Rootrainers

  • Grow at Home: Spring Cabbages

    Spring cabbage is delicious and tender.  It will be one of the first proper crops you can enjoy in the Spring.
    Autumn is the ideal time to sow - seedlings will over winter and produce heads the following year.

    Where to Grow

    Spring Cabbage is classed as a heavy feeding plant so add plenty of garden compost and/or well rotted farmyard manure your soil before sowing or planting.

    Cabbage takes up a lot of room in your garden needing up to 45-60 cm all round so the available space may dictate your numbers.

    Sowing Spring Cabbage

    Spring cabbages, smaller and sweeter that the summer varieties, can be sown directly into the soil but for the best results Rootrainers will give your seedlings the perfect start.

    Autumn sown Spring Cabbage thrive in a greenhouse or similar environment for planting out under protection after about 4 weeks - for this hardening off period use a Fleece Lantern Cloche or  Easy Fleece Tunnels

    Planting Out

    Spring Cabbage should be planted 45 cm between plants and 45 cm between rows.

    Water plants well before you begin and make a hole in the soil with a dibber or trowel.

    Fill the planting hole with water before planting the seedling - this will help the plant to establish. Push the soil in around the roots firmly bout avoid compacting the soil which can prevent water reaching the roots.

    Keep well watered and weed free - a Speedhoe make this quick and easy - and protect with fleece in extreme weather.

    As Winter approaches earth up the cabbage stems by dragging soil up around the stems to prevent them rocking in the wind.

    Harvesting Spring cabbage

    Spring cabbage has a short harvesting period  and need to be cut before they run to seed.   They have a neater more conical shape than round Summer cabbages.  So they may be ready sooner than they first appear.

    Remove every second cabbage as Spring greens in March.  Leave the remaining plants to heart up for harvesting in April/May.

    Harvest cabbage by cutting the stem with a sharp knife close to soil level. Cutting a deep cross in the stump will give you the bonus of a secondary crops of mini cabbages from the old stem!

    Dispose of the root on the bonfire rather than compost to avoid encouraging club root.

    Pests and diseases

    The main threat to your crop is Cabbage Root Fly. - The best way to it is to keep the flies out by covering your crops with fine mesh - Giant Easy Tunnels are ideal as they have the height to accommodate the growing plants -  making sure it is secure at the edges so nothing can creep underneath.

    Check periodically for small yellow eggs of the Cabbage White Butterfly on the underside of the leaves.  Remove them by brushing them off. Cover the seedlings with fleece or micromesh to keep out cabbage white butterfly

    Pigeons can make quick work of your cabbages - Netting is the answer if you have a pigeon problem.

     

     

     

     

  • Grow at Home - Sweet/Bell Peppers/Capsicum

    What are they?

    The Bell Pepper (Capsicum annuum) is also known as the Sweet Pepper or Capsicum and is originally native to the Americas.  As its name suggests, it is sweet rather than spicy.  This is because it does not produce capsaicin, the chemical that creates a strong burning sensation that makes the other members of the family such as chillies taste 'hot'.

    Botanically speaking, like tomatoes, bell peppers are fruits.  However, when cooking they are considered a vegetable and despite their sweet taste no one is going to thank you for adding them to the apple crumble!

    Colours  Multi_coloured_peppers

    They come in green, red, yellow, orange, brown, white, purple, lavender and black.  Red peppers are ripened green peppers, the exception being the Permagreen pepper which is still green when ripe and will never turn red.
    The sweetness of the pepper depends on growing conditions and how much it has been allowed to ripen.  So a ripe red pepper will be sweeter than the less ripe green one.  Peppers that have ripened on the plant will also be sweeter than those that were picked and allowed to ripen after.  Not something you can change when buying them but if you grow your own then you can ensure they are as sweet as possible by leaving them to ripen on the plant.

    There are many varieties but I would choose a hardy, early variety such as Yellow Monster or Lipstick to get the best results.

    Sowing

    Peppers are easy to grow from seed and have a high germination rate.  Sow seeds 1/2" (1cm) deep inside in Rootrainers, pots or seed trays from mid-February to end of March.  They will take 2-4 weeks to germinate.

    Peppers like it warm so so use a propagator and aim for a temperature of around 18-21°C (65-70°F) or place on a warm windowsill, with plastic bags over the pots to keep the heat and moisture in.  Of course if you have used Rootrainers then they come with their own lid so you can just pop this on for the perfect environment.

    Transplant into 3" (8cm) pots when two true leaves have formed.  Handle the seedlings by the leaves to avoid damaging the delicate stem.

