How To Grow Garlic Hydroponically – The Definite Guideline 2018 Edition
There are quite a number of reasons why most people today are choosing to grow garlic. This food ingredient is so captivating - and rich in nutrients that it is a constant flavor addition in stir-fries, curries, pasta, pizza toppings, and also in meat seasoning. Besides, there are also some surprising health benefits which come with the use of garlic.
Similarly, there are also quite a number of reasons why you should grow garlic. Some of these include:
- Garlic is a perfect blood purifier as it helps in cleansing your body from unwanted toxins.
- Another health benefit is that when mixed with hot stews or soups, garlic goes on to cure flu and common colds.
- It prevents heart diseases, regulates glucose levels in the body, and helps in maintaining good blood pressure levels.
- Extracts of garlic are also used in mouthwash products to remove bacteria which often cause cavity and other tooth and mouth diseases.
- Surprisingly, it helps in the prevention of cancer by strengthening the body’s immunity.
The above few reasons are enough to compel you to start growing your own gorgeous crop of garlic. However, there is only one question left to answer. How to grow garlic?
We have taken this opportunity to enlighten you, in a broad and clear manner, on how to plant this fantastic food ingredient. Below is an outline of all that we are going to cover. From defining garlic to looking at the challenges facing it today, this article will try to answer those burning questions on all matters dealing with the growing of garlic.
CHAPTER 1: Introduction
How much do you know concerning the garlic crop? Shockingly, there happens to be a good number of people who don’t know this plant. However, those who do are unable to classify it into its correct food group. Is it a herb, spice, vegetable, or could it be something else?
It is one of the most crucial ingredients while cooking because of its rich aroma and the unique flavor it adds to every dish. Before we move on to the procedure of planting, it’s first important to answer the question, ‘what is garlic?’ Also, it’s necessary that as a farmer, you get to learn the different varieties of garlic. It’s only through this that you will be able to choose the precise type of garlic to plant in your garden.
What is Garlic?
According to Wikipedia, garlic comes from a scientific name, Allium Sativum, and it is of an onion species known as Allium. Just like onions, leeks, and shallots, garlic is also part of the lily family. It grows beneath the surface of the earth as a bulb. From these bulbs, expect to find long, extended shoots which sprout out from the top. When it comes to the roots, they grow and extend downwards.
So how do you identify a bulb of garlic? They are often covered in a paper-like skin layer which can neither be cooked nor eaten! The bulb or otherwise known as the head then has separate sections known as cloves. These garlic cloves come in similar papery skins with pale yellowish flesh within which is very edible and is, therefore, used in cooking.
When eaten raw, garlic has a pungent flavor which is rather strong. In that case, we recommend that before eating your garlic, cook it in some way. You may choose to roast or fry it, but the most important factor here is to reduce the flavor to considerable amounts.
Garlic is mostly used to add flavor in food, rather than being used as the main course. However, we have discovered that roasted garlic can be consumed as a condiment or even as a spread!
How to Cook Using Garlic
Using garlic to add flavor and taste to your food is not only wise but also healthy. Most people are choosing to plant garlic today because they have found out that it’s a perfect additional component to any dish. You may choose to add it to sautéed recipes, roasted, baked, braised, soups or stews, sausages, meatballs and a variety of other foodstuffs.
Similar to its cousin the onion, when you cut it, it removes a Sulphur-based enzyme. This chemical is stored in tiny cells inside the garlic. What then happens is that when it is grated, crushed or sliced, these cells are destroyed releasing a strong compound from within.
What sets it apart from the onion is one key factor. The enzyme in the onion is produced in a way that allows it to spread through the air, making it very irritating to the eyes. However, in garlic, this enzyme is only transferred through direct contact!
What Are The Different Varieties Of Garlic?
As is common with most crops, garlic also comes in different varieties. As a farmer looking to grow garlic, we would highly recommend that you take as much time as possible in going through this list. Through this, you will go on to plant the best type of garlic for yourself and for your family. Let us get right into it then!
1. Softneck Garlic
The soft neck type of garlic is arguably the most common. You are likely to find it in many farms as well as in most grocery stores. Why the name soft neck? This comes from its many layers of parchment that extend through the whole bulb. Also, it creates a soft, pliable stalk that’s best for braiding!
