Food Perfectionist

From Seed to Harvest: The Essential Guide to Growing Your Own Herb Garden

Growing your own herbs can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Not only do herbs add flavor and aroma to your dishes, but they also offer numerous health benefits.

From the ease of growing herbs to the process of selecting and getting started, this article will guide you through the essentials of herb gardening. Whether you have a green thumb or are new to gardening, there is something in here for everyone.

to Growing Herbs

Ease of growing herbs

Growing herbs is an activity that anybody can do, regardless of their level of gardening experience. Even if you have limited space, a few pots on a windowsill or balcony can provide you with a bountiful herb garden.

Unlike delicate flowers and finicky vegetables, herbs are hardy plants that require minimal maintenance. They are known for their ability to thrive in various conditions, making them the perfect choice for beginner gardeners.

Additionally, growing herbs does not require much equipment. Some basic gardening tools, pots or a small garden bed, soil, and water are all you need to get started.

With just a little effort, you can reap the rewards of a flourishing herb garden.

Selecting herbs and getting started

When selecting herbs for your garden, it is important to consider both your personal preferences and the conditions necessary for their growth. Some herbs, such as basil and mint, thrive in full sun, while others, like parsley and dill, can handle partial shade.

The best herbs to grow are those that you enjoy using in your cooking. Think about the flavors and aromas you love, as well as the cuisines you tend to cook.

For example, rosemary is a versatile herb that adds a lovely fragrance to Italian dishes, while cilantro is a staple in Mexican and Asian cuisines. To get started, sow herb seeds or transplant seedlings into your chosen garden spot or pots.

Ensure that the soil is well-drained and enriched with organic matter. Water the herbs regularly, but avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot.

As your herbs grow, you can start harvesting them by snipping off a few leaves or sprigs at a time. However, like any other plants, herbs are susceptible to pests and diseases.

Keep an eye out for common herb garden pests like aphids, slugs, and caterpillars. To prevent and manage these issues, you can use organic pest control methods or companion planting techniques.

Key Herbs to Grow at Home

Rosemary

Rosemary is a versatile herb that deserves a place in every herb garden. With its distinct aroma and flavor, it complements a wide range of dishes, from roasted meats to bread and desserts.

This hardy herb thrives in full sun and prefers well-drained, sandy soil. Its height can vary from 2 to 6 feet, depending on the variety you choose.

When planting rosemary, make sure to give each seedling enough space to grow and spread. One of the great things about rosemary is its survival skills.

It can withstand periods of drought and is relatively pest-resistant. With minimal care and maintenance, you can enjoy fresh rosemary year-round.

Basil

Basil is an annual herb often associated with Italian cuisine. Its distinctive aroma and flavor make it a popular choice for pasta sauces, pesto, and salads.

This bushy herb thrives during the summer growing season and requires full sun to flourish. It prefers loamy soil that drains well.

When planting basil, ensure that the soil is moist but not waterlogged.

Basil plants can grow to a height of 1 to 2 feet.

Regular pruning will promote bushier growth and prevent the plant from flowering too soon. Light and soil quality are crucial factors for the successful growth of basil.

Insufficient light can result in leggy plants, while poor soil can lead to stunted growth. Ensure that your basil plants have access to sufficient sunlight and nutrient-rich soil.

Conclusion

Growing your own herbs is a wonderful way to enhance your cooking skills and bring fresh flavors to your dishes. With the ease of growing herbs and the variety of options available, there is no reason not to start your own herb garden.

Remember to consider the specific conditions required for each herb and enjoy the process of watching your garden grow. So whether you choose rosemary for Italian dishes or basil for summery salads, the rewards of herb gardening are within your reach.

Thyme

English Thyme

When it comes to thyme, one popular variety is English thyme. This small, perennial herb is known for its ability to withstand punishment and thrive under various conditions.

Its versatility in cooking makes it a must-have herb in any kitchen garden. English thyme prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade as well.

It thrives in sandy soil that is well-drained, making it an excellent choice for those with fast-draining garden beds or containers. This herb can withstand dry conditions, making it a low-maintenance addition to any garden.