    If you don't want to grow from seed then most Garden Centres will sell plants.

    Planting

    Position

    If growing in England this crop is much better being grown in a greenhouse or on a windowsill for as long as possible.

    If planting in the ground space the rows 18" (45cm) apart with the same distance between plants.  The more you prepare the bigger the yield you will get so dig in some well rotted manure.  You may also wish to cover the ground with a  Easy Poly Tunnel  to warm the soil before planting.  Once your plants are in position keep them covered with a cloche or a tunnel as they like it warm, but remember to take it off or open it for periods to allow pollination.

    Peppers grow well in containers and can also be grown in grow bag planters or in the garden as long as it is in a sheltered, sunny spot.  Ideally a South or West facing brick wall or fence.

    Potting On

    Once the roots fill your 3" (8cm) pot transfer plants to 12" (30cm) pots of good compost.  Do this in mid-May (heated greenhouse), late-May (unheated greenhouse) or June if growing outside.

    Pinch out the growing tips of chillies when they are about 12" (30cm) tall to encourage bushiness.

    Watch the plants as the fruits begin to grow.  If fruit becomes heavy then stake and tie plants in to prevent breakages.  Also, if growing in a greenhouse the leaves can become scorched so watch out for this and open vents and shade as appropriate if the temperatures start to soar.

    Feeding & Watering

    As with all plants regular water is vital so make sure you keep the moisture levels as constant as you can.

    Once flowers form start feeding with a fertiliser suitable for tomatoes e.g. a high potash liquid fertiliser with seaweed.  Feed every 10 days as you water.

    Harvesting

    Harvest August to November.  Expect to harvest between 3 and 8 peppers per plant.

    Start to pick the fruit when it is large, green and has a glossy sheen.  If you prefer sweeter peppers then leave it on the plant to mature but this will reduce yield.  If you still have peppers on the plant when the frosts arrive then dig up the whole plant.  Hang it upside down in a shed or greenhouse to allow the fruit to continue to ripen.
    Once harvested, if kept cool, bell peppers can store for up to 3 weeks once picked.

     

  • Tips and Tricks: Seed Germination

    Germination

    Germination is the process by which an organism grows from a seed or similar structure and develops into a new plant. Three key environmental factors are important to trigger the seed to grow. We are going to call these the Germination Triangle and these factors are :

    • how how much water is available
    • the temperature
    • the planting depth of the seed

    A careful balance is needed between these three factors.  How dependent the seed is on them varies depending on the plant.  Some seeds will grow anywhere (and we wish they wouldn't!) whilst some need infuriatingly perfect conditions to germinate.

    Stagesseeds_in_bowls_pre_germination

    Water is key as the first stage is for the seed to fill with water in a process called imbibition. The water activates special proteins, called enzymes which that begin the process of seed growth.

    First the seed uses the carbohydrates and proteins stored inside to grows a root (radicle).  The root accesses water before the next stage begins: sending up a shoot above ground. As the shoot develops there will be secondary root formation and branching of the roots.

    By now the seed's reserves are running out so the next stage is to grow leaves to harvest energy from the sun. The leaves continue to grow towards the light source in a process called photomorphogenesis.

    etiolated_seedling_post_germination

     

    Light is very important at this stage.  If there isn't enough light this causes the plants to become etiolated. This is a natural adaptation to help the shoots elongate quickly to break through the soil and reach the light.  However, if it takes too long to reach light the resulting plants will not be strong.  The seedlings will become elongated, spindly, leafless and pale with a poor root system.

     

     

     

     

     


    The Germination Triangle

    Water

    The amount of water has to be just right for optimum growth.  Too little and the seed won't grow.  Too much and the seed will be unable to access the oxygen in the soil and won't develop.  It will basically drown.
    With careful watering, this balance is simple to achieve when you germinate your seeds in seed trays or pots.  If you are sowing direct outside preparing the soil ahead of planting will help you get the water balance right.  Ways you could do this include:-

    • Keep off the soil to prevent compacting - if you have to walk across it then lay long planks to use
    • Aerate the soil - if there are no air gaps then you can create them by aerating the soil with a garden fork or machines that do the job can be hired easily
    • Dig through a balanced fertiliser to break up and improve the soil
    • Use a Raised Bed - the easy way to do it but remember not to walk on it and compact the soil
    •  If your plot is very waterlogged adding a ditch or seasonal pond at the lowest part of the garden for excess water to soak away will be helpful.  This has the advantage of creating a habitat for slug eating frogs and toads which you can read more about in our Pests & Diseases - Slugs & snails blog.