The soft neck garlic is a beautiful crop with a creamy, white color on its paper-like skin. Surrounding the core part of the garlic are many layers of cloves. The cloves which are located towards the outer part are normally the longest. However, as you move closer to the bulb, they become shorter. Lastly, it’s interesting to note that among all soft neck garlic, only two are mostly abundant!
2. Silverskin Garlic
This type of garlic is rather easy to grow. It also has a powerful flavor and should be stored after it’s completely dry. The results would mean that it will end up lasting for close to a year under the best available conditions. Have you found some types of garlic which resemble roses? If so, you will probably be shocked to know that these are the silverskin garlic which normally come with a rose-tinted parchment!
3. Artichoke Garlic
The difference between the artichoke garlic and the silverskin garlic is based on two factors, the flavor and the number of cloves. The artichoke has a stronger and milder flavor while the silverskin garlic contains more cloves. We were also able to discover that despite the small number of cloves in the artichoke garlic, it has a stronger flavor than the silverskin garlic.
When it comes to appearance, this type of garlic may from time to time have purple streaks or spots. However, this particular characteristic presents a slight problem - a majority of people tend to confuse this variety of garlic to that of a hard neck type that also comes with purple colorings.
4. Hardneck Garlic
The difference between the hard neck varieties and the soft neck garlic is that the former lacks a flexible stalk. When you grow this variety of garlic, you are likely to find a protruding stalk, one or two inches away from the top most part of the bulb. During growth, it produces scapes from the central part of its woody stalk.
What are scapes? They are mostly thin, green extensions growing from the stalk, forming a three hundred and sixty-degree curl with a small swelling, five to six inches from its end point.
Within these swellings is what many people like to call flowers. These are several tiny cloves that are genetically linked to the parent bulb underneath the ground. Eventually, the scapes wither off and the small cloves fall on the ground.There are many types of hard neck garlic. This includes the following:
- Rocambole - this type of hard neck garlic has a rich, captivating taste. It is easy to peel with only one set of cloves surrounding the woody stalk. It lasts for close to six months.
- Porcelain - Porcelain garlic bears close similarities with the rocambole when it comes to flavor. It, however, has four large cloves covered in a rather smooth, white, paper-like sheath. Although the porcelain garlic has got very large cloves, you should not confuse it with the elephant garlic! Storage of this type of garlic lasts for close to eight months.
- Purple stripe - this hard neck type of garlic is widely known for making the tasty, baked garlic. There are many types of the purple stripe garlic. In all these varieties, expect to find bright purple spots on their paper-like skins or sheaths. It stores well for a period lasting six months.
5. Elephant Garlic
It may appear as a good planting option and similarly, a good buy too. This is false! This type of garlic has the worst kind of flavor and in fact, it tastes more like a leek. Besides, it also has a weak flavor, in comparison with the rest, and its healing elements are greatly reduced as compared to other varieties of garlic. If you intend on using elephant garlic in your food, consider using it not as a flavor-filled herb, but as a vegetable.
6. The Brightest Bulb
After you’ve decided on the best variety of garlic which suits your needs, it’s also necessary to consider the following points so as to find that right bulb:
- Choose the driest bulbs
- Pick the bulbs with firm and plump cloves
- Try as much as possible to collect as many paper-like sheaths as possible
The following are the features to avoid when selecting cloves:
- Crumbly or soft cloves
- The cloves which are also spongy and shriveled
- Cloves or bulbs with green shoots as these are definitely past their best!
- Lastly, is avoiding using pre-minced garlic which is very weak in flavor.
Now that you now know the various varieties of garlic, you may now go on to choose your favorite. Why not plant it yourself?
CHAPTER 2: The Most Common Procedure for Growing Garlic
Do you know where garlic comes from? You may be purchasing it in either a local grocery store or even in a supermarket, but do you know how it’s grown? A majority of people today are choosing to plant their own garlic. Why so? Well, the reason is pretty simple, to avoid buildup of toxins through chemicals. You may find that most large scale farmers are choosing to use growth inhibitors and products for extended shelf life which is quite unhealthy to the end consumer.
Therefore, it’s important to learn how to plant your own garlic. Surprisingly, the process is ridiculously very easy! Let us now look at some of the commonly used steps of growing a fantastic crop of garlic.
