Introduction: 28 Upcycles for the Garden

I have been gardening for about 8 years. Over the years I have upcycled many things into my garden, some for practical reasons, some to save money, some to be environmentally responsible and some just for fun.

In this Instructable I will demonstrate how to upcycle 28 (or more) everyday household items for gardening.

Step 1: Styrofoam Cups With Dome Lids

Styrofoam cups with dome lids, like the kind coffee or bubble tea comes in, can be upcycled as micro green houses for rooting cuttings, transplanting seedlings and seed starting.

Just wash well.

For cuttings; fill cup with sand or light potting soil, poke small hole in bottom for drainage, dip cutting in rooting hormone powder, stick stem in soil, put dome cap on and place in cool, shady to semi-shady spot.

For seed starting; fill with seed starting mix, add seeds, water lightly, place dome on top.  If dome has hole in center, cover with tape, remove after seedlings get first true leaves. Set in warm (not hot) spot.

For transplanting seedlings; poke small hole in bottom for drainage, fill cups with light weight potting soil, poke a hole into soil with pencil, add seedling, damp soil lightly around seedling, water. Add dome and set in semi-shaded to partially sunny spot.

Check regularly to make sure the soil is not drying out if dome is the kind with a hole in the center.

Step 2: Styrofoam Mushroom Containers

Styrofoam containers, the kind mushrooms come in, make great trays for seed starting or seedlings.

Just wash, fill with seed starting mix, sprinkle in some seeds (these are good for starting basil) cover with a plastic bag or put in green house. Mist as needed.

Step 3: Styrofoam Egg Carton Rooting Boats

I use Styrofoam egg cartons for rooting "boats." What I mean is that I use the egg cartons to float plant cuttings in water until they develop roots. After they root, I can pot them up and have lots of free plants.

Here's how:
a. remove lid from egg carton, save.
b. poke 1 hole in each egg cup and several in lid using a pencil or pen
c. place cuttings in holes -- inside cups and lid (lid should be upside down)
d. float in plastic bin
e. watch for mosquitoes! replace water every few days.
f.  when roots are dangling, then cut away Styrofoam (don't try to pull plants out or you will damage roots) and lift out plants gently.
g. pot up in good quality potting soil.

Step 4: Milk Cartons and Ice Cream Take Outs

Wash empty milk cartons, cut off the tops, poke several holes in the bottom for drainage.  Fill with potting soil and use for larger seedlings or transplants. The milk cartons are lightweight and water proof.

Use the left over top section of milk cartons to make plant markers. Cut into 1 inch wide strips and add plant name with ink pen.  Add to pot.

The ice cream/frozen yogurt cups are much like the Styrofoam cups with dome lids but not as insulated. They are shorter and wider however, which makes them good for starting seeds.

Step 5: Plastic Bags for Mini-Greenhouses

Upcycle clear plastic bags; after planting your cutting, seeds or tender seedling, use small sticks or pencils or chop sticks as posts, cover with plastic bag (think tent) and you have a mini-greenhouse.

Step 6: Crib Upcycle 1

After my granddaughter's crib got too small and too rickity for her to use (and she graduated to a regular bed) I disassembled it. I used the various parts in my garden. The crib mattress springs are now a trellis on the fence.

I just tacked the springs to the fence with a couple nails and it has stayed and worked beautifully. Last year I used the trellis to grow luffa sponge vines.

Step 7: Crib Upcycle II

Our AC condenser unit blasts out hot air which is very harsh on any plants nearby so I used one crib side to make a wind break.

I painted the side rail blue, covered the inside with a grass rug I got at the dollar store but wasn't using. The metal rods which are attached to the rails were perfect to stake the rail to the ground in front of the AC unit.

Step 8: Old T-Shirts or Pantyhose or Yarn Bits

Old t-shirts or pantyhose or yarn bits are perfect for tying tomato plants to stakes or lashing any plant that needs to be held in place. Ties need to be soft and stretchy.

To make ties:
Cut t-shirt into strips
Use knee high hose intact or cut pantyhose in pieces
Use left over yarn bits at least 8 inches long

Step 9: Old Fence Pieces Up-cycle

Use old fencing, a trashcan and sisal rope to make a large container for growing garden veggies or whatever you want.