    Temperature

    Temperature is also an important factor. The temperature a seed needs to germinate will often be determined by where the plant originates.  Those that come from Northern climates will often germinate at cooler temperatures than those native to the tropics.  Of course there are exceptions to any rule but many seeds will only germinate when the weather reaches spring temperatures. This can lead to confusion in plants when a freak warm spell causes them to germinate too early leaving them vulnerable to frosts which should be over.

    Some seeds only germinate after extreme temperatures, such as after a forest fire or an extended cold period but there aren't many of these plants in your average veg garden.

    The best way to judge soil temperature is to test with a metal thermometer.  Insert it 3 or 4 inches into the soil 3 or 4 days in a row.  The soil can be warmed by the sun later in the day so morning is the best time to test.  If the soil isn't warm enough then warming it with a Seedling Tunnel is a good option to allow you to start planting earlier than your neighbours.

    Charts are available online to tell you what temperature a particular plant may prefer.  From an optimum 40 degrees for a pea plant to 70 degrees for a tomato.  Once you feel the soil is warm enough, check the long range weather forecast for expected cold snaps and you should be safe to plant.  If the forecast fails you then methods such as or using Bell Cloches or Poly tunnels to shield young seedlings are foremost in the gardener's armoury to start successful germination.

    Planting Depth

    Planting at the right depth improves the seeds chances dramatically and will increase your germination success rate.  The seed will only store enough energy to sprout and reach the light so planting too deep may mean it does not have the energy to make it out of the ground.  If you plant it too shallow then it may fall prey to birds or dehydrate preventing germination.

    Generally the seed packet will clearly show the planting depth so is simple enough to achieve.  But what if a friend gave you the seeds, you harvested them yourself or just lost the packet?   You can look it up on the seed company's website or check out similar packets at your garden centre.  Or you could try and work it out yourself.

    To calculate it yourself, the word on the allotment is that seeds should be planted no deeper than two (or three - opinions vary!)  times their diameter.   This may differ from what's on the seed packet which too often seems to be 1/4 of an inch.  So experimenting planting some at the packet depth and some at the calculated depth might improve germination rates.

    Shallow planting

    Some seeds actually need light to germinate e.g. lettuce and dill.  These tend to be very tiny and should be placed on the surface of the soil and not covered.  The challenge with these is to keep them moist as they quickly dehydrate without a covering. If growing in seed trays  - cover with plastic to prevent the water evaporating away. Or cover with a fine layer of vermiculite - a soilless, mineral growing medium - which is porous and lets light shine through, while keeping enough water around the seeds so that they remain moist.

    Deep plantingRootrainers_with_seed_gemination

    Those that need to be planted deeper can benefit from Rootrainers where deeper cells can be chosen for plants that need the extra depth and moisture can be retained by using the integral cover.

    Position

    The final piece in the puzzle is where you plant them.  Some seedlings such as carrots do not like to be transplanted so it is important to sow these in the position you want them to grow.  Others can handle being moved so give you an opportunity to make the most of the short growing season by starting them off inside and transplanting them into growing position the minute growing conditions are right.

    table_of_veg_

    I hope that this has given you some tips to increase the germination success rate in your garden.  Given the delicacy of the balance that needs to be struck for healthy robust seedlings to germinate and grow you can only marvel at how the self seeders in your garden manage so easily what gardeners work so hard to achieve.

  • 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.

     

  • Salad anyone?

    We have returned back to a very grey and rainy England with not much hope for our little shoots after slight neglect for a week. However, we were greeted with huge shoots bursting to get out of their Rootrainers!  Seems like time to get the husband out building the Haxnicks Raised Bed with it’s very handy Raised Bed Polythene Cover to keep those courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes growing upwards and outwards into something edible for my plate.

    Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover on and plants inside I have plants now in my Raised Bed

    Most of all, the joy of this Raised Bed is that you construct and locate it wherever you wish, so for convenience it is sitting right outside our kitchen garden door.  As much as I love my garden who wants to traipse to the end of it to pick their veggies!  We have added a variety of herbs too - why not!

     Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover off and salad plants showing  

    Pull back the polythene cover for easiy watering and as you can see we have a little bed of very healthy young plants which we hope to harvest sometime in July.  We will be back in July with an update!

    Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover off and slightly larger salad plants inside Really growing now - here comes summer!
  • Madeleine's Garden 12th February

    Winter jobs in the Garden

    Today was a beautiful sunny day here on the Wiltshire/Dorset border.

    We are spoiled by having such lovely warm houses, that going outside can seem a little daunting as it is so cold. So I wrapped up warmly - woolly hat and all, and ventured into 2°.

