• Mar 26

Repairing a Girdled Tree            
by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

It’s a nice spring day, the snow has all melted, temps are nearing 50 degrees, the sun is out, the birds are singing and you decide to take a walk around the yard to see if any spring bulbs are poking through the soil.  You are in a happy mood with a little “spring” in your step and then you spot it….stopping you dead in your tracks….some little vermin has girdled your prized Japanese Maple tree.  The beautiful little tree you have babied for years now is in jeopardy of dying.  Well, there is a chance that such damage to a tree can be repaired through a process called bridge-grafting.

First, girdling is a term used when a ring or partial ring of bark has been removed from a tree.  The severity of injury or eventual death depends upon how much of the bark was removed.  The phloem layer of tissue that lies just below the bark is responsible for carrying food produced in the leaves to the roots.  Without this food the roots will eventually die and cease sending water and minerals to the leaves.  There is some stored food in the roots which will allow the roots to function for a while but repair should be done as soon as possible.

Bridge-grafting provides a “bridge” across the damaged area so that the transport of nutrients can be partially restored.  If all goes well, the leaves will manufacture enough food that will allow the tree to grow new tissue that will grow over the wound and thus restore the tree to its normal processes.

The wound will need to be prepared for the grafting process by removing any sharp edges or loose bark with a clean, sterile knife.  Next you will need to remove some pencil to thumb-sized (in diameter, depending on the size of the tree) healthy branches from the same tree and one to three inches longer than the width of the wound. These graft pieces are called scions. It is important to place the flow of the graft in the right direction over the wound therefore when cutting the branch into pieces place a mark denoting the top of each piece.  Trim one side of each end to flatten it so that it will lay flat against the trunk of the tree.  Cut the other side of each end so that you form a wedge shape.

Next, starting from the wound edge, you will make two parallel cuts, the width of the scion, into the bark forming a flap, one at the top of the wound and one at the bottom of the wound, that the scions will fit under.  When lifting the flap of bark, do it gently so that it will not break off.  Fasten the scion in place with a brad if needed. Place scions about 1 ½ inches apart.  It is recommended to cover the grafted area with grafting wax to prevent them from drying out.  Check scions throughout the growing season and remove any buds that may sprout.   The edges of the scion and the area under the flap of bark contain thin layers of phloem and cambium and if they fuse successfully the flow of food to the roots will be reestablished and hopefully save the tree.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Purdue University Master Gardener, Purdue Extension LaGrange County

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  • Mar 20

Garden Tools
by Karen Weiland, Purdue University Master Gardener,
Purdue ExtensionLaGrange County

No matter how large or small your garden, there are certain things you should know about garden tools.  First, do not skimp on quality.  Generally, the more pricey tools will last longer unless you accidentally throw them out with the weeds.  Believe me, at that point you will dig through that pile of weeds longer than you might if you had purchased an inexpensive tool.  Another thing you should do when making a purchase is to try the tool on for size.  Scope the tool isle out and then when no one else is around take that shovel you have had your eye on and pretend you are digging a hole to plant that new hydrangea.  Mimic the actions you may perform in the garden.  Is it too heavy?  Is the handle too long or too big for your hand?  Make sure the tool is comfortable for you.  To make work easier on the wrists, look for D shaped handles on short-shafted tools like digging forks or shovels.  Ash and hickory are durable woods used for handles.  Steer clear of painted handles.  Paint may be used to disguise inferior wood. Some tools have fiberglass handles which will have a bit of flexibility. Here are some quality terms to look for when making a purchase; single forged, solid socket, carbon steel, stainless steel, tempered and epoxy coated.  Ergonomic tools usually have a curve in the shaft of the handle which makes you use a different muscle group that you might not normally use.

Hand tools – there are many other job specific tools on the market, but these are the basics.   Shears are used for cutting back plants such as clumps of perennials.  Spring action scissors are good for deadheading, pruning delicate plants and cutting twine.  Hand pruners are used for cutting branches less than ¾ inch thick and cutting thicker, larger flowers.  A gardeners’ knife has a saw blade that cuts roots and scores and cuts through root balls of perennials when dividing.  A hand trowel or spade comes in handy when weeding, planting bulbs, and planting small plants.