Here's how:
a. dig a hole the circumference of the trashcan, about 4-5 inches deep.
b. cut out bottom of trashcan or poke several large holes for drainage. (this would be a good up-cycle for a leaky trashcan)
c.  sink trashcan into hole
d.  place fence pieces around trashcan (get a helper for this part)
e.  lash the fencing to the trashcan with rope. (go around several times)
f.   lash a second row
g.  secure rope(s) with knots and wire
h.  pack dirt around base of trashcan
h.  fill trashcan with good soil.
i.  plant up

Step 10: Old Trash Cans

I used two old trash can to make compost bins. They work really well because the lids lock down which keeps animals out and stink in. This method of composting is easy, cheap and doable in almost any size yard.

Here's how:
a. dig a hole the circumference of the trashcan, at least 6 inches deep
b. drill holes every few inches all over sides of can (these are to let in necessary oxygen for the composting process)
c. cut bottom out of trashcan
d. sink can into hole, open bottom first
e. fill with layers of browns and greens-- news paper, old leaves, grass cuttings, and kitchen scraps,etc
f. add a little garden soil for microbes
g. spray with water hose
h. snap on lid
i.  turn (or stir) with a garden fork every few days

When the compost process is complete it will look like black soil and have a sweet/minty smell, like fresh earth. Just remove can lid, lift whole can up and the contents will spill out onto the ground. Shovel contents onto a tarp for shifting out big chunks of roots, sticks, etc.

Place empty trashcan back into hole. If using more than one bin, this will become the "New" compost bin.

Usually the bottom layer of compost is more finished than the top layer--if the top isn't done "cooking" just scoop it up and put in the top of the other can. Or you can add it back to the same can, making it now be the bottom, either way is fine.



Step 11: Wine Corks

Upcycle wine corks to dress up cheap flower pots and make them look fancy.

Here's how:
a. cut corks in half, length-wise
b. hot glue to pot, filling in like a puzzle
 
I used a cheap (ugly) plastic pot.

Step 12: Sisal Rope Pieces

If you have some short pieces of sisal rope hanging around, upcycle them by using hot glue to dress up an ugly flower pot.

Here's how:
a. unbraid rope, use only one strand (whole rope is too thick)
b. wind around pot, glue with hot glue gun
c. plant it up

Step 13: Old Milk Crates

Upcycle old milk crates and/or faux milk crates by using them as outdoor shelving and/or plant stands for your plants.

Step 14: Yard Art From Junk

You can go crazy with this one...upcycle old license plates, bike parts, ceiling fan parts, old glass bottles, stuff from your neighbors trash, yard sale finds and thrift shop treasures and turn them into garden art.

Step 15: Wine Bottles

Upcycle wine bottles by turning them into flower bed edging. Simply dig holes around the edge of the bed using a bulb planter or post hole digger, turn bottles upside-down and "plant" them in the holes. Place them side by side, leaving little to no space between each. Fill in around bottles with dirt and tamp down to secure.



Step 16: Logs

Upcycle logs or thick tree branches from your yard (or your neighbor's yard) by using them as edging for flower beds.

Find straight pieces that fit or cut with saw into right length. Place on edge of flower bed, hold in place with wire (I up-cycled pieces of garden fencing which came apart) bent into a "U" shape and shove into ground like a staple or use mallet to hammer into ground.

Step 17: Logs and Stumps

Upcycle thicker logs or tree stumps to use as plant stands.

Bundle two or three together with baling wire and stand on end. Set flower pots or yard art on the top end of each log.

Step 18: Old Shower Curtains

Upcycle used plastic shower curtains, children's (leaking) wading pools, or black garbage bags by using them to line 1/2 whiskey barrels for container gardening. The plastic will help slow the rotting of the wood plus hold moisture in the soil for plants.

Duct tape around the outside edge will hold the liner in place. Or you can try staples.

Don't forget to poke a couple holes in the bottom of the liner for drainage!

Step 19: Potting Soil Bags

Upcycle empty potting soil bags by using them to line hanging baskets and as "mulch" in pots.

For hanging baskets; cut to shape, fit into basket frame, poke drainage holes, fill with soil, plant up.

For mulch: Cut to fit pot, leaving a hole in center for plant. Slit and slide under plant and cover soil. Cover mulch plastic with pebbles, straw or wood mulch to hide it. The plastic will hold the moisture in pots during the heat of summer, saving water and stress on plants.

