Ocean Friendly Gardens
The largest source of water pollution cannot be traced to any one point — it’s all of us. Pollutants “run off” our streets, neighborhoods and landscapes, wastefully and needlessly fouling our coastal waterways and ocean. But you can take simple steps in your own garden to create beautiful landscapes that capture the eye of your neighbors while capturing the polluted runoff that flows to our local beaches.
Whenever water leaves a property it has the ability to take pollutants with it. Fertilizers, pesticides and oil are easily picked up by the power of water. While this runoff is greatest during rain storms, urban runoff occurs all year round as a result of improper irrigation, washing cars, and hosing down driveways.
Runoff from residential landscapes affects the quality of our oceans and the quality of our lives. The sediment in water reduces clarity; nutrients increase algae populations and red tides; bacteria close beaches; debris can choke and suffocate aquatic species; and pesticides picked up off a landscape can poison fish consumed by humans — all of which degrade the natural beauty, and our enjoyment, of the ocean.
The good news is that you can help bring back healthy coasts and oceans though CPR© — Conservation, Permeability and Retention. It’s a way for all of us to design and maintain our gardens so that we can reduce urban runoff — and the pollutants that go with it.
In addition to increased water quality at the beach, green infrastructure like Ocean Friendly Gardens can also help provide a wide variety of co-benefits, including habitat for local wildlife, healthy soils that sequester carbon dioxide emissions, and flooding mitigation during storm events.
Surfrider Foundation is partnering with water agencies and others to launch an education and outreach effort as a pilot "Ocean Friendly Gardens" program in several coastal counties in southern California. In 2018, Surfrider partnered with the Green Gardens Group, CA Water Efficiency Partnership, and Association of Professional Landscape Designers to publish this document on the Watershed Approach to Landscape Design.
Check out Surfrider's OFG Manual for how to get started with creating a Surfrider Chapter OFG Program. Also see our 2016 Clean Water Annual Report to learn about the work Surfrider chapters, volunteers, students and advisors undertook to educate the public and conduct hands-on training to build Ocean Friendly Gardens during 2016. A total of 25 chapters or school clubs offered a spectrum of activities to advance the goals of the program.
More information can be found at Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Gardens program website, in our Ocean Friendly Gardens blog, on our Ocean Friendly Gardens Facebook page, and in articles that appeared in the November 2007 and August 2010 (see page 6) issues of Surfrider's publication Making Waves. In May 2014 Surfrider's Chad Nelsen made a presentation Improving Water Quality Through Landscape Retrofits at the H2O (Headwaters to Ocean) conference in San Diego, California.
Fire Resistant Landscaping
Ocean Friendly Gardens can also be used to help with soil stabilization and water quality protection before and after fires. Please stay tuned for an updated Ocean Friendly Gardens criteria check list that includes fire resistant landscaping techniques. See below for some key resources in the meantime.
- Fire Resistant Plants
- Fire Resistant Mulch Design
- Drought Resistance and Water Conservation
- University of California's Q&A About Drought and Water Conservation
- General Landscape Design
- Current OFG Criteria