Long handled tools –  you will need a bow rake ( I call this a stone rake) for leveling soil for planting, spreading materials such as mulch, gravel or compost and gathering up heavy debris. A leaf rake is used of course for raking leaves and gathering light debris.  A slender transplant spade works great for digging holes in the confined areas of a bed.  For digging those larger holes to plant trees and shrubs or to move loose materials, like soil or compost, you will need a round headed shovel.  A digging fork helps in mixing amendments into the soil and lifts bulbs and perennials for dividing and transplanting.  A long handled pruner (with a telescoping handle is even better) cuts branches larger than ¾ inch.  You may want to consider purchasing tools with a ratcheting mechanism, which multiplies your strength and makes cutting much easier.

Gloves are just as important as a shovel or a rake when it comes to gardening.    Depending on the job, I like to use everything from sheer latex to medium weight cotton to heavy leather gloves.  Your cuticles will thank you.  Something else I would like to mention is arm protectors.  These are elasticized sleeves, made from a heavy, durable canvas or duck that you wear when you prune brambly shrubs. Last, but not least, is a good, sturdy apron to protect your body and hold small items in its’ pockets and a good pair of waterproof footwear.

Take the time to take care of your tools.  Oil metal blades, shovels and rakes with some linseed oil to prevent rust.  Linseed oil can also be used on wood handles and shafts.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Purdue University Master Gardener, Purdue Extension LaGrange County

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  • Mar 12

The Dirt On Dirt by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener      

A good potting soil is the basis for a great container garden.  In order to know what soil mix is best for the type of plants you are growing, you should know the basics of what soil does.

Soil needs to hold moisture and nutrients around the roots of the plant and provide enough air so those roots will be able to breathe and not rot.  Soil also acts as an anchor for the root system.

Soilless or artificial media is made up of various ingredients such as peat, vermiculite, ground coconut hulls and bark.  Each manufacturing company has its own recipe depending upon what type of plant is being grown.  For instance succulents and perennials prefer a mix that is well draining where a tropical plant will prefer a mix that holds moisture.

Never use straight garden soil no matter how good it may look or how well plants grow in your garden.  You can however make your own potting mix by using one part garden soil, one part peat moss and one part perlite.  Keep in mind that by using your own mix it may contain insects, weed seeds and disease organisms.  Store bought soilless media are usually free of these things.     A soil based mix is going to be heavier than a soilless mix which may factor into what to use in a hanging basket.   On the other hand a soil based mix will not dry out as fast and will hold onto nutrients longer than its counterpart.   To make a soilless mix go farther you can mix 25 percent soil with the soilless mix.  When using a soilless mix, moisten it first by placing the mix in a tub, fluff the mix and add water to dampen it.

It is possible to reuse a soilless mix from year to year as long as there were no major disease issues with the plants that were growing in it.  As time passes, the organic materials that the mix is made up from will break down and decompose thus losing its drainage and aeration properties.   It then can be dumped into the compost pile or garden.

Filling very large containers can become quite costly.   Here’s my Frugal Fanny tip- fill the bottom of the container with non-biodegradable packing peanuts, empty water bottles, milk jugs, or aluminum cans.  Place a sheet of landscape fabric over the filler material, then fill the container with your growing medium of choice to within 1 inch or so of the top of the container.   Leaving an inch or better at the top will enable the water to pool in the pot and not run off when watering.  Using a filler will also decrease the weight of your container.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Feb 23

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Any gardener worth his or her salt knows the many benefits of a good compost.  But what about this stuff called compost tea?  Compost tea is not something you will want to be sipping from your tea cup on a relaxing afternoon.  It is something you can use on your plants as a foliar application or as a soil drench.   It’s a way to give your plants a healthy boost and is a wonderful soil tonic.

Compost tea is defined as a liquid extract of compost that contains plant growth compounds and beneficial microorganisms.  It is basically made by soaking, steeping or brewing finished compost in a container of water.

While there are a variety of processing methods to be had, the most simplified method is to soak a burlap bag of finished compost in a 5-gallon bucket of water for a designated length of time.  It is best to use de-chlorinated water to maintain microbial life.  To de-chlorinate water simply store it in an open container for several hours, the chlorine will naturally dissipate.