Step 20: Water Bed Frame

Ever wonder what to do with that old water bed your uncle gave you? Upcycle the frame into a raised garden bed!

Here's how:
a. make sure all corners are securely attached on the frame, tighten if necessary
b. measure the length and width of frame
c. mark out the garden space to fit, use a water hose or string and sticks
d. inside the marked area till the earth or turn with shovel
e. dig down several inches
f.  place frame in tilled area
g. press into place by hammering with mallet or stepping on edge
h. add soil and amendments as necessary, turn
i.  water well and let settle for a week to 10 days before planting


Step 21: X-mas Ornaments

Upcycle old X-mas ornaments by hanging in fruit trees to ward off birds. (It really works!)

I added a little glitter to some old ornaments and hung them in our fig tree. We got figs for the first time in years.

Step 22: Broken Terra Cotta Pots

Upcycle broken or cracked terra cotta pots into toad habitats ie. toad houses.

Heres how:
a. wash and dry pots
b. if cracked only, break a entrance hole in top edge of pot--use pliers or carefully chip away with hammer until you have at least a 3 inch wide hole
c. sand edge of hole with sandpaper until sharp edges gone
d. decorate
e. put in damp cool spot, upside down (bury into earth a little)
f.  pray for toads

Step 23: Cracked Terra Cotta Pots

Upcycle cracked but intact pots by turning upside down and using as plant stands.

Step 24: Food Cans

Upcycle interesting or pretty food cans that are solid metal and painted (not just labeled) by turning them into vases to hold flowers cut from your garden.

Step 25: Mesh Produce Bags

Upcycle mesh produce bags by using them in the garden to protect your tomatoes and support heavy veggies as they grow bigger like egg plant or cantaloupe.

Step 26: Worn And/or Stained Area Rugs

Upcycle old area rugs by throwing them out on the patio. The rugs help to slow dirt from being tramped into the house and they give a homey feel to the yard/patio.

Step 27: Fence Rails and Other Cast Offs

Keep your eyes and mind open as you wander your neighborhood. My daughter rescued this old porch rail years ago when the next door neighbor remodeled his house.  I have used this as a shallow shelf to set small pots on and other things. (It has been painted several colors.) Now it rests against the fence and is used to hang potted plants.

Step 28: Kitchen Scraps Up-cycle

Lots of things from your kitchen scraps pile can become beautiful or edible plants.  I have grown several pineapple plants from the discarded tops of pineapples. One year one of the plants actually went to fruit and I grew a real pineapple. It was delicious!

Pineapples once planted, take 2-3 years to fruit. When you water your pineapple plant, pour water in the crown (center).

Here's how:
a. save the top of a fresh pineapple, leaving an inch or so of flesh intact below the crown
b. set aside let dry for a day or so
c. put builder's sand or potting soil in a Styrofoam mushroom tray or other shallow container, punch a drainage hole
d. place pineapple top in sand, water
e. put in a cool semi-shady spot
f. forget about it--remembering to water occasionally
g. after several weeks it will grow roots
h. pot up
i. feed occasionally with liquid sea weed or fish emulsion
j. water occasionally
k. forget about it
l. pot up as it grows--they grow into large spikey plants
m. bring inside or into a greenhouse for the winter--they can't take the cold!

Other "scraps" I have upcycled included but are not limited to --  seeds from store bought Texas grapefruit. I now have several small (1-2 ft) grapefruit trees in pots. I plan to plant them in the ground soon.

I was given a Myer's lemon tree and it fruited. I saved some of the seeds and planted them. They took forever but now I have 2 tiny lemon trees.

I have also saved seeds from store bought tomatoes and grown cherry tomatoes.

There are lots of plants you can grow from "scraps" as well as save seeds from your garden and yard. For example, every year I grow moonvines. I save the seeds in Fall to be planted the following Spring. Upcycling at its best!





Comments

author
Gabeuse made it! (author)2014-03-25

I made a pineapple-in-a-can! :)

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sparkleponytx (author)Gabeuse2014-03-25

AWESOME!! :)

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nerfbianx (author)2014-03-01

Thanks for the ideas! I have been wanting to repot one of my plants that has outgrown its pot, but unwilling to go out and buy a new pot. Thanks to you I was able to identify an empty icecream carton as a potential new pot. I love the resourcefullness and the unique look of these upcycles!