There are several varieties of English thyme to choose from, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics. Common English thyme is the most widely available and is a great all-purpose thyme.

It has a slightly sweet and earthy taste, perfect for flavoring both savory and sweet dishes. Lemon-scented thyme adds a citrusy aroma to dishes and works well in marinades, dressings, and teas.

French thyme has a strong, slightly minty flavor and pairs well with meats and vegetables. When planting English thyme, ensure that the soil is well-prepared by adding compost or organic matter.

Dig a small hole for each seedling and gently place them in, ensuring that the soil is firmly packed around the roots. Thyme should be planted with enough space between each seedling to allow for proper airflow and growth.

Lemon Thyme

Another delightful variation of thyme to consider is lemon thyme. Like English thyme, lemon thyme is a small, perennial herb that can withstand punishment.

However, what sets it apart is its aromatic smell, with a strong citrusy fragrance that adds a refreshing twist to dishes. Lemon thyme can be a great addition to both cooking and baking.

Its unique clover scent and lemony flavor make it ideal for seasoning fish, poultry, and vegetables. This herb can also be used to infuse oils, vinegars, and even cocktails for a burst of fresh flavor.

Similar to English thyme, lemon thyme prefers sandy soil that drains well. It thrives in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Planning your garden with the proper placement to ensure it meets the sunlight requirements of this herb will result in healthy growth and abundant flavor. When selecting lemon thyme for your garden, consider the many varieties available.

Golden lemon thyme offers a splash of color with its yellow-gold foliage, adding visual interest to your garden bed or container. Silver lemon thyme has a more subtle flavor, making it a great choice for those who prefer a milder taste.

Common lemon thyme, with its bright green leaves and intense lemon aroma, is a classic choice for culinary adventures.

Mint

Varieties of Mint

Mint is a versatile herb that comes in many varieties, each with its distinct flavor and scent. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate various growing conditions, making it an excellent choice for both beginner and experienced gardeners alike.

One thing to note about mint is its spreading nature. Mint plants tend to spread vigorously, often taking over garden beds if not contained.

Because of this, it is recommended to grow mint separately or in containers to prevent it from overpowering other herbs or plants in your garden. There are numerous varieties of mint to choose from, including peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, and more.

Peppermint is popular for its strong and refreshing flavor, perfect for teas, cocktails, and desserts. Spearmint has a slightly milder flavor, making it a great choice for savory dishes, mint juleps, and mojitos.

Chocolate mint, as the name suggests, has a delightful hint of chocolate flavor, making it a unique addition to desserts and hot beverages. Mint is not just limited to the kitchen; it also has other uses.

It can be used as a ground cover, filling in empty spaces in your garden beds with its lush green foliage. Additionally, mint leaves can be dried and used in potpourri or air fresheners, providing a natural and pleasant scent to your home.

Mint is also beneficial in companion planting, as its strong odor can help repel pests like ants and rats.

Growing Mint

Mint is well-known for its hardiness and ability to thrive under different conditions. It can be grown in both full sun and shade, although it tends to favor partial shade in hotter climates.

Mint prefers loamy soil that is moist but well-drained, making sure to avoid waterlogged conditions. When planting mint, it is recommended to start with young seedlings or small mint plants from a nursery.

Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the plant and gently place it in, ensuring that the crown of the mint is level with or slightly above the soil surface. Firmly pack the soil around the base of the plant and water thoroughly.

Mint plants can grow to varying heights depending on the variety. On average, they reach about 1 to 3 feet tall.

Regularly pinching back the stems and harvesting the leaves will promote bushier growth and prevent the plant from becoming too leggy. One of the reasons mint is favored by many gardeners is its survival skills.

Mint is relatively tolerant of neglect and can bounce back from being trimmed or even accidentally stepped on. However, to ensure healthy growth and prevent any invasive spreading, it is still recommended to keep an eye on your mint plants and regularly prune any unruly runners.

In conclusion, thyme and mint are two versatile herbs that deserve a spot in any herb garden. Whether you go for English thyme or lemon thyme, the flavors and aromas they offer will elevate your cooking to new heights.