    Finally my two little garden gnomes saw light as I pruned the raspberry canes down to about 3 inches high and got rid of any dead ones and unwanted weeds. Maybe tomorrow I will spread some manure around their bases to give them a little warmth and nourishment – The raspberries not the gnomes!

    I'm never quite sure how garden gnomes actually find their way into a garden.... they are never invited, they just seem to turn up.  Maybe someone brought them here as a birthday surprise one year, sneaked them in and then forgot to say anything. Anyway, it doesn't seem very fair to get rid of them just because I didn't choose them myself.

    Before                                                                   

    Before the Clearing of Haxnicks Garden

    After 

    After the Clearing of Haxnicks Garden

    I have decided to plant a beech hedge along our 'drive to be', ready for when we can start to use it. I always admire people who can think in advance. So I bought 30 plants from a mail order catalogue. They arrived and this is the perfect time of year to plant them. Hedging and trees like to be planted when they are dormant during the winter months.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    Lastly I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that some of the sweet pea and tomato seeds that I had sown less than 2 weeks ago were appearing. Doesn’t time fly.

    Preparing the Garden for Spring with Haxnicks Rootrainers     First signs of Spring plants growing from Seeds in Haxnicks Rootrainers

  • Madeleine's garden 30th Jan 2018

    30th January – Mending fences and sowing the first of the seeds – Tomatoes, Sweet Peas and Delphiniums.

    Well I still haven’t pruned the raspberries. But with the help of my university student son who was anxious to earn a few pennies before returning to university, we mended the fence. He hammered the sledge hammer and I held the post. I was a little too close and received a thump on the collar bone from the hammer, thank goodness I was alright and my son was truly concerned and apologetic.

    This morning was beautiful and I managed to sow the tomato seeds, some delphinium seeds and sweet peas. I have a large windowsill in our house so have brought them all inside so that they can germinate. They all need roughly 15-20 degrees. I have often been tempted to sow tomatoes earlier and it never pays off so the end of January is an ideal time to start.

    Seeds emerging from Haxnicks Rootrainers

     

     

  • Growing Courgette Plants in a Small Space

    After potatoes, courgettes (or zucchini if you’re across the pond), are one of the easiest and most satisfying vegetables to grow. Fast emerging seeds rapidly turn into triffid sized monsters with tropical looking flowers. Before you know it, you have a continuous supply of shiny green (or yellow) veg that can be included in every conceivable recipe from stews to salads, stir-fries to cakes. Pick a handful, turn your back and more will emerge in just a few days, and there are always the ones that get away. Those carefully camouflaged courgettes that lurk under the shady green canopy catch me out every year and before I know it I have a monster marrow to wrestle with.

    If you think you don’t have space to grow courgettes, then think again. If you think you don’t have enough space to grow courgettes in pots or bags, then think again. If you think what you buy in a supermarket tastes the same as a home-grown courgette, then think again. Or just stop thinking and grow some! It is remarkable that what I consider to be one of the hungriest, thirstiest vegetables to grow can be sustained in a very small growing space with the right care and attention. So, even if your only outside space is a balcony or a front doorstep you can still have a summer-long crop of deliciously nutty home-grown courgettes.

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    You can plant up to 3 courgette plants in just one of our Haxnicks veg planters. It seems like a lot, considering how huge they will grow.  The key to success is a good multipurpose compost, lots of water and nutrition. I use liquid Growmore to feed my courgettes, but any good liquid fertiliser will do the trick. A weekly dose seems to be sustaining them well. These particular plants are already dishing out a steady crop. Courgettes require lots of water, their huge leaves quickly droop if you haven't given them enough, so keep on top of watering.

    Growing Courgettes in your Garden with Haxnicks Garden Products

    I grew my tropical looking giants from seed in Rootrainers on a warm windowsill back in February.

    I transplanted them into pots briefly until they had 2 pairs of leaves and a good strong stem meaning that they were strong enough to go out in the greenhouse and cope with the chilly nights. It was a little bit risky putting them out so early, but as I was growing some in time for Chelsea Flower show they had to be coaxed to magnificence in good time!

    Grandpa Haxnicks

     

     

  • The Potty Gardener skips into her Sunbubble

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought onlineSome very exciting news…this weekend the Sun came out, and so did my brand new Sunbubble! Unfortunately it is now drizzling with rain again, but whatever endorphins were released whilst soaking up the sun in my Sunbubble are still coursing through my veins resulting in a Spring-like enthusiasm for the gardening year ahead. The Sunbubble was very quick to put up with just a little bit of help from Grandpa Haxnicks. I had a choice of two sightings for this fabulous pop up greenhouse. The first was at the bottom of our garden, a lovely sunny spot, sheltered from the worst of the prevailing wind. I skipped back and forth to this spot a few times trying out this potential journey from house to greenhouse.

