Love to Grow

  • Grow at Home - Garlic

    Used in everything from stir fry to Shepherds Pie it is pretty rare to find a household that does not have garlic in their kitchen cupboard. But, despite it being relatively easy to grow, many gardeners do not include it in their planting.

    It is a hard working plant that does more than just give a delicious crop though.  Like most of the onion family, garlic is great for companion planting.  Plant between rows of vegetables especially carrots and its scent will deter pests.  This gives a natural boost to your garden's pest protection.  Also, garlic is pollinated by bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects too so great for encouraging wildlife onto your plot.

    Types of garlic

    There are two main sorts.

    Softneck

    Softneck (Allium sativum var. sativum) is the garlic which most supermarkets stock.  The bulb has a slightly hotter flavour than the Hardnecks, produces more smaller cloves and stores very well. Since the necks are soft, this is the sort you want if you have the time and energy create a garlic plait.  They also sprout relatively quickly so are satisfying to grow for the garlic novice.

    Hardneck

    Hardnecks (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) are closer to wild garlic, with more complex flavours. These garlics have subtle flavour differences created from the soil and weather patterns in the region where you grow them. The advantage of Hardneck varieties for the cook is that their skins usually slip off easily.  They do not store as long as Softnecks though.  Cure and eat them within 3 to 10 months, depending on the variety.

    Garlic_bulbs_with_flowers

     

    There is some debate about hardiness with some believing that Softneck will grow only in the warmer parts of the UK so if in doubt in the coolest parts of the UK it might be a better to choose Hardneck.  Which you choose is up to you though as there is anecdotal evidence of both thriving in areas of the country where they should be struggling.

    There are many varieties of each sort to choose from depending on the flavour and bulb size you would like to produce.

     

    Planting

    When to Plant

    Garlic needs a long growing season.  The cloves can be planted in late Autumn or early Spring but you will get a bigger crop if you plant in Autumn.

    Garlic_plants_in_bed

    Whatever variety you choose, to grow well, it needs a cold period of at least two months. For Autumn sowing, it is therefore essential to sow from early-October to allow the roots to develop before the cold weather sets in. With this in mind Hardnecks should be planted at the beginning of October but Softnecks can wait until around Christmas time. 

    The  Hardnecks will be slower to show themselves so even with this planting timetable you may see the Softnecks appear first.

    Where to plant

    We recommend growing garlic in a rotation system with carrots, onions, leeks, and other root vegetables.  A classic rotation is tomato family, broccoli family, onion family including your garlic.  But as a companion plant we find it makes a great space filler between carrots, sweet peppers, spinach, lettuce and parsnips, roses and other flowers too.

    How to plantrows_of_garlic_growing

    Garlic is rarely planted from seed with the cloves used instead.  These are readily available from seed companies and garden centres but you can use pretty much any garlic cloves hanging around your kitchen ... just gently break apart the bulb and each clove will produce it's own plant

    It can be planted directly into the soil but if you suffer from pests such as birds ripping out your young plants then sowing into Rootrainers first may help your plants survive.  See our recent Overwintering Onions Blog for the full story.

    Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. A Raised Bed works very well. Remove stones from the top 6 inches of soil. Work several inches of compost or well-rotted manure into the bed, along with your fertiliser of choice.

    Planting
    1. Break up the bulbs no longer than 24 hours before you plant them.  Be careful not to bruise or damage them.
    2. Sow the individual cloves 10 cm below the surface, root down (pointy end up) around 4 inches apart to give the bulb room to grow.
    3. Hardneck garlic loves to flower.  Cut off the stem close to the base of the bulb once the flower stem starts to coil.  This will concentrate the plants' energy into the crop beneath increasing the size of the bulb.
    4. Once the leaves go yellow/brown stop watering the plants.  Harvest 2 to 3 weeks later (June onwards)
    5. Try to harvest when the weather is dry.  Loosen beneath it with a fork to prevent bruising the bulb then pull up like a weed.  Leave the plants on the surface of the soil to dry in the sun for a few hours.  Move to somewhere warm and dry, to cure for 3 weeks.
    6. Thoroughly dry the bulbs then store them in a cool, ventilated place away from sun.