Similarly, the many varieties of mint, such as peppermint and spearmint, provide endless possibilities in both the kitchen and garden. With proper care and attention, you can enjoy the rewards of these hardy and flavorful herbs.

Parsley

Culinary and health benefits of parsley

Parsley is a versatile herb that offers both culinary and health benefits. It is rich in vitamins A and C, as well as iron, making it a nutritious addition to your meals.

This biennial herb is known for its distinctive foliage, with flat or curly leaves that add a touch of freshness to any dish. Parsley belongs to the same family as dill and offers a similar bright, herbaceous flavor.

It is a staple herb in many cuisines and is used in a variety of dishes such as soups, salads, sauces, and even green smoothies. The vibrant green color and mild taste of parsley make it an excellent choice for garnishing and adding a pop of color to your culinary creations.

When planting parsley, ensure that you choose a sunny location with well-drained, fertile soil. Parsley can tolerate partial shade, but it thrives best in full sun.

Before planting, prepare the soil by loosening it and removing any weeds or debris. Parsley prefers soil that is slightly acidic to neutral with good drainage and moderate to high nitrogen levels.

Adding compost or organic matter to the soil can help improve its fertility and drainage. Parsley grows to a height of about 8 to 12 inches, with a spread of 6 to 9 inches.

When planting parsley, space the seedlings or seeds about 6 to 8 inches apart to allow for proper growth and airflow. Water the plants regularly, making sure to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

Growing parsley

Growing parsley is a rewarding experience, and with proper care and attention, you can have a bountiful supply of fresh herbs at your fingertips. Parsley prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade, especially in hotter climates.

It thrives in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Before planting parsley, choose a location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.

The soil should be well-drained, meaning it should not hold excess water or become waterlogged. If the soil is heavy or clay-like, consider amending it with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve drainage.

When planting parsley, sow the seeds or transplant seedlings into the prepared soil. If sowing seeds, sprinkle them thinly over the soil and cover them lightly with a layer of soil or compost.

Keep the soil consistently moist until the seeds germinate, which usually takes 2 to 3 weeks. If transplanting seedlings, make sure they have at least 3 to 4 true leaves before transplanting them into their permanent spot.

Parsley plants can grow to a height of 8 to 12 inches, so provide enough space between each plant to allow for proper growth and airflow. Aim for about 6 to 8 inches of spacing between plants.

Regularly pinch back any flowering stems to encourage the plant to focus its energy on leaf production rather than flowering. In terms of feeding, parsley does not require excessive fertilization.

However, since it is a relatively heavy feeder, it can benefit from a light application of balanced organic fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season. This will provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and vibrant foliage.

Maintaining consistent moisture is crucial for parsley to thrive. Water the plants regularly, ensuring that the soil remains evenly moist.

Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot and other problems. Mulching around the base of the plants can help retain moisture and suppress weed growth.

In conclusion, parsley is a versatile herb that not only adds flavor and freshness to dishes but also offers numerous health benefits. Whether you choose curly or flat-leaf parsley, its culinary uses and nutritional value make it a must-have herb in any kitchen garden.

With the right growing conditions, such as full sun, well-drained soil, and proper spacing, you can enjoy a healthy and abundant parsley harvest throughout the growing season.

Tarragon

French tarragon vs Russian tarragon

Tarragon is an herb known for its explosive taste and aromatic smell, making it a favorite choice in cooking. There are two primary varieties of tarragon: French tarragon and Russian tarragon.

While they may look similar, they differ significantly in flavor and culinary uses. French tarragon is the most sought-after variety due to its complex and assertive taste.

It has a distinct anise-like flavor with notes of pepper and licorice, adding depth and character to dishes. French tarragon is a perennial herb and is often used as a key ingredient in classic French cuisine.

It pairs well with poultry, fish, vegetables, and even eggs, enhancing their flavors with its unique taste profile. On the other hand, Russian tarragon, also known as wild tarragon, has a much milder flavor compared to its French counterpart.