The most recent concept of aerated compost tea is made by incorporating aeration technology to create optimum levels of oxygen for growth and reproduction of those wonderful beneficial microorganisms.   A simple way to introduce air would be to use several 12’ lengths of aquarium hose attached to a multi-stemmed gang valve hung on the rim of a 5-gallon bucket.  Make sure the hoses reach the bottom of the bucket.  Add finished compost making sure the ends of the hoses are covered.  Add water to within 6” of the top of the bucket.  Add 1 oz. of unsulfured molasses to provide a food source for the beneficial microorganisms.  Turn on the aquarium pump and let this mixture brew for a couple of days, giving it a few stirs now and then.  When finished brewing, strain the mixture using cheesecloth. The tea should smell sweet and earthly.  If it doesn’t, do not use it on your plants.  Pour it onto your compost pile.  Use it right away, as the oxygen will be used up and the tea will turn anaerobic, thus killing the beneficial bacteria.

The issue of food safety needs to be taken in to account when using compost tea.  Gardeners should follow the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board’s compost tea task force (on the web at www.ams.usda.gov/nosb/meetings/ComostTeaTaskForceFinalReport.pdf).  More information about compost teas can be found at www.extension.oregonstate.edu

As always Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Purdue University Master Gardener, Purdue Extension LaGrange County

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  • Feb 7

Winter Pruning Chores

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Like most people, I have had enough of this winter weather and am itching to get outdoors and get my hands in some dirt or on some tools. Late winter or early spring, before new growth appears, are considered the best times to prune most plants.  During this time a plants wounds will heal quickly without threat of disease or insect infestation.

Landscape plants can be pruned to reduce or maintain their size, to remove undesirable growth, to remove dead or damaged branches and to rejuvenate older plants to produce more vigorous foliage, flowers and fruits.  In some cases it is necessary to prune to prevent damage to property.

There are proper techniques to follow when pruning.  Plants that bloom in early spring such as forsythia, pussy willow and crabapple will need to be pruned later in the spring after their blooms fade.  Such early bloomers produce their buds on last year’s wood, so pruning before blossoming will remove many potential blooms.

While it is recommended that a tree or shrub be allowed to develop its natural shape as much as possible, there are times that weak branches or branches that have formed at a poor angle to the trunk need to be cut back.  Thin this type of growth by removing the branch at its point of origin, leaving a small stub of about ½ to 1 inch.  Pruning too close to the trunk opens the plant up to extensive decay.  Look for crossed branches that rub or interfere with each other and those that form narrow crotches.   Pruning such branches will prevent future issues.

Heading back is a technique used to reduce size.  Shorten branches by cutting back to a healthy side bud or branch that is growing in the direction you want growth to develop.  Make cuts about ½ inch from the bud or branch.

Evergreen trees are not pruned by the same methods as most other plants.  You can encourage denser trees by pinching the “candles” of new growth that emerge in late spring.  Pinch off half of a candle when it reaches a length of about 2 inches.  Using a sharp knife or your fingers will not damage the surrounding needles.

To encourage fast healing of wounds, use sharp equipment that will give you a clean, smooth cut.  Avoid tearing the bark, especially on larger lings.  Make a slant cut as this will prevent water from collecting in the cut and will promote quicker healing.  Clean blades with alcohol between each cut when working with a diseased plant.  Finish up with another dose of alcohol and then oil the blade to prevent rusting.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Master Gardener, Purdue Extension, LaGrange County

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  • Feb 4

Using Manure in the Garden
by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Gardeners have long used manure from various farm animals to fertilize and enrich their soil.  However, precautions with manure applications need to be followed as it could be more detrimental than beneficial.

There are a number of pathogens such as E coli and salmonella that can be transferred to humans from animal manure.   Some animal manure can also contain parasites like roundworms and tapeworms.  If fresh manure is applied to a garden there may be a high risk of causing illness to anyone consuming fresh produce from that garden.

Non-composted manure can be harmful to growing plants by being too high in available nitrogen and thus burning the roots.  Poultry manure is particularly high in ammonia and readily burns if it is over-applied.  Laying hen manure can also raise soil pH due to the calcium supplements in their diet.  Feedlot manure can be high in salts if a salt additive is used in their diet.  Fresh manure may be applied to the garden in the fall after harvest giving it a chance to decompose as much as possible before the garden will be planted the following spring.

