Incredible edibles


POSTED: Monday, March 15, 2010

Zach Mermel hopes to save the planet one garden at a time. Part of his artillery is his workshop on how to grow an edible garden at the Lyon Arboretum on Saturday.

Working with nature is key, Mermel said, and what you already have may be a plus. For instance, you may have purchased a garden waterfall for its tranquil sound and aesthetic qualities. But by doing so, you also tapped an earth-friendly resource for what are called multiple yields.

“;You can plant water chestnut and azolla, a homegrown seaweed, in the water feature because it also feeds the plants,”; Mermel said.

It's a way to go “;a step beyond sustainable, not just sustaining (a garden), but making it better than it was before by mimicking nature patterns to create abundance.”;

Learning to see how water naturally “;branches”; on your particular lot and working with that pattern is part of this philosophy of garden design.

“;When you figure out where you want the garden to go around the house, design the pathways of the garden according to that branching pattern,”; he said.






        Learn the dos and don'ts of edible landscaping and how to transform your lanai or yard into an oasis of food, medicinal herbs and other multifunctional plants.


Place: Lyon Arboretum


When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday


Cost: $40 ($37 for members)


Call: 988-0461


Notes: Bring lunch. Class is subject to cancellation depending on enrollment.




If you can do that, what occurs frequently as a nuisance rain puddle on one side of the home can be a transformed into a source of a great spring salad.

Learning how to “;hold water”; or work with water patterns in the landscape is crucial on Oahu, he said, because we get less rain than the Big Island, where he was born and raised.

Mermel resides in Volcano and is a regenerative landscape designer who has held similar workshops there. This is his first on Oahu.

“;The concept is about designing a more abundant future, starting at home, and then it can branch out from there and expand to the neighborhood and then the larger community of our islands.”;

Jill Laughlin, education coordinator of Lyon Arboretum, said: “;We like to feature new instructors and new ideas. He's looking at long-range planning, whether you're a homeowner or renter or whether you have a garden on your apartment lanai.”;

Hawaii is ideal for edible gardening because many plants are well-suited to the tropics, Mermel said. Northern climates, due to cold winters, are not conducive to year-round productivity.

Perennials work best for edible gardens. “;Plants that grow year after year for at least two or three years, are best as far as long-term productivity and least amount of maintenance,”; he said.

He gave examples such as oca, a starch root crop, and chaya leaf for salads. His aim is to help people understand how their particular home garden fits in with Hawaii's natural ecosystem.

“;Many of the things we normally see as household 'wastes' can serve as food for enhancing our home habitat,”; he said. “;Office paper, cardboard, food scraps and plant trimmings can be fed to the garden to increase soil fertility.

“;Revamp the eroding hillside behind your home into a terraced garden bed, using cinder blocks left over from last year's home remodel. What about transforming those old carpets and plastic sheets cluttering your garage into a 'carpet-sandwich' liner for a backyard mini-pond that produces food, attracts beneficial insects and is a joy to spend time around? Through thoughtful design, problems become solutions.”;