    Eating Garlic

    Garlic is unbelievably good for you.  It can lower blood pressure, fat and cholesterol levels.  It can also combat bacterial, fungal and viral infections.

    There are lots of opportunities for the gardener growing their own garlic to plant a few extra and leave it to flower or to experiment with young garlic, picked before it has matured.

    As well as eating the bulb the leaves and flowers are also edible.  They have a milder flavor than the bulbs, and are most often consumed while immature and still tender. You may see "green garlic" in the shops.  This is immature plant that has been pulled rather like a scallion.
    When green garlic has grown past the "scallion" stage, but not fully matured, it may produce a garlic "round", a bulb not separated into cloves like a mature bulb. This imparts a garlic flavor and aroma in food, minus the spiciness of the mature bulb.

  • Lush Leftovers: Soy, Chilli Brussels Sprouts with leeks & carrots

    I'm thinking you will have leftover sprouts from christmas dinner to use up so here is a lovely quick recipe.  Years of careful breeding mean that sprouts are no longer as bitter as they once were and this new sweetness, combined with the honey and soy might just convert sprout haters.  If you can get them to try it...

    Ingredientsbrussel_sprouts_on_plant

    • 250g (8oz) Brussels sprouts, halved
    • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1 leek, finely sliced
    • 1 small onion finely sliced
    • 2cm (1in) piece fresh ginger, finely sliced
    • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
    • 1 red chilli, seeded and finely sliced (or used chilli flakes or dried chilli to taste if you don't have fresh)
    • 1 large carrot, grated
    • 2 tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 tsp clear honey
    • 150g (5oz) dried noodles

    Method

    1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the sprouts and cook for 5 minutes, or until just softened. Drain and rinse under cold water. Pat dry and set aside.  If your sprouts are already cooked then miss this step out and skip to step 2.  You may wish to leave them whole rather than halving them if they are already quite soft.
    2. Cook the noodles according to pack instructions and run under cold water and set aside.  Or you can use 'straight to wok' ones if you have these to hand.
    3. Put the oil in a wok over a medium high heat. Add the leek and onion and cook for 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the sprouts, stir-fry for 2 minutes more, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir-fry for a further minute, until fragrant, then add the carrot.  Stir fry for 1 minute more then add the soy sauce and honey. Toss to combine.
    4. Add the noodles and stir-fry until combined and heated through. Serve.
  • Make it a very Merry Christmas for the gardener in your life...

    Here comes Christmas, the offices are festooned with decorations and everyone is starting to get excited!

    For the serious gardener, pretty much any Haxnicks product makes a cracking present.  For those of you who are still struggling to complete that oh so challenging gift list, I thought I'd highlight the best that we have to offer when it comes to getting the perfect present.

    You'll find everything on our website, just use the links or tap in the name in the search box.

    Bell_Cloches_in_3_sizesHaxnicks Bell Cloches King Size, Original or Baby  are a popular gift item, being aesthetically pleasing AND very practical.  Whether sitting over a prized plant in the garden deterring pests, cats, children and any number of other hazards or keeping out the frost and howling wind these bells will always make an original and successful present.

     

     

    Haxnicks_veg_sacks_with _cane_toppers_christmas_present

    How many times do you receive gifts that you will never use?  Gifts that are pretty quickly shoved to the back of a cupboard or given swiftly to charity?  We are all being asked to buy less so why not buy something you know will be used and enjoyed?

    Here's an idea: With a trend towards natural wrapping rather than 'glittery' wrapping paper that can't be recycled, the Haxnicks Vegetable Sacks double as wrapping and a gift.  Stuff full of gardening related stocking fillers. Add a reusable bow and you'll have a hit on your hands and somewhere to store your spuds come autumn.

    A little knowledge?

    Down_to_earth_gardening_book_madeliene_cardozoA gardening book will keep giving year after year. 
    Down to Earth 
     is a practical veg growing guide that covers the most common household favourite as well as some less often grown choices.  Beautifully photographed it is as at home on the coffee table as in the potting shed.  It makes an ideal present for the novice or the experienced gardener wishing to expand their range.

