drained low fertility soils and you can plant rosemary and it can over winter in almost all the country… don’t need to be putting it in and taking it out… but the aromatic smells that come from the herbs to deter some of the pests… it’s good to have them around the garden they just don’t need that super rich soil for it.
and they bring in the bees…
Basils… is more like a vegetable then an herb…
and basil doesn’t make it through the winter in any way shape or form. It’s very frost susceptible!
Do you have a favorite tool?
I will tell you… harvesting basket. You don’t use a lot of tools, once you built your bed… rake things around to make it pretty. I would say I do have a favorite tool I would say my favorite tool is …
You know those peach crates with wooden slats, take the wooden stake and when I do a garden plan, if you
- tell me the size
- the number of people
- and how often you eat vegetables
… I do a garden plan for you. Basically a plant by numbers, little grids and circles and stuff, and you take those slats and smooth out your soil and mark from your plan onto your soil. It tells you where your carrots are gonna grow, which variety of beans your gonna put here and there. It’s are really nice method…. laying things out things and planning it.
Nice! I smooth Richard Lewis from England and he had an app a Veg Plotter, and they could take your map and plan and download it and it keeps track of your garden over the years. I know they are gonna love you you have given us lots of golden seeds!
OK, you ready for desert and want to learn how to grow an 18 foot tomato that is 7 foot tall… tomatoes grow forever.
One of the problems that tomatoes get is they get all sorts of different interviewed. And I reAd this book once called 100 different tomato diseases and it showed the rotting fruit,and leaves and diseases but I looked through it, and it would say for each disease: Cause – insufficient air leaves!
What I learned was all these wilts and blights and diseases, when you leave plant leaves, garden leaves moist for more then 8 hours undisturbed then all the airbourne fungi and bacteria they take hold and never let go. One of the keys is for any vegetable not just tomatoes is to have dry leaves!
The short version is
- don’t water the leaves,
- water early in the day instead of late in the evening so they have time to dry out…
- air circulation
don’t plant vegetables right net to each other, give a little bit of room
I know everybody who is listening knows what a sucker is on a tomato…
A tomato has a stem and a branch in between comes in at 45º 2 little leaves that comes a sucker and it’s basically a tomato. If you let it go… your gonna end up with another tomato coming out of a tomatoes and you end up water early this big bush without air circulation!
When somebody says why huge wire cages for your tomatoes? They’re inhumane!
You want them grow up a single stake, don’t use a wimpy 5′ stake.
hallow metal tube with greenish plastic around them and texture to hold strings. Your gonna remove all the suckers… remove bottom 12 inches… remove all the suckers.. identify one sucker down at the one foot mark and let it grow too.
Your tomatoes growing.. .it’s 2-3-4 feet tall. …now your gonna let your tomatoes sucker start to grow…starting to grow flowers…once you have tomatoes there is gonna be no more productivity from those branches …. starting to grow… train up the pole …. 7 foot tomato … when it gets to the top…that first one… gets up to top …. cut off,continue harvesting, removing the branches.. and it’s being followed by one foot tomato which is eventually starting gonna a add another 6 feet… then 2nd tomato will actually put out suckers and you save one of them and starting it grow…
By the time season is over, in Carolinas the last frost is Nov 15th, you plant on April 15th in the Carolinas, so you’re gonna have basically five months of productivity. The first plant will be 7 feet tall, the second one that grew from 6 feet of growth…. the 3rd one is 5 feet, and 7+6+5= 18 feet of growth in only 7 feet of space.
There’s kind of pictures in the book right?
Definitley pictures in the book an on the website.
The first one that I wrote was
I take you through everything we just discuseed:
- tricks on interplanting,
- succession planting…
keep your lettuce growing, and just clear a spot for your tomato seedling to grow in, spring crops mixed with summer crops and once your tomatoes tall enough, your spring crop has given up the goat and you remove them. So getting the most productivity out of this garden. The other part of the No Green Thumb Required: Organic Family Gardening Made Easy … relates back to the kids that we talked about. There is
25 different micro projects to get your kids involved in the garden.
Requires even a table of contents for kids projects…learning about
insects in the garden
doing Theres with different kins of soil.
using your math to learn how much fertilizer or garden soil you need?
how many square feet of garden soil
shows you how to deal with experiments, deer, and pests
It’s also a quick read.
I love it cause it’s full of charts and graphs and it’s very kid friendly and I was gonna take it in. And one of the things I want to talk to them about is what do we cook in the cafeteria and what do we want to grow so I love the charts and graphs will help for science….
The Organic Gardener’s Cookbook: Easy Growing Tips and Delicious Recipes for Your Home-Grown Vegetables
People definitely like learning about food and my listeners download the episodes about cooking…
I had all these happy customers and they were growing so much food, like growing arugula and asparagus and didn’t know what to do with it.
I teamed up with a local chef in Charlotte her name is Megan Lambert she works with College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University and she is very much also into organic gardening and eating healthy food. So the sub title to that is Easy Growing Tips and Delicious Recipes for Your Home-Grown Vegetables
So what I did, with gardening, I took basic concepts… three things to think about with
with about cooking
having a garden
knowing what to grow
what tools you need
how to be free from recipe cards
A lot of times as a cook you look at your recipe card and there’s seven ingredients and you have 5 of them…
I agree totally!
and you drive to the store and
or not make it becasue where I am I might not be able to go to the store…
so what she was able to do, was say look! Take what you have in your cubburd, and pantry and this is how you put it together. The other piece of the 3 part puzzle
basics of cooking
how to cut up an onion
how to make a stew
how to saute
So it’s basically gardening plus cooking for beginners… so we had a contest and reached out to everybody in the country and we got recipes back for how they prepare vegetables
So we chose the best of those go in the books, reached out to our families and my girlfriend soon to be wife, who came from a Greek family so we have a recipe from her YaYa… and my mother so its a family book and Megan had her recipes…
So for basically recipe what Megan did, shat she talked about was if you don’t have this you can do this.
In the beginning we talk everywhere the basics of having a garden
how to set up the garden
how to build a about bed
how to plant
once your spring crops have matured, and your harvesting your spring crops, we say
what are you gonna cook from what you are harvesting spring garden?
how do you prepare for your summer crops?
Then how are you gonna cook those?
what problems will ou have in the summer
these are the summer crops
how to get started
how to grow the garden
how to cook what you just grew
The two can be bought together, but both stand alone
ways to have not only a productive garden but a healthy kitchen and how to get kids involved and creating a tradition for your family that’s gonna go on for generations!
So true… my mom started us off … my brother and I! Do you have garden that you really wanted to say that I forgot? or might have missed?
How do we connect with you?
I’m in Charlotte, NC – my name is Don Rosenberg, but best thing is go to Instant Organic Garden …
check out the Instant Organic Garden website… learn about the Charlotte beds. I have fabric raised beds, I can teach you about. most of that is raised Information is most open to the public…some is published material in my books so you have to be a member of the website or buy one of the books to get access to that… but really there’s a lot of very useful info articles, interviews, videos etc…
Look forward look forward to having your listeners check it out, happy gardening!
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