Step 1: Preparing To Grow Garlic
1. Choosing the Right Spot and Preparing the Soil
The garlic plant requires a lot of sunlight. However, we have found that it may also fair well in shade environments. Despite this, take great caution to not subject your garlic to too much shade as this may bring undesirable results. Dig the soil over and over until it is crumbly. Of course here, loam soil is the best!
Other important considerations are:
- Before you add any nutrients to the soil, such as fertilizers, first make sure you already know which nutrients are present. To do so, all you need is to reach out to your local county extension department or office and request for a sampling kit.
- Avoid using clay-like soils while planting garlic. This is because they have poor drainage.
- Another key point to note while preparing the soil is the use of organic manure. Before, planting the garlic, we advise that you first take the initiative of adding compost manure so as to boost the level of nutrients in the soil. A good example of manure is adding warm castings to your compost heap.
2. Sourcing the Fresh Garlic
Garlic is grown by first planting the cloves. These are normally called seeds. To get started, all you need is to purchase fresh garlic. You may buy from a store, a farm stand or even at the local farmers market. Here, it’s essential to pick out fresh and good quality garlic bulbs. We recommend that you buy organic garlic because it contains little to no chemicals.
Below are some points and issues to consider while sourcing your garlic:
- Buy fresh bulbs of garlic and make sure that the cloves are large. By all means, avoid garlic that has turned soft.
- With each clove, you will end up having one garlic plant. Therefore, always consider this key factor while choosing the number of cloves.
- If you happen to have some growing garlic at home, this is a great option too!
- Visit garlic nurseries in case of any inquiries or when you want to buy a specific type of garlic.
- Make use of mail order catalogs and internet-based seed stores. Why? Many of these shops or stores provide different kinds of garlic and also come with specific instructions when it comes to growing this gorgeous crop.
Step 2: Planting the Garlic
1. Remove The Cloves From a Fresh Head of Garlic
While undertaking this procedure, be careful to not destroy the cloves at the spot where they come into contact with the garlic plate. Note here that if the base is destroyed, this marks the end of your garlic and it will not grow!
With this in mind, here is what you should do:
First, plant the larger breed of cloves. The main reason behind this is that the smaller cloves normally occupy a huge chunk of your planting bed, but they end up producing even smaller bulbs.
2. Place Each Clove In the Soil
The process here is rather easy. Simply, place the tips facing upwards and plant the cloves close to two inches (five centimeters) deep in the soil. Remember that the cloves should be well spaced just as it is in the growing of tomatoes.
3. Use Mulch To Cover The Planted Cloves
Some of the suitable toppings include dry leaves, hay, straw, compost, manure that is well rotted, and lastly, properly decayed grass clippings.
4. Use Fertilizer
Garlic requires a holistic addition of fertilizer during this period of planting. Also, we have discovered that you may choose to fertilize again during the spring season. However, this is if you had initially planted your garlic in the fall. Additionally, if you had previously planted your crop of garlic in the spring, then apply fertilizer again in the fall.
Step 3: Caring for the Garlic
1. Watering Regularly
The newly planted garlic requires moist environments so as to enable proper growth and development of the roots. The following are some of the key points to consider while watering your garlic plantation:
In the case of drought or scarcity of rain, water deeply once in a week. Remember that garlic hates moist soil so, if your home area is receiving a good amount of rainfall, there is no need for an irrigation system.
As the season goes on, reduce the rate at which your water your garlic. The main reason behind this is because garlic requires a hot, dry summer for the proper maturity of the bulbs.
2. Get Rid of Pests
Mice, insects and other creatures love eating garlic. Others even go a step further of creating nests in between the garlic plants.Below is a list of pests to avoid:
- Aphids - these insects always seem to enjoy flower buds and garlic leaves.
- Mice and other small creatures. In the case of mice, we recommend that you use plastic mulch or a good landscaping fabric.
Step 4: Harvesting the Garlic
1. Eat Some Scapes
The more the garlic plants keep on growing, the longer the green stalks get. Pluck off some few of these scapes and if you want to, you can go on and eat them! The young and tender shoot makes one of the best parts of the scapes.
However, caution is advised:
- Constant plucking of scapes may destroy the bulbs of garlic. Therefore, do not eat the scapes of all garlic plants
- To prevent your hands from smelling like garlic all week, make sure you use gloves while plucking out the scapes
2. Identify When The Garlic is Ready for Harvesting
When is the right time to harvest garlic? Garlic bulbs are ready for harvesting once you feel the separate cloves in the bulb and when the leaves turn brown or yellow.