    New & different?

    wrapped_veg_with_bamboo_pots_and_christmas_treeIts always nice to be the first to have something so make them the envy of their gardening chums with Haxnicks Bamboo Pots, Saucers and Seed trays.  These are new and different and make a great gift.

     

     

    Hampers

    Pea_growing_hamperHow about a Christmas present and New Year's resolution all rolled into one?  Does your other half yearn to eat their own potatoes at Christmas Dinner 2019?  Is a planter full of fresh peas or beans on their 'to do' list?  Making up a hamper couldn't be easier - Rootrainers, planters, cane toppers, soft tie, veg sacks  Some things they will already have but add the things they don't and they will be ready to go once the weather warms up.

    Finally a great reason for choosing a gardening gift is that you can get it at a Garden Centre.  There is nowhere more Christmassy than a good Garden Centre.  So you will get your fill of Christmas spirit with loads of parking and its open right up until Christmas

     

    Haxnicks_Stocking_fillers

     

    Happy Christmas from all at Haxnicks, and we look forward to seeing your growing projects in the New Year.

  • Hold onto Autumn and use your stored pumpkin for this lovely recipe...

    Autumn_Leaf_in_leaf_litterLashing rain from frequent storms makes it feel like Autumn is over.  In Greek mythology, Autumn began when Persephone was abducted by Hades to be the Queen of the Underworld. In distress Persephone's mother, Demeter who was goddess of the harvest, caused all the crops on Earth to die until her daughter was allowed to return, marking spring.

    I think maybe it is more to do with temperatures dropping and chlorophyll in leaves declining allowing us to see the other chemicals present but it's a nice story!

    Regardless of its origins Autumn is when the mercury drops and we can think of soup.  Lovely thick soup, warm chunky bread and melting butter. And if you have pumpkins stored in your Haxnicks Veg Sacks  its time to get one out an warm up the advancing winter.

    And what better ingredient than pumpkin?  It is perfect for adding body and a creamy texture to soup.  It is also low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol and high in fibre not to mention it packs a punch in cold fighting super heroes like Vitamin C.    An all round super food so here is my very simple to make take on the recipe.

    Pumpkin Soup

    Preparation: 30 – 35 minutes Cooking time: 45 – 55 minutes Serves: 6 – 8

    Ingredients:pile_of_pumpkins

    2lbs (900g) pumpkins

    2 medium sized onions

    2 tbs olive oil

    1 1/2 pints (700ml) stock

    6 floz (150ml) double cream

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Sprig of parsley to decorate

     

    Directions:

    1. Chop and fry the onions gently with the olive oil in a pan large enough to take the entire soup.
    2. Deseed and chop the pumpkin into little chunks, add these to the frying pan. Cook gently stirring occasionally for a further 5 – 10 minutes.
    3. Add the stock, salt and pepper and bring to the boil for about 10 minutes.
    4. Add the cream and boil again.
    5. Now put the whole lot into the liquidiser and whizz until smooth.
    6. Serve with a few parsley leaves placed on top, hot, with delicious fresh bread on a cold winters day.

    For a printable PDF click here Pumpkin Soup 

     
  • Exploring the rhizosphere: how to grow trouble free onion sets...

    Rootrainers are what I've chosen for years to grow overwintering onion sets, garlic and spring planted onion sets. Onion sets (small immature onions) allow me to have onions all year round. But, originally manufactured to grow tree seedlings, why would I use Rootrainers for onion sets?

    Growing Onions using Haxnicks Rootrainers
    Growing onions from seeds can be a hit and miss affair, with weather, birds and the like all affecting the young seedlings’ growth outdoors, particularly those seedlings that have to overwinter. I am not after prize winning onions anyway or even huge onions so don't need to use onion seeds. I prefer sets. However, whenever I planted sets direct into the soil outdoors, within a few days, I would find many of the sets had been pulled up from where I had planted them and scattered all over the soil. Who or what was responsible?

    Some detective work - root zones and rhizospheres...

    The root zone is the name for the region of the soil around plant roots as they grow.  The roots produce secretions that help and protect them as they force their way downwards through the soil. The immediate area around the root is called the rhizosphere. There will be many rhizospheres within the root zone of a plant.