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Popsalorum (author)2013-06-02

Thanks! We have a terrace, so I grow everything in compost, which I have to buy. Your system will work really well for me. Thanks so much..

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sparkleponytx (author)Popsalorum2013-06-02

You're welcome. Good luck!

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Shattered_star86 (author)2012-05-31

You can also use broken terra cotta pots in the bottom of your plant pots for drainage... They also help hold a bit of moisture in and provide oxygen to the roots!

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bakunin (author)Shattered_star862012-06-24

I also use shards of broken dishes in the bottoms of my pots.

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Broom (author)2012-05-28

I love you! And I love this instructable!

That is all. :D

author
triumphman (author)2012-03-16

Hope you have a good garden this year, 2012! I am guessing you are from Texas, the license plates on your fence are from that state! Texas has dried up so bad! Wirst year for farmers and cattle ranches. They have had to sell their herds at a big loss. The grass is all dried up! Very bad, to say the least! Good luck, wishing you the best! Triumphman

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sparkleponytx (author)triumphman2012-03-17

Thanks! The drought seems to have helped the weeds and the June bugs tho. We have scars of them this year!

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sheinonen (author)2011-08-18

Great idea! Maybe if you cut a "door" into the side of the can just above ground level and hinge it in place you could shovel out only the "fully cooked" bottom layers, leaving the ones on top that aren't quite ready to fall to the bottom and start again.

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batmmantam (author)2011-08-15

Excellent ideas, thank you for reusing things and not contributing to our already over-full landfills, and thank you for sharing. Happy gardening!!

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batmmantam (author)2011-08-15

If the pots are too broken for this use, I smash them with a rock and keep the broken pieces to use in the bottoms of my pots for better drainage.

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sparkleponytx (author)2011-06-29

No, actually it was fine. It was a hemp area rug. Tho we have used other regular area rugs and they were fine too...the Texas heat dries them in no time.

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sam.dating360 (author)2011-06-29

Grape tomatoes, watermelon and acorn squash have grown from my scraps.

author
sam.dating360 (author)2011-06-29

I have used dog food bags that are multiple layers with waxy finish.

author
csantiago3 (author)2011-06-29

When it rains it would really stink

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csantiago3 (author)2011-06-29

This is a good idea for those branches in my back yard

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asmith-9 (author)2011-05-27

This is absolutely BRILLIANT! I have a whole bag of corks from a wine rep friend in my craft room. I had more than I needed for my other projects. This is fantastic! I'm off to buy a plastic hanging basket, or 4, to do this.
Thanks so much - I LOVE upcycling!

author
Natty G (author)2011-04-25

I am excited to try and grow a pineapple plant. I am fairly certain I won't get any fruit but the foliage is beautiful anyway! :) How fun!

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lej619 (author)2011-03-24

nice!!!

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sparkleponytx (author)lej6192011-03-24

Thanks!

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lej619 (author)2011-03-24

you possible could use rope to hold the plastic on the out like. rap it around the plastic like you did for the "ugly plastic pot" . just a thought

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sparkleponytx (author)lej6192011-03-24

Good idea! That would look very cool. Thanks.

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lej619 (author)2011-03-24

what about a piece of cardboard instead? that way it will compost and still do the job you want it to.

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sparkleponytx (author)lej6192011-03-24

Yeah, you could use cardboard. It would work...if you could bend it to fit a curved basket.

But the reason I used the plastic potting soil bag is because hanging baskets tend to dry out really fast. The plastic lining helps to hold in the moisture and protect the plant. The good thing about plastic is you can rinse it off and use over and over.

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lej619 (author)2011-03-24

Thanks !! I really like this idea!! I have been looking at compost bins for a while now, but they are somewhat expensive. Thanks again for the idea.!

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mizflame98 (author)2011-02-10

Not all foods will successfully produce fruit from their seeds. A lot of supermarket fruits and veggies are genetically modified to not reproduce. That way you have to continue to buy more fruits and veggies.
They still can make beautiful plants though so if you don't mind that they won't bear fruit then that's cool too.

author
sparkleponytx (author)mizflame982011-02-10

Maybe that's true...I'm not sure. I know that many citrus seeds or other fruit tree seeds will not reproduce the same fruit as the parent tree because they are grown on root stocks.