It is much safer to only apply well composted manure to an active garden bed.  Manure should be composed for a minimum of 6 months to reduce the risk of contamination.   The composting process may kill weed seeds and pathogens if the pile heats to above 155 degrees F and the pile was turned to heat-process all of it.  Composted manure is easier to haul because of the reduction in the weight of water and it has fewer odors.  Now that would be a big plus!

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue Cooperative Extension  Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Purdue University Master Gardener, Purdue Extension LaGrange County

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  • Jan 24

by Karen Weiland

Purdue Master Gardener

Pesticides

Unfortunately the term pesticide is often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides.  The term actually refers to a number of substances used to control pests, such as herbicides, rodentacides, and fungicides, just to name a few. A pest is defined as a living organism that occurs where it is not wanted and can not only be an insect, it can also refer such things as a weed, animal, fungus, bacteria or virus.  Some might consider dandelions in their lawn a weed, however if dandelions are grown in a garden for their greens it is not a weed for it has been purposely planted there.

Different pesticides attack pests in different ways at different times of their life cycle.  Some pesticides must only touch the pest to be effective where others must be swallowed.  Systemic insecticides are absorbed by the root system into the plant to be protected.  When an insect feeds on this plant it takes in the insecticide designed to kill it.  Other methods of liquid application are by a ready-to use hand-held trigger pump spray or a compressed air sprayer which will require precise mixing of chemicals.  If you mix your own pesticides, keep a separate set of mixing cups and spoons for that purpose only.  Some pesticides, such as slug and snail bait, come in a granular form.

The package label will list the targeted pests.  Some pesticides are labeled as “broad spectrum” killing a range of pests but also killing non-target and maybe beneficial organisms.  Others are labeled as “selective” killing only a few related organisms.

By law, certain kinds of information must appear on a pesticide label.   People who use them have the responsibility to read, understand and use pesticides according to the label directions.  When directions are not followed correctly, plants can be injured, pests may not be controlled, health may be impaired and improper use of pesticides can contribute to soil, air and water pollution.

When trying to eliminate a pest, always consider whether or not a pesticide is really necessary, what the least toxic one would be to take care of the problem and if a non-chemical solution might be just as effective.  Bacillus thuringiensis, often abbreviated as Bt, is a naturally occurring bacteria that makes pests sick when they eat it.  Some pesticides derived from plants include neem, pyrethrum and rotenone.  They can be a contact or stomach poison or will disrupt certain metabolic processes.

To minimize the dangers of pesticides, use them with the utmost caution and respect.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available oline at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Purdue University Master Gardener, Purdue Extension, LaGrange County

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  • Jan 17

by Karen Weiland

Purdue Master Gardener

Now that the Holidays are past us it’s time to take the Christmas tree down.  If you have used a real tree take the time to give it another use.  Real trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch or other purposes.

Most Counties have free drop-off locations to recycle your tree.  First remove all of the decorating debris and then when dropping off the tree do not leave it in the plastic bag if you are using one.  The composting facilities will take live(no artificial) trees, garland and wreath greenery (no metal or wire) 7 days a week during daylight hours.  Some of the composting facilities in the area are;  LaGrange Co., across from Lakeland High School,  Steuben Co., Angola, adjacent to the 4-H Fairgrounds, DeKalb Co., northwest of Auburn on Co. Rd. 36A and in Noble Co.,  Kendallville, on West Wayne St.  If you have any questions for the composting facility personnel you can reach them at 1-800-777-5462 or visit their website at www.niswmd.org .  In Sturgis, MI the composting facility is located at the City Landfill on Fawn River Rd. between Lakeview and Nottawa Sts.

I like to erect my tree in the backyard near the bird feeder.  It provides a sheltered place for birds to wait for their turn at the feeder.  Decorate the tree with strung popcorn and cranberries.  Arrange slices of apples, oranges and leftover breads in the tree.  Pine cones slathered with peanut butter then rolled in birdseed and placed on the tree provides a tasty treat for our feathered friends.  I like to nestle these treats to the inside of the tree where they are less likely to be covered in snow.

Another recycling idea is to sink the tree into a private pond.  They make an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.  In shallow wetlands, trees can act as barriers to sand and soil erosion.

The boughs can be cut off and used like a blanket on top of plants that may be marginally hardy in our area or that are susceptible to windburn.  With so many options there is no reason not to recycle your tree.

Happy New Year and Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

Karen Weiland, Master Gardener, Purdue Extension LaGrange County

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  • Dec 26

Welcome to the Blue Gate Garden Inn!