    The rhizosphere is the most dynamic environment in the soil, or a microbe ‘hot spot’, the fast food areas of the soil! The roots are also continually shedding old tissue and sloughed-off plant cells. The root secretions and dead plant cells are a feast for microbes living in the soil. In return the soil microbes provide nutrients for the plants, which encourage plant growth. More plant growth means more roots. A win-win situation! Hence soil microbes themselves congregate around the roots. Microbes in turn are a beacon for earthworms, who sense the root secretions and microbes in the soil and target such ‘hot spots’ to feast upon them!

    The Culprit!

    In my garden its the blackbird.  Blackbirds deliberately pull up the onion sets to seek out earthworms and other such tasty morsels, living and feeding in the root zone underneath the onion set.

    By planting onion sets in Rootrainers, the roots will grow in and around the compost, binding it together.  Then when planting them outdoors, unless the blackbird has fed on at least 3 Weetabix (!) that morning, it will not have the energy or strength to pull out the onion set with its well rooted fibrous compost ball, which is a lot heavier than an onion set on its own. Result:  no more scattered onion sets!

    Due to their size onion sets are great for children and school projects too.  Handling them is easy.  Planting requires less skill as sets are easier to handle than seeds.  Together, sets and rootrainers make the exercise easy and interesting for children to do for themselves. One major advantage for schools is that the children can grow AND harvest them all within the school year.

     

  • The Potty Gardener and Manure in the Garden

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    I have been busy helping Grandpa Haxnicks to dig manure into his vegetable plot and learning some of the ins and outs of using various types of animal excrement in the garden. What comes out of the animal and goes into the soil is so much more than a pile of poo. All creatures great and small can provide free plop for your plot that will vastly improve soil texture, boost nutrient levels and give you bigger, better and healthier crops.

    Poultry Manure for the Garden

    Chicken droppings

    If you happen to keep chickens, then as well as eggs you have a readily available source of useful fertiliser. Fresh chicken poo has high levels of ammonia so should be dug into vegetable plots at least 4 months before planting. Or you can add it to a compost heap and let it rot down before using it. It makes particularly good top dressing for blackcurrants and plum trees.  It tends to be quite alkaline so not so suitable for acid loving plants such as blueberries, or camellias.

    Horse Manure and its nourishing factors

    Cow Poo

    Cow poo is great for improving soil structure. Again, it should be left to rot down in a compost heap or dug in a few months before planting. Autumn is the perfect time for digging it in, particularly if you want to use it in areas where you might be planning to grow root vegetables in the spring. If you try to grow root vegetables in freshly manured soil the results can be a little alarming. Carrots will grow into multi-limbed aliens, beetroot will go barmy and potatoes go scabby. A great plus point for cow poo is that it has been well digested, passing through multiple stomachs a process that kills off any weed seeds.

    Horse manure

    Weed seeds are something to watch out for with horse manure. So be sure that it is well aged to give time for any seeds to compost. Another benefit of horse poo is that it is considerably less stinky than chicken or cow. But if you want a completely non-stinky manure then worm poo is your best bet. Obviously, it is going to take a biblical proportion of worms to create the equivalent of a few cow pats.  However, I am told that you can make worm poo tea out of worm casts from a wormery.  You can then feed it to your potted plants!

  • Spinach ready for eating?

    If your spinach is ready then here is a lovely recipe for you.  With a few tweaks it would also work with swiss chard if you have that ready at the moment.

    Spinach is a great vegetable, but you do need to have a lot of it to make an impression!
    Of course children generally don’t like it, so I would serve this perhaps as a light lunch for adults, and do a quiche Lorraine which has no spinach and plenty of cheese and bacon for the kiddies. Everlasting spinach has got to be the chosen one to plant as it lasts and lasts.