Some important points to note at this stage are:
- Once the scapes start drying, it’s essential to harvest the garlic to prevent the ‘shattering’ of the head.
- Start the harvesting exercise towards the end of summer. In most places, we have found that harvesting even extends into autumn.
- It’s interesting to also note that in some warm climatic conditions, garlic is normally harvested earlier.
3. Loosen Each Area With a Shovel or Garden Folk
Using a fork, pull out the bulbs from the soil. However, while conducting the process, avoid stabbing the underground bulbs.
Other important considerations are:
- Do not be too vigorous during digging as garlic is rather fragile and bruises easily.
- The plants should be stored complete and unwashed. Hung them up to ‘cure’ for a period lasting two weeks.
- In addition, do not wash the garlic as this normally extends the curing process, meaning that it will eventually rot. Also, uncured garlic does not rot a faster rate in the pantry.
Step 5: Storing the Garlic
1. Store in a Cool, Dry Place at Home
When it comes to storing garlic, there are quite a number of processes that you need to be aware of. Once you choose to store your crop of garlic indoors, consider using a garlic keeper. This is a device which is mostly made from the art of pottery. The benefit of using this technique is that individual cloves can be plucked out when necessary.
2. Storing in Vinegar
You may choose to store garlic either in oil or in vinegar. Despite this, we found that to prevent the buildup of bacteria, it’s much better to keep your garlic in the fridge and consume it quickly!
3. Storing by Making a Garlic Plait or Braid
The dried leaves can be stored and used to create garlic plaits or braids. By doing so, you may then go on to hang them in your kitchen or pantry. This is not only useful but also quite decorative!
CHAPTER 3: Different Ways on How to Grow Garlic
The garlic plant is a mysterious yet intriguing crop to grow. After looking at the most common procedure of growing garlic, we can now go on and look at some of the other methods of how to grow garlic.
Here, we will discuss the following:
- Growing garlic indoors
- Growing garlic in containers
- Growing garlic in a hydroponic system or in water
- Growing garlic from their seeds
1. Growing Garlic Indoors
Let us start off by saying this, you can indeed grow garlic indoors. However, there is a slight problem. Here, do not expect to get the same head of garlic as you would receive once you plant your crop of garlic in the garden. What you are sure to get are garlic greens or sprouts.
Besides, these greens are not similar to the green garlic, they are normally immature bulbs of garlic and their green stalks. These stalks are quite edible and can be applied as a garnish or used also in seasoning. Their flavor is also different from that of fresh garlic. They have a gentler and lighter flavor!
Points to note when growing garlic indoors:
- Plant three or even four cloves in a pot filled with soil.
- Place them on a window which receives maximum sunlight and water them gently.
- Harvest the garlic within seven to ten days!
If your plan is to have garlic greens every time, then you will be required to continue with the planting of new garlic cloves. The main reason behind this is to make sure that not all cloves are exhausted after growing all the greens.
Lastly, so as to grow a wholesome head of garlic, we advise that you plant them outdoors. Why so? Well, like other bulbs, for example, onion bulbs, they require cold winter’s dormancy. With this, they are able to produce flowers or scapes and also come up with a fresh head of garlic.
2. Growing Garlic in Containers
When growing garlic in containers, there are quite a number of factors to bear in mind. It is important that you first identify the right pot or container to use. Pick one that’s close to eighteen inches deep and twelve inches wide. There is no need to buy a container for the planting of garlic. Simply use wooden crates and half barrels!
Garlic is a delicate plant that is prone to a lot of fungal, root diseases. In this case, it is necessary to choose the soil that has the best drainage system. We have also found that regular garden soil should not be used in these containers. This is because when it comes to winter, it has a tendency of becoming rather soggy.
Therefore, we recommend that you use a good quality soil-less potting mixture. These mixes normally contain elements such as coconut fibers, compost, and peat. After getting your potting mix, put it in the container to about two inches of the rim.
Once it comes to the actual planning process, here is are some points highlighting what you should do:
- Break the heads of garlic but be very careful not to remove the paper-like wrappers covering the cloves.
