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The ‘freedom’ of gardening

PRINCETON – Corry Engelbrecht, a domestic violence advocate at Freedom House in Princeton, went out on a limb this spring and decided to plant a garden at the Freedom House facility to give clients and their children an activity to enjoy and take part in together.

“I personally find gardening to be very therapeutic, and it’s been something that when I’m upset calms me,” she said. “I thought it might be a good way for the clients to de-stress, be calm and bond.”

The garden has grown into a popular activity for the clients to engage in and is packed with a variety of vegetables and plants they chose to planted. Sunflowers, tomatoes, jalapeno, green beans, peas, carrots, radishes, zucchini and lemon basil plants are just a few that pack the space.

Engelbrecht said clients have enjoyed being able to help with the garden and see the vegetables they planted grow into something. Their children have also enjoyed learning about the process of planting, maintaining and harvesting.

“They get really excited when they find out that there are things here they can eat,” she said.

So far, clients have been able to sample cucumbers, radishes, beans and zucchini and are getting anxious for the big harvest, which is expected to happen soon.

“We have a few things, but we’ve got about a million tomatoes that we are about to start swimming in,” she said.

The garden is maintained by Engelbrecht and the clients.

“Some of the clients work and don’t have as much time, so I come out,” she said. “It works well because even though they can’t always be out here to do 100 percent of the maintenance, it’s something I love to do, so I can help keep it up. And they can come out here when they can and get that relaxation.”

The garden provides a quite shaded place to sit and enjoy nature.

“I just wanted it to be a relaxing place,” Engelbrecht said.

Plans for a garden next year are already in the workings. Engelbrecht is hoping to expand the space of the garden and is looking into grants that will help fund the purchase of seeds, plants and maintenance equipment. Currently, all the items used are either donated or from Engelbrecht’s home.

“I really would like to have raised beds and hoping to get nice equipment and maybe get a picnic table out here,” she said. “I want to make it even nicer. At the beginning, it was a ‘see how it goes thing,’ but I think it’s going very well.”

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