    Haxnicks' Potty Gardener's Wellington Boots stuck in the Mud

    Unfortunately, as I soon discovered, well-trodden, sodden clay becomes quite hard to skip on without losing one or both of your wellies!   So, in order to be able to skip with spring-like enthusiasm to my Sunbubble, whilst at the same time maintaining my dignity, my lawn and my wellies it was clear that the bottom of the garden was not the spot for it.

    The Haxnicks Sunbubble

    The next best place to sight it was on the gravel next to the chicken run and conveniently close to the garden shed. So up it popped in this spot. There was the small inconvenience of drilling into the hard-core below the gravel to secure it in place, but luckily Grandpa Haxnicks is quite amenable when it comes to small inconveniences (such as me!). The Chickens had quite a lot to say about this alien invasion of their view but I am certain that they will be thrilled when they discover that I intend to fill it with all sorts of juicy greens. It's just as well that the Sunbubble has a zipped doorway to keep the greedy chooks out!

    The Haxnicks Rootrainers Racking StationI have since skipped back and forth many times to my exciting new growing space with both wellies firmly on foot and dignity intact. I have also skipped into my local garden centre for compost, seeds, Rootrainers and a Rootrainers Racking Station to keep things tidy and ensure that I will be making the most of the space in the Sunbubble. Then I skipped to the local recycling centre where I have been keeping my eyes peeled (Ouch ) for useful pots and planters. This time I struck lucky and picked up a pair of terracotta planters destined for the skip.....and guess what?... I skipped home with them!

  • The Potty gardener sorting with Soft-Tie and spiders!

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    Thanks to the fearsome weather over the past few weeks any gardening time has been spent undercover in my garden shed, clearing, sorting and tidying. There were moments, with the full force of Storm Barney raging outside, when I feared a Wizard of Oz style take-off in the gale force winds. There were also moments when I feared a horror movie style savaging from the monster sized spiders crawling out from every dark corner of the shed. Thankfully, I have survived the storms and the spiders to tell the tale of the looking after Rootrainers, the marvels of Soft-tie and the cure for arachnophobia….

    Haxnicks Rootrainers stored in a Garden Shed

    I was busy stacking up a neat pile of the Rootrainers, that had so successfully nurtured my sweet peas earlier this year, when I heard some disapproving mutterings blowing in with the wind through the door….Grandpa Haxnicks had arrived to help. My neat stacks of Rootrainers, he told me, were all wrong. Apparently, stacking the propagation lids inside one another in direct sunlight can dramatically reduce their life span as, in warmer weather, heat can build up between the layers and warp the plastic. He also advised that I keep the black Rootrainer cells away from the direct sunlight of the shed window too. He says that I should look after my Rootrainers as I would look after biscuits…hmmmm….?  Unwrap, eat within 2 days and buy more? I think perhaps store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

    The next mess to tackle was the unruly pile of bamboo canes that had somehow been interwoven with the electric strimmer cable and some nylon strawberry netting and was resembling some form of giant primary school textile project designed to teach texture and uninhibited creativity.

    Original Woody Soft Tie from Haxnicks binding canes

    Grandpa Haxnicks’ answer to this mess….Soft-Tie! Small lengths of the bendy, stretchy garden tie can be tightly twisted to keep all manner of things in place. I still had to untangle the mess but hopefully now that all is secured such muddles will be a thing of the past.

    Slim Soft Tie from Haxnicks in Proper Use

    Haxnicks Slim Soft Tie used to hang up Garden Tools

    I won’t bore you with the rest of the clearing that went on, except to say that it was interspersed with involuntary screams as the largest, hairiest spiders in the whole of Dorset were uncovered. One particularly evil spider, that had clearly had enough of all the fuss I was making, decided to disappear up my sleeve whereupon I entered into a kind of possessed frenzy, removing layers of clothing, shaking my arms and, much to Grandpa Haxnicks’ amusement, tripping over the wheelbarrow. This complete loss of dignity, coupled with extreme exposure to spiders seems to have had a curative effect on my arachnophobia. I feel a lot less squeamish in their presence and, I hope in the future, a little more in control when under attack. If any spider dares to crawl up my sleeve again then he will find I have a trick up there to render him helpless…Soft-Tie. Perfect for keeping unruly things, such as 8 hairy legs, under control!

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