- Plant using the larger cloves and use the smaller once for cooking.
- Plant your garlic at least two inches from the rim of the container, and space the bulbs five inches apart.
- Using a piece of bamboo, make three inches deep, planting holes.Plant one clove per hole. Remember to place the flat side facing down and the pointy end facing up.
- Fill the hole with soil and ensure that the sharp end of the clove (tip) is at least one inch below the surface of the earth.
- The garlic will germinate but then when it comes to winter, it will die back. However, this should not alarm you as it will most certainly re-sprout when spring arrives.
3. Growing Garlic in Hydroponics or in Water
The garlic plant can also be easily grown through hydroponics. Just like other plants, there are some few tricks and disadvantages of growing garlic at home. For one, the plant has a strong pungent smell. When grown outdoors, the smell is able to disappear into the air and atmosphere but in indoor house settings, it permeates into every room.
To reduce the price or other additional costs, we recommend using the best aquatic chillers for your hydroponic garlic garden!
Procedure for growing garlic in hydroponics:
- Choose the best garlic cloves. You may opt to buy from the local farmers market or visit a garlic nursery. Either way, ensures that you have the best!
- Plant the large cloves, leaving the paper like wrapping around them.
- Plant your garlic in a perlite vermiculite mix or even coco coir.
- Leave the tip facing upwards. As for the roots, they will germinate from the other end.
- Place them just beneath the earth’s surface and make sure that you do not leave the tip exposed.Water them gently and lightly.
- Plant your crop of garlic in ideal temperate conditions ranging from forty to sixty degrees Fahrenheit.
- It should take about forty-five to sixty days for these plants to germinate.
You may also decide to plant your garlic in a glass of water and place it in a cool and dry location in your home. Here, what you do is make sure that half of the cloves are submerged in water until the roots begin to germinate. After this, you may now place them in your hydroponic system.
Do not keep the cloves submerged in water for long periods (after the appearance of the roots) as this may lead to rot!
4. Growing Garlic from Seeds
You may be asking yourself if you can grow garlic from seeds. The process of growing garlic is rather easy but there is no clearly defined way of doing so while using the seeds of garlic. The most common and widely used method is planting garlic through their cloves.
Garlic does not normally produce seeds. In those rare occasions when it does, the seeds tend to resemble the small, black onion seeds. So why does the garlic plant not produce seeds? The answer here is rather interesting. In many instances, the garlic flowers fade way before producing any seeds.
Garlic plants that are grown using garlic seed propagation do not really germinate and if they do, they end up taking years before they produce any garlic.
CHAPTER 4: Understanding the Problems Facing Your Garlic Plantation
What Are the Problems Facing Your Garlic Plantation?
The beds of garlic normally go through a fair amount of problems. If you have land that has previously felt the pinch of pests and diseases, you may not be able to plant your garlic until many years of continued crop rotation.In addition, if either nematodes or white rot have caused disastrous problems to garlic or any allium crops such as onions, the garden should be left to other crops, for example, growing butter lettuce or other vegetables.
1. White Rot
For any garlic crop, the most problematic and serious disease is the white rot. It goes by the scientific name (Sclerotium cepivorum). It is a fungal disease that destroys all allium crops including garlic and onions. The leaves of garlic which are infected with white rot normally turn yellow, partially die back and wilt. When it comes to the roots, they normally rot, allowing the plant to be uprooted easily.
On the surface, a fungal mycelium, mostly white in color starts to develop, producing a number of blacks and round sclerotia. You may notice the growth of white rot from the middle of the season all the way to the time of harvest.
Second from the white rot is another nasty garlic problem that always seems to go unnoticed. Well, this is until now! When you’re growing your garlic, watch out for the nematode or otherwise known as ditylenchus dip sack. They are microscopic, wormlike pests which are about 0.9 to 1.8mm long. It’s maybe because of this that they are able to live for long in their hosts without being noticed.
Effects of nematodes on your garlic plants:
- The nematodes normally live and reproduce within the garlic plants. They go on to eat parts of the leaves and stems.
- Even though the growth of the garlic is not significantly affected, not much can be said about the bulbs. Their quality is greatly minimized because of the breakdown of tissues, discoloration, and deformation.
- The population of nematodes increases constantly over the years without any visible damage. This makes it quite dangerous!