Its taste is closer to grass or hay, lacking the distinctive and robust flavor of French tarragon. Russian tarragon is a perennial herb as well, but it is less commonly used in cooking due to its less pronounced taste.

When growing tarragon, it’s important to note that Russian tarragon is easier to find and cultivate, as it can grow from seed. French tarragon, on the other hand, does not produce viable seeds and is typically propagated through cuttings or root divisions.

This is because French tarragon is sterile and does not produce seeds that can grow into true French tarragon plants. As a result, it’s best to source French tarragon from a reputable nursery or obtain a cutting from an established plant.

Growing tarragon

Growing tarragon requires specific conditions to ensure its successful growth and flavor development. Tarragon prefers full sun, although it can tolerate partial shade as well.

It thrives in well-drained soil, particularly sandy or loamy soil that is not too heavy or compacted. Before planting tarragon, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or debris and loosening it to improve drainage.

Tarragon plants should be placed in soil that is at least 12 inches deep to accommodate their extensive root system. Space the plants approximately 18 to 24 inches apart to allow for proper airflow and growth.

Water your tarragon plants regularly, ensuring that the soil remains evenly moist. However, avoid overwatering, as tarragon is susceptible to root rot in waterlogged conditions.

Mulching around the base of the plants can help retain moisture and deter weed growth. One important aspect of growing tarragon is feeding the plants.

Tarragon benefits from regular feeding with organic fertilizer or compost. During the growing season, apply a balanced organic fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and flavorful leaves.

As tarragon is a perennial herb, it will continue to grow year after year. It is recommended to cut back the plant in late fall or early spring to encourage new growth and maintain its shape.

Regular harvesting of the leaves will also promote bushier growth and ensure a continuous supply of fresh tarragon for your culinary creations. In conclusion, tarragon is a versatile herb that brings a unique flavor and aroma to many dishes.

Whether you choose French tarragon for its assertive taste or Russian tarragon for its milder flavor, both varieties have their place in the herb garden. With proper care, including full sun, well-drained soil, and regular feeding, you can enjoy the benefits of tarragon in your cooking and enhance the flavors of your favorite dishes.

Oregano

Versatility of oregano

Oregano is a herb that brings a burst of flavor and aroma to various dishes, particularly in Italian cuisine. Known for its distinct taste and smell, oregano offers a range of variations that can elevate your cooking to new heights.

This perennial herb is hardy and well-suited to Mediterranean growth conditions. One notable feature of oregano is its small white or rose/purple flowers that bloom during the summer months.

These delicate flowers not only add beauty to your garden but also attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. When it comes to taste and smell, oregano offers a slightly bitter and bold flavor with a hint of sweetness.

It has a warm and earthy aroma that can transport you to the sunny hillsides of the Mediterranean. Oregano pairs wonderfully with tomato-based dishes, pasta sauces, grilled vegetables, and even marinades for meats and poultry.

There are several variations of oregano to choose from, each with its unique characteristics. Traditional Greek oregano, also known as Origanum vulgare, is a popular choice with a strong and robust flavor.

Italian oregano, or Origanum onites, offers a milder taste and is often used in Italian recipes. Marjoram, a close relative of oregano, has a sweeter taste and is commonly used in many culinary dishes as well.

Growing oregano

When it comes to growing oregano, providing the right conditions is key to its successful growth and flavor development. Oregano thrives in full sun, so choose a location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day.

This will ensure proper growth and encourage the herb to develop its distinct aroma and flavor. In terms of soil, oregano prefers fertile soil that is well-drained.

Sandy and dry soil conditions are well-suited for oregano, mimicking the natural habitat of this Mediterranean herb. Maintaining a soil pH of 6.0 to 8.0 is ideal for healthy growth.

When planting oregano, space the seedlings or seeds about 12 to 18 inches apart to allow for proper airflow and growth. Oregano can reach a height of 12 to 24 inches, so providing enough space between plants is crucial.

Water the plants regularly, ensuring that the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mulching around the base of the plants can help retain moisture and deter weed growth.

Feeding oregano is not typically necessary, as this herb does not require excessive fertilization. However, a light application of balanced organic fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season can provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and flavorful leaves.