Shipshewana has a new hotel … sort of.

The 154 room, three story hotel used to be an indoor water park. The park is now closed, but the family still won’t be disappointed, because the spread-out-and-have-fun space is still there, along with a family arcade.

Family arcade inside the Blue Gate Garden Inn

Say hello to the Blue Gate Garden Inn, the newest addition to Riegsecker Marketplace… as in Blue Gate Theater, Blue Gate Restaurant, Blue Gate Bakery, Shipshewana Furniture Co., Riegsecker Gift Shops, and Riegsecker Carriage.

This is just one of the many decorations inside the Blue Gate Garden Inn

Mel Riegsecker is committed to growing Shipshewana and keeping this family destination a sought-out place to make memories, and the Blue Gate Garden Inn is one more display of that commitment. Currently renovations are under way in some parts of the hotel, but those renovations are not disrupting a great family time.

The hotel itself includes family suites, a fitness center, large meeting rooms, and a welcoming entry.

Another amenity includes a full hot breakfast buffet. The hotel is also located beside the Shipshewana Event Center, a bigger venue than the Blue Gate Theater for those bigger named performers.

You'll feel like you've stepped inside a winter wonderland!

Because the hotel is part of Riegsecker Marketplace, hotel packages are available that include:

• Overnight Accommodations

• A welcome basket from the Blue Gate Bakery

• Full hot buffet-style breakfast

• Family-style meal for two at the Blue Gate Restaurant

• Relaxing carriage ride through downtown Shipshewana

• 2 tickets to a hit musical at the Blue Gate Theater

Wouldn’t it be nice to come to make one phone call and have all the arrangements made for you that includes all the above?

You can! Contact the hotel hospitality at 260.768.4725.

Decorated for Christmas, this is one of the lovely hallways inside Blue Gate Garden Inn.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up to receive all our blogs in your e mail inbox for free by visiting www.VisitShipshewana.org, clicking on the blog link, and submitting your e mail address on our secure site.

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  • Dec 20

by Karen Weiland

Purdue Master Gardener

Protecting Plants During Winter

I know many of you are not thinking much about gardening this time of year, but winter weather has the potential to cause much damage to landscape plants. Here are a few steps that can be taken to prevent or minimize winter damage.

Branches that normally have some bend, can and will break in the winter if they are frozen and get too much of a snow load on them.  Foundation plants are often damaged from ice and snow falling off of roofs onto their frozen branches.  Multi-stemmed evergreens, such as arborvitae, can be wrapped with twine or rope to prevent limb breakage.  This will help the stems support each other.  After heavy snow has accumulated, shake the snow from the branches or brush it off with a broom.  Leave snow at the base of the plant to insulate the roots.

When clearing driveways or sidewalks, take care not to throw heavy snow onto the bushes nearby.   When choosing your ice melting chemical, take into consideration the effect it will have on nearby plants.

There is a lot of green underneath that snow just waiting to bust out.  The more you can do to protect it now, the better it will look come spring.  Ahhh spring!  But first, here’s a little something I adapted from a poem penned by Dr. Leonard Perry, University of
Vermont.

“T’was The Night Before Christmas”

(Gardener Style)

T’was the night before Christmas, and under the snow,

Lay dormant perennials, just waiting to grow,

The berries were nestled, all snug in their beds,

While visions of fertilizer (organic of course), danced in their heads,

Evergreen branches, all covered with snow,

Provided shelter for birds, from the predators below,

Inside the house, Poinsettias abounded,

Wreaths, boughs and hollies decorated every corner you rounded,

While viewing my garden, this cold, quiet night,

What I spied next, was a gardener’s delight,

A right jolly old man, dressed in fur red and white,

Pulled up in a sleigh and began to alight,

He winked as he said, “I’m a gardener myself”,

And began to leave gifts that were packed by his elf,

Useful gifts like a pruner and mower,

Along with a rain gauge, a hat and seed sower,

To protect our skin there was hand cream and gloves,

And all kinds of catnip, which the kitties will love,

The birds will enjoy their heated bath and bird house,

While the sticky trap will help me catch that darn mouse,

As the jolly old man boarded his sleigh,

I was sad to see him going away,

But just as the moon lit his face, he did call,

“Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Gardening to all”!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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