- Nematodes can also destroy an entire crop of healthy garlic within a year.
The most common insect pests for garlic plants are the onion thrips.
So what do they do to your plants?
- They wrap themselves around the leaves to obtain sap. Through this, they end up causing slow growth and also bulb production.
- Huge numbers of thrips may cause the plants to wilt and eventually die.
How to Avoid and Solve These Problems
1. Treatment for White Rot
There quite a number of ways on how to treat the spread of white rot.
- Continuously pull out the garlic plants that appear diseased in the garden. This will prevent the spread of the disease to the healthy plants.
- Another effective control practice is careful scrutiny of the plants during the early stages of the disease infection. This will help you control the nematodes before they multiply to uncontrollable numbers.
- Exercise strict sanitation practices and free, disease planting materials.
- Apply garlic-scented elements to the unplanted plants.
2. Managing the Growth of Nematodes
To fight these disease-causing pests, some steps need to be followed:
- Getting clean materials for planting is the arguably the first step in the fight to eliminate nematodes.
- Use sources that holistically screen the field for nematodes. This is because garlic produces cloves and seeds for crop propagation. As a result, they may end up carrying nematodes.
3. How to Control the Spread of Thrips in the Garden
Thrips are quite difficult to control and manage. However, through the following processes, you can now go on to effectively get rid of these disastrous insects:
- Biological control practices - for example releasing thrips natural enemies such as larvae belonging to wasps.
- Cultural control - control weeds that may serve as hosts for pest thrips and avoid planting your garlic near weedy areas or grasslands.
- Pruning - while planting a few garlic plants in the garden, prune and destroy the injured and infested terminals.
- Row covers prevent entry of thrips and other insect pests from entering in your garlic plantation.
- Use insecticides that do not leave added residues. This is very effective on thrips which tend to feed openly on the crop of garlic.
CHAPTER 5: Conclusion
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Conditions Necessary for Planting Garlic?
- Garlic requires the maximum amount of sunlight for the better production of larger and bigger bulbs.
- Garlic requires temperatures of forty to sixty degrees Fahrenheit.
- The soil should be well drained and rich in nutrients. Here, consider using organic manure.
- Water consistently in cases of little to no rain and reduce the watering when the rain starts pouring.
- Take care of pests and diseases such as nematodes, thrips, and white rot!
How Long Does Garlic Take To Grow?
When grown under the best conditions of planting and climate, garlic takes a period of nine months before it reaches full maturity. It also grows tremendously well once it receives around six hours of maximum sunlight daily. Therefore, as a farmer looking to plant garlic, we recommend that you grow this crop in the fall. Make sure that the garlic is on the ground three to eight weeks before the first cold autumn season begins.
Can I Grow Garlic Close to a Black Walnut Tree?
To answer this question, we first need to know what chemicals or toxins are produced by walnut trees. We found that these trees produce a chemical known as ‘juglone’ which hinders the growth of many plants. It is, therefore, not advisable to grow your garlic plantation near these killer trees.
Can I Grow Garlic in Planting Bags?
If you have limited space in your garden, you could also decide to grow your garlic in grow bags. Simply fill each bag with eighteen to twenty individual garlic cloves towards the end of the fall. Place then in an area that receives a good amount of sunlight and by the next summer, you will have harvested a bright crop of garlic!
Does Garlic Grow Well indoors?
Provided that there is enough sunlight, garlic is sure to grow well in your home. All you need to do is plant it in an isolated room away from the main house because of its pungent, choking smell. You may also use containers such as pots to grow the plant. Other techniques include using grow or planting bags and use of hydroponic systems.
We hope that this article has shed some light on the important factors you need to consider during the planting of garlic. We have also gone ahead to show you some of the key problems facing the growth of garlic today and how to avoid them. You may note that some of these challenges are common even when growing vegetables such as radishes or butter lettuce.
Here now is a brief recap of some of the key issues mentioned above:
- While planting, remove some cloves from a fresh garlic head.
- Plant the garlic cloves with the tip facing up and the other side facing down.
- Apply mulch to the planted garlic cloves.
- Use fertilizer and organic manure to the plantation.
- In case there is scarcity of rain, constantly irrigate your garlic plantation.
- Get rid of pests and diseases in your garden.
- Harvest the garlic after a period of nine months when the leaves turn brown or yellow.
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