To maintain the health and productivity of oregano plants, it is recommended to prune them regularly. This helps prevent flowering and encourages the growth of new foliage.

It is best to cut back the plants by one-third to one-half of their height, ensuring that there are still leaves left to support ongoing growth.

Coriander

Coriander vs Cilantro

Coriander and cilantro are two terms often used interchangeably to refer to the same herb, but they actually represent different parts of the same plant. Coriander typically refers to the seeds of the plant, while cilantro refers to the leaves and stems.

Coriander seeds are widely used in Indian cooking, offering a versatile addition to various dishes. They have a unique garlicky taste with sweet and citrusy undertones, adding depth and complexity to curries, spice blends, and pickled vegetables.

Coriander seeds can be ground into a powder or used whole to enhance the flavor profile of your favorite recipes. On the other hand, cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley or dhaniya, offers a distinct flavor profile of its own.

The leaves have a refreshing and pungent taste with an aroma that is often described as a mix of citrus, parsley, and a hint of earthiness. Cilantro is commonly used in Mexican, Indian, and Southeast Asian cuisines, adding a unique and vibrant flavor to salsas, chutneys, salads, and soups.

Growing Coriander

Coriander is a fast-growing herb that is relatively easy to grow from seed. It thrives in both full sun and partial shade, making it a versatile option for various growing conditions.

Coriander prefers rich and fertile soil that drains well, providing it with the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. When planting coriander, sow the seeds directly into the soil, as they do not transplant well.

Prepare the soil by removing any weeds or debris and loosening it to improve drainage. Sow the seeds about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and space them about 3 to 6 inches apart.

Water the seeds gently to ensure they are well-settled in the soil. Coriander plants can grow to a height of about 1 to 2 feet.

As they grow, ensure that the soil remains consistently moist, as coriander prefers slightly damp soil conditions. However, avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot.

Mulching around the base of the plants can help retain moisture and suppress weed growth. Feeding coriander with a balanced organic fertilizer during the growing season can help promote healthy growth and flavorful leaves.

However, coriander is not a heavy feeder, so avoid excessive fertilization. Harvesting coriander leaves and seeds can be done at different stages of growth.

The leaves can be harvested when they reach a reasonable size, typically before the plant flowers. The seeds can be harvested when they turn a light brown color and start to dry on the plant.

Gently crush the dried seeds to release their flavor and use them in your favorite recipes. In conclusion, coriander is a versatile herb that offers unique flavors and aromas both in its leaf and seed form.

Whether you prefer the garlicky taste of coriander seeds or the refreshing zest of cilantro leaves, both variations bring a depth of flavor to your culinary creations. With proper care, including full sun, fertile soil, and regular watering, you can enjoy the benefits of growing coriander in your herb garden.

Chives

Unique characteristics of chives

Chives are an herb known for their distinct garlicky taste and onion-like aroma. These perennials are hardy and can withstand various environmental conditions, making them a reliable addition to any herb garden.

Chives are also known for their beautiful purple flowers which bloom in early to mid-summer, attracting bees and butterflies. One unique characteristic of chives is their ability to grow in unlikely places.

They are known to thrive in cracks and crevices, adding a touch of greenery and vibrancy to unexpected areas. This hardiness makes chives an excellent option for vertical gardening or for planting in between pavers in your garden walkway.

In culinary applications, chives are widely used as a garnish and flavor enhancer. The slender, hollow leaves of chives can be finely chopped and sprinkled over dishes to add a pop of color and mild onion flavor.

They are particularly popular in creamy sauces, egg dishes, salads, and soups.

Growing chives

Growing chives is a relatively straightforward process that requires warmth, sunlight, and well-drained, fertile soil. Chives prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade, making them a versatile herb to grow in a variety of locations.

When starting chives from seeds, sow them indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last frost date in your area. You can then transplant the seedlings outdoors once the soil has warmed up and there is no longer a risk of frost.

Alternatively, you can purchase young chive plants from nurseries and transplant them directly into your garden. When planting chives, ensure that they are spaced about 6-12 inches apart to allow for proper growth and airflow.