But the point I was making is that--with a little imagination and a little work, you can grow stuff from "scraps" of fruits and veggies. Some of these throwaway plantings you can eat, some of it you won't...but like you say, you will usually get a nice plant.

But anyway, thanks for the comment.

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AlKaswa (author)2010-08-03

Beautiful. Although, it would probably take me eighteen years to use a gallon of Kikkoman shoyu.

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sparkleponytx (author)AlKaswa2010-08-03

Thanks, but it wasn't a gallon. It was 1 quart.

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AlKaswa (author)sparkleponytx2010-08-04

Ooh. >.< I assumed, since it looks rather like the gallon tins of Sultan brand olive oil my mother uses. Beautiful idea, of course. Silly me.

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mizflame98 (author)AlKaswa2011-02-10

You can have your mom save those tins for you now.

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emmarocket (author)2010-12-29

This is a great idea! where do you attach the bag to though? Do you attach it to the plant its self or like to the cage? :)

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sparkleponytx (author)emmarocket2010-12-29

Thanks. I tied the bag to the tomato support pole...or you can tie it to the cage.

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emmarocket (author)sparkleponytx2010-12-30

Cool- that is what i thought - I can't wait to try it out! Cheers, and thank you for such a nice instructable :)

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Puzzledd (author)2010-10-18

What a great range of ideas! I especially love the fence paling idea- would look great at our place (mud brick and timber house). Thanks for the inspiration- your garden must be so interesting!

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sparkleponytx (author)Puzzledd2010-10-19

Thanks! Yes, my garden did look great but then we moved (this summer). We bought a house and I haven't had the time or energy to put in my new garden yet.

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castersama (author)2010-10-11

This year I grew both Basil and Thyme in a large Olive Oil tin and it worked very well! Make sure to poke holes in the bottoms though. Large harvest with both plants this year. RECYCLE YOUR WASTE, PLEASE!!!

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sparkleponytx (author)castersama2010-10-11

Thanks for the comment. That's great you grew the basil and thyme in the olive oil can. Kudos. I'm not sure why you shouted the "recycle your waste" thing tho. That was a little weird, especially since my whole Instructable was about upcycling and recycling.

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castersama (author)sparkleponytx2010-10-11

its directed at other readers not you.

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viiieira (author)2010-09-09

really good instructable! :D
thanks for posting

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Clacsi (author)2010-08-20

This instructable is awesome! Great job and garden! :)

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sparkleponytx (author)Clacsi2010-08-20

Thanks!

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AzureEyes (author)2010-07-30

love this. i really love the idea of the crib. I'm sure my parents have my old crib shoved in the attic somewhere being useless at the moment. thanks for the ideas!

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byoho (author)2010-06-07

Wow, I thought I had "invented" the raised garden waterbed! Mine looks amazingly like yours, even down to the vertical trellis. I used old 2x4's instead of bamboo, and instead of twine I found a clear plastic netting on clearance at a hardware store that is sold as a safety net for deck rails. I get a bumper crop of pole beans using it. I used cinder blocks to separate the bed into two areas with a walkway in between, and plant carrots, parsnips, and marigolds (to keep nasty bugs away) in the cinder block holes. The walkway makes it easier to reach into the center of the garden. Good job!

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sparkleponytx (author)byoho2010-06-08

Thanks. I thought maybe I could get a peek at your waterbed raised bed garden but couldn't see it anywhere on your page. Did I miss it somehow? Anyway, your garden sounds great. I have tried the cinder block thing too...I grew marigolds and parsley and coleus. I have discovered that bugs also don't seem to like basil. I always plant it among my tomatoes...and it seems to repel the squirrels too.

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byoho (author)sparkleponytx2010-06-10

Here's one from early this season before it filled out. Thanks, Bob

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sparkleponytx (author)byoho2010-06-10

Nice! I like the way you have constructed this. I like the idea of the cinder blocks.

author
fought piranhas (author)2010-06-06

THANK YOU!! I am always skeptical that someone will have an idea I haven't seen before, but you definitely did! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the wine bottle idea! I better drink faster... :)

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Bio: I like to DIY and I hate to waste anything.
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