South Auckland community garden helps people grow as well as plants

From saving money to eating healthy, the benefits of growing your own food are well known.

But pottering in the garden and connecting with nature is also said to help your mental wellbeing.

A community-oriented garden in south Auckland is focused on old-fashioned living in the modern age, making a place where everyone is welcome.

"There's a gentleness here. We've even had people that do university work come here just to sit, because it puts your head together," Auckland Teaching Gardens Trust's Yvonne Thomas told Newshub.

Ms Thomas helped start the 'teaching garden', which was originally just a clay pad.

Almost a decade later it's now plots of goodness, creating a food hub for the community.

"You've got Bok Choy, coriander, broad beans... carrots, spring onions, beetroot, kale - which is very good too, one of those superfood-type things," Ms Thomas said.

But it's the growth that Ms Thomas and gardening mentor Graeme Hansen see in people that means the most.

They also run programmes for community work offenders, which are said to help reduce reoffending.

"We are trying to give them opportunities to come and train and then go out and enjoy life, get close to the environment and at the same time learn some skills," the Department of Corrections' Dona Ponnavila told Newshub.

It is also about helping those who live close by, like Mangere resident Toni Helleur, who's just over the fence.

She's now working on her own 'healing garden'.

"We'll basically let the community plant herbs and edible weeds, and [it's] just a place for people to come and just relax," she told Newshub.

This week is mental health awareness week and the theme is nature, and the positive effects it has on wellbeing.

"There are no demands and it doesn't matter who's been here, they've always said this is a nice place to be," Ms Thomas said.

And it's a place where she says absolutely nothing is wasted.

"There's no chemicals in these gardens. We use all sorts of... I'm gonna say it - horse shit, cow shit, sheep shit."

It apparently makes for good fertiliser.

But if you're not into that, or plants, stop by for Mr Hansen's pikelets, as they're definitely the cream of the crop.