Chives can reach a height of 12-24 inches, so providing adequate space is important. Additionally, chives will spread over time, so it’s best to give them room to grow.

Chives prefer rich and fertile soil that drains well. Before planting, amend the soil with compost or well-rotted organic matter to improve its nutrient content and drainage.

Regular watering is crucial for the health of chives, but be careful not to overwater, as they can rot in waterlogged soil. Feeding chives with a balanced organic fertilizer in early spring can provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and flavorful leaves.

Follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging for the appropriate dosage for herbs. Additionally, remove any flower heads that form to encourage the plant to direct its energy towards producing foliage rather than setting seeds.

Chives are generally hardy and do not require much protection from weather conditions. However, in regions with harsh winters, providing a layer of mulch around the plants can offer some insulation and help protect the roots.

Mulching also helps retain moisture and suppress weed growth.

Equipment and Set-up

Location and space considerations

Deciding between indoor and outdoor herb gardening depends on the space available and the specific herbs you want to grow. Indoor gardening is a great option for those with limited outdoor space or harsh climates.

Determine how much space you have and select herbs that can thrive in your chosen location. If you choose to grow herbs indoors, consider the size of the pots needed for each herb.

Some herbs, like rosemary or mint, have extensive root systems and require larger pots. Others, like chives or thyme, can do well in smaller containers.

Ensure that there is enough space for each plant to grow and that the pots have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Light is a critical factor for indoor herb gardening.

Most herbs require at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. If your indoor space does not provide sufficient light, consider using supplemental grow lights to ensure the plants receive the necessary light for healthy growth.

Position the grow lights a few inches above the plants and adjust the height as the plants grow. For outdoor herb gardening, consider the spreading nature of certain herbs, such as mint.

To prevent invasive growth, it is often best to grow spreading herbs in separate containers or designate specific areas in the garden bed where they can be controlled. This will help prevent other herbs from being overshadowed or choked out.

Equipment for indoor growing

To set up a successful indoor herb garden, you will need a few key tools and supplies. Firstly, select pots or containers that are suitable for the size of the herb you plan to grow.

Choose containers with drainage holes to prevent overwatering and root rot. Next, use a high-quality compost or potting mix specifically formulated for container gardening.

This will provide the necessary nutrients and proper drainage for healthy herb growth. You can also add sand or perlite to the potting mix to improve drainage.

Supplemental grow lights are essential for indoor herb gardening, especially in spaces with limited natural light. LED grow lights are energy-efficient and provide the full spectrum of light needed for plant growth.

Position the lights above the herbs and adjust the height as the plants grow to maintain proper distance and light intensity. A watering can with a narrow spout is useful for gently watering indoor herbs without over-saturating the soil.

Remember to adjust watering frequency based on the moisture needs of each herb. Lastly, consider using a balanced organic fertilizer formulated specifically for herbs.

Follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging for dosage and application guidelines.

Equipment for outdoor growing

For outdoor herb gardening, similar basics are needed, including pots or containers suitable for the size and spread of each herb. Ensure that the containers have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging and root rot.

Use a high-quality compost or potting mix enriched with organic matter when planting herbs outdoors. This will provide the necessary nutrients and improve soil fertility and drainage.

Since outdoor herb plants are exposed to natural sunlight, supplemental grow lights are not necessary. However, ensure that the herbs are placed in an area that receives the required amount of sunlight per day.

A watering can or a hose with a nozzle attachment is essential for watering outdoor herbs. Water the plants deeply but avoid overwatering.

Check the moisture levels of the soil regularly and adjust watering frequency based on plant needs and weather conditions. Organic fertilizers, such as compost or well-rotted manure, can be used to feed outdoor herb plants.

Apply the fertilizer according to the instructions on the packaging, usually in early spring or during the growing season.

Equipment for garden soil outdoor growing

When growing herbs directly in garden soil, preparation is key for successful growth. Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into the soil before planting.

This will improve soil fertility and drainage. Similar to container gardening, water outdoor herb plants deeply but avoid overwatering.

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