    Spinach Quiche

    Preparation: 40 minutes Cooking time: 25 – 30 minutes Serves: 5 – 6

    Ingredients:

    6oz (150g) plain flourCooked_Spinach_quiche_on_board

    3oz (75g) butter

    A small amount of cold water

    10 oz (280g) coarsely chopped spinach

    5 medium spring onions

    4 eggs

    2 floz (50ml) cream or crème fresh

    1 tsp nutmeg

    2 tsp chopped parsley

    4oz (100g) cream cheese

    4oz (100g) cheddar cheese

    Salt and pepper

     Directions:

    1. Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour to make a fine breadcrumb texture. Add enough cold water very carefully to make a firm dough. If you put too much water in add a little more flour.
    2. Roll it out and place in a cold flan tin then put in freezer.
    3. Turn the oven on to 180°/ 350°/ Gas mark 4.
    4. Put all the spinach into a pan with 1/2 cm (1/4”) of water then cook fast for 1 minute.  This will shrink it so that it can fit into your flan tin. Let it cool. Chop the spring onions fairly thinly.
    5. Put the eggs into a large mixing bowl with the salt pepper and nutmeg then mix well.
    6. Add the spinach, spring onions, cream, cream cheese, cheddar and chopped parsley into the bowl then mix well.
    7. Take the tin out of the freezer and fork lots of little holes into the bottom of the pastry.
    8. Place the flan tin in the oven for 10 minutes, until light brown. This is called ‘baking blind’. The reason for baking blind is so that you get a good firm base to the quiche.
    9. Take the tin out of the oven and pour in all of the filling mixture.
    10. Put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes.
    11. You can eat this cold or hot, for lunch or supper it is delicious.

    For a printable PDF click here Spinach_Quiche

     

  • Halloween special... Pumpkin Pie anyone?

    From the pictures on Social Media it appears that this was a bumper year for pumpkins and squashes.  I am sure that this was not without its difficulties, particularly keeping them watered in the long hot summer.  Not something we have cause to worry about often!  But the results speak for themselves so I am sure that there are many of you in need of another pumpkin recipe so here it is.

    Pumpkin Pie topped with Pecans

    Some say pumpkins are not that flavoursome however, after spending hours hollowing them out at Halloween you can’t possibly let all that free food go to waste! So I have this recipe for a sweet pumpkin pie that makes a change from what you eat during the year.

    This pie can be eaten hot or cold, and is rather nice with cream, ice cream or crème fresh. Delish!

    Ingredients

    Filling                                                                                           Pastry

    2 eggs                                                                        6oz 170g plain flour

    2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar                                  2oz 50g icing sugar

    1 can sweetened condensed milk                                         5oz 140g salted butter

    400g pumpkin flesh                                                                  1-2 tbsp. cold water

    50g plain flour

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

    100g pecan halves broken into little bits

    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking Time: 45 minutes Serves: 6-8

    1. Firstly make the pastry: Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make a good dough, do not overwork the pastry.
    2. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge for 15- 20 minutes.
    3. Grease a 9”, 23cm diameter pie tin and place in fridge.
    4. Turn the oven on to 190°C, gas mark 5.
    5. Now for the filling. Cut the pumpkin flesh into thin slivers or little squares ½ cm x ½ cm.
    6. In a separate bowl place ALL the other ingredients and mix hard with a wooden spoon until you have a gooey consistency.
    7. Add the pumpkin pieces and mix in.
    8. Get the pastry and tin from the fridge. Roll out the pastry to fit the tin then add the filling ingredients - If there is too much mixture you can always bake it in a little ramekin and cook separately.
    9. Lastly, put your pecan nuts into a bowl and bash with the end of the rolling pin until they are the size you want them.  I like little chips.  Then sprinkle them on top of the pie and place the pie into the oven for 35-45 minutes.

    For a printable copy click here Pumpkin Pie topped with Pecans

  • Winter tools trial...

    As its time to start preparing the garden for winter its time to think about clearing leaves,

    Leaf_Picker_head_with_leaves Leaf Picker in action

    digging over beds and generally having a tidy up.  To help you, Grow Your Own magazine has completed a trial of the tools you will need.

    Included in this is the Haxnicks Leaf Picker.  Deeming it to be " An efficient, easy pick-up and discard mechanism for leaves without any backbreaking bending over"  it gets a big thumbs up from Simon Akeroyd.  Especially good for picking up leaves in flower beds where a traditional rake may damage plants it is definitely a must for the tool shed.

