Ocean Friendly Gardens: Making the connection between how we care for our yard and the health of our local waterways.

Surfrider Into The Sea on Vimeo.

Into the Sea, a film by Mikey Detemplemakes the connection between how we manage our lawn and gardens at home and the health of our local waterways.   We should all take the responsibility to make changes to protect our own health and to prevent pollution from contaminating our bays, ponds and ocean. With high bacteria counts being measured after it rains by our Blue Water Task Force water testing program and growing problems with toxic blue-green algae blooms in our ponds and dangerous rust, brown & red tides in the bay, there has never been a more important time to act. 

What’s the problem?

From unnecessarily treating our garden and lawns with chemical fertilizers and pesticides to applying too much water, we’re killing all the beneficial biology in our soils that support beautiful and healthy plants, and it’s creating polluted runoff.  Landscaping chemicals don’t stay where they are applied, but instead can leach into groundwater or be washed away by runoff when it rains or when misdirected irrigation runs off our properties.  The resulting storm water and road runoff pollutes local waterways and harms coastal ecosystems by causing harmful algal blooms and killing fish and other aquatic animals. Water affected by runoff is dangerous to swim and play in.

What’s the solution?

The best way to protect clean water is through a more natural landscape that supports a diversity of native plants, and mimics and supports nature rather than altering and harming it. Instead of maintaining water thirsty turf lawns and adding chemicals to force them to be green, you can take steps to make your yard an Ocean Friendly Garden.

Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFGs) act like a sponge in your landscape. These gardens are shaped in a natural way to capture rain and runoff, contain native, climate appropriate plants and healthy, living soil which soaks up, stores and filters out pollutants from stormwater and road runoff.  OFGs also provide native habitat for bees, birds and butterflies, and can even help mitigate climate change as healthy plants and soil work in combination to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere.

Here are some steps you can take at home to be make your yard more Ocean Friendly:

  • Get dirty! Stop using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and pull weeds by hand instead.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch. Apply organic compost to your yard and garden and cover it with mulch to build healthy, living soil that acts like a sponge to hold onto rain for your plants’ use during dry months. Soil microbes, which are like probiotics, help the soil’s ability to absorb nutrients and resist drought, disease and pests and aid in cleaning up pollution and capturing carbon that plants absorb from the atmosphere.
  • Compost. Make your own soil amendments by composting your yard and kitchen scraps in a compost or worm bin.
  • Go native! Plant native plants and grasses that don’t need supplemental irrigation when they are fully-grown. You’ll also be providing food and habitat for butterflies, birds and bees.
  • Shape your garden to slow down and soak up rainwater. Leave a natural buffer or slightly raised border around the edge of your yard to prevent runoff from leaving your property and polluting local waterways.
  • Slow down and sponge up the rain by directing your gutters into a cistern or a vegetated area of your yard to allow the water to soak into the ground. This reduces flooding and keeps polluted runoff from reaching the ocean.
  • Barrel on! Install a rain barrel to store rainwater for future watering needs, and direct the overflow into the landscape and not onto the driveway and out to a storm drain.
  • Mind the gap. Make your walkways and driveways permeable by cutting gaps in them or make sure they are pitched to drain into your yard.

Learn more at Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens website, or…

Visit the Ocean Friendly Garden recently installed by our chapter in Amagansett Square in partnership with Freddie Friedler, Fond Group and Marders Nursery & Landscaping, and see for yourself how beautiful and beneficial these gardens can be!

Native plants and permeable landscapes in Amagansett Square

Native plants and permeable landscapes in Amagansett Square

Our Chapter has also partnered with the Ladies Village Improvement Society (LVIS) and East Hampton Village to design an ocean friendly planting in the East Hampton Village Green that will collect and filter road runoff before it enters Town and Hook Ponds.  Phase 1 of this project is underway, which includes grading and improving the drainage of the Village Green.  The Chapter has installed three bio-swales with native plants to complete the project.

Piazza Horticulture planting the Ocean Friendly Garden in the East Hampton Village.

Not only will this OFG provide incredible aesthetics for town residents and visitors; it also will effectively filter and clean road runoff and provide habitat for native species. Read local media coverage of this project here: (http://easthamptonstar.com/News/2016421/Green-Garden-Go).