     

    Grow_Your_Own_Magazine_article

  • How to photograph your garden

    Be it allotment or garden.  Do you ever gaze at the beautiful oasis you have created and wish that you could capture just how fabulous it is?  To let others feel the beauty of the sun shining through the leaves?  Or the dew clinging to a newly opened rose?  Only to find that despite best efforts the image you get lacks the magic that your eye could see.   Well I decided to put this right by attending a garden photography course and wanted to share the secrets with you.

    Know Your cameragrasses_in_garden

    This wasn't learnt on this course but its important, so my first tip to you is learn as much as you can about your camera.  For example on the course I did in the summer I learnt that my camera has a built in spirit level.  Not sure how I didn't know this - I should have, its there in the viewfinder.  But I didn't.  This one nugget has lead to much more of my images actually being level and will save hours in editing time!

    I had an equally Eureka moment at a course run my Olympus (I have an Olympus Mirrorless Compact) where they told me that you could switch which functions were controlled by which dials.  This let me put the controls back where they had been on my beloved Nikon DSLR and meant that my instinctive actions were back where they should be so I could think of other things.

    Help can come from a variety of places. The manufacturer will often run workshops and clinics to help you get more out of your equipment,  Failing that YouTube is full of helpful videos and if you search your camera model then you will likely find a photography forum where people will be able to help.

    So on to what I actually learnt from the course.

    Shoot into the Light

    Japanese_anenome_backlit Backlit is best

    This is radical and takes a bit of getting used to.  The first thing we are taught when we pick up a camera as a child is to get the sun behind you to take the picture.  Try and unlearn this when it comes to your garden because what plant doesn't look better with the sun streaming through it?  You have to avoid pointing your lens directly at the sun by blocking it with trees or foliage but all in all shooting into the light will enliven your plants and let you capture that sparkle that makes your garden pop.

    In the example below I took an ordinary leaf and shot it with the light behind me to get the first image.  This is a very ordinary looking leaf.  The second image is toward the light but it is too strong and it ruins the image.  Changing my position slightly to shield my lens form the glare with the trees makes the leaf shine, showing the red tips along the leaf and giving some nice Bokeh in the background.  An ordinary slightly ragged leaf still but a much stronger image than the first one.

    Leaf_shot_into_the_light Shooting into the light brings out colour and texture

    Layers and Background

    It is important to look at the whole picture and not just the beautiful specimen that you want to photograph. So if you take my stunningly charismatic Swiss Chard I didn't really want the road barriers and the car my husband is respraying in the middle of the lawn (WHY?) to feature in the photo.  A slight change of angle sorted it.  As you can see I am still learning to look at the whole picture!

    Autumn_shades_in_plants Capture the colour

    See your garden as a palette of different layers - so what plants are behind your prize specimen?  Can you move round it to get a better angle and take the shot with something it will stand out against as the background?  If all else fails can you lie down and take the shot against the sky or tower above it and use the lawn as a background? This way of thinking may even influence your planting in future years.

    Don't be afraid to move.  Crouch down low and shoot upwards, shoot from directly above your plant, shoot through other plants so they form a frame.  Try 5 shots from one location and then force yourself to move, try 5 more and move again and keep going until your lettuce feels like its walking the red carpet at the Oscars!

    Make Mistakes

    seed_heads_waer_plants Strong shapes like seed heads work well

    Now you have a mass of photos its time to review them.  Hopefully you will have made loads and loads of mistakes.  Mistakes are good news as you can learn much more from a bad photo than a good one.  So rather than scrolling through them and hitting delete, delete, delete...STOP. Compare one you like the look of to one you didn't.  Was the shutter speed to slow so it was blurry?  Was the aperture too small so that you had a big depth of field and could see the rubbish bin in the background?  If you don't know much about photography then there are lots of people out there who do so join a forum, show them your image and ask your questions.  You don't need to know the technical terms as you can pick these up as you go along.

     

    I hope these few tips will help you take better pictures.  Remember for every stunning image you see on Instagram there are probably 100 disasterous ones that were delete, delete, deleted!

    We'd love to see your new found skills - tag your images @Haxnicks and we can share them for you.

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