Ocean Friendly Gardens, Water Quality
September 26 2018

Ocean Friendly Gardens Providing Native Habitat and Soaking Up Runoff on Eastern Long Island

by Colleen Henn

All traffic funneled into East Hampton, a small town at the easternmost point of Long Island, New York, passes by the historic East Hampton Village Green, and this year it's been hard not to notice how beautiful and lively this central green has become. Formerly a mowed patch of grass that frequently flooded, this highly visible community space has metamorphosed into a colorful oasis of native plants and migratory pollinators.

See the garden in full bloom during Summer 2018:

Since its initial planting in 2017 by Surfrider Foundation Eastern Long Island, Piazza Horticultural, The Ladies Village Improvement Society, and East Hampton Village, the garden has been met with great acceptance within the community.

In August of 2018, The Garden Club of East Hampton awarded its 2018 Civic Landscaping Award to the East Hampton Village Green Ocean Friendly Garden, stating “we acknowledge the creation of this “rain garden” by the joint efforts of Surfrider Eastern Long Island, the Village of East Hampton, and the Ladies Village Improvement Society.”

Beyond providing a source of beauty for the community, this landscape transformation has a much greater significance: it protects public health by filtering out pollutants from road runoff before it reaches the nearby ponds, lakes and oceans; pollutants such as fecal bacteria and pathogens that make people sick and nutrients that cause toxic algal blooms in downstream waters.

When water pools up at the East Hampton Village Green after a heavy rain, it flows south towards the ocean into a series of small ponds.  The water from these ponds eventually discharge through an outfall pipe into the Atlantic Ocean at Main Beach, one of the most iconic beaches in the country. The East Hampton Village Bioswale Ocean Friendly Garden is a great example for the entire community (and many visitors) of an upstream approach to preventing polluted water from reaching our local beaches.

To see just how well this garden functions, Surfrider Foundation Eastern Long Island’s Blue Water Task Force has been monitoring the water quality at the East Hampton Village Green Bioswale and the East Hampton Town Pond since before construction.

After the garden was planted, collecting a sample from the green has proven to be difficult since water only pools up as a result of a very heavy rain; a testament that the garden is serving its purpose.

This fall the Eastern Long Island Chapter’s other Ocean Friendly Garden in Amagansett Square has become a living laboratory for Monarch Butterflies, which rely on milkweeds to lay their eggs.

Although these demonstration gardens were a significant undertaking for Eastern Long Island Chapter, there are many best landscaping practices that individual homeowners can take to make their own yards more Ocean-Friendly.

  • In place of chemical fertilizers, apply compost to increase the productivity of your soil.
  • Instead of pesticides or herbicides, pull your weeks by hand and apply mulch to build healthy, living soil.
  • Plant native plants that require little maintence, while also 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.
  • Direct your gutters into a rain barrel/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.
  • Visit demonstration Ocean Friendly Gardens in your community. View Map of all OFGs here

If your interested in learning more about Ocean Friendly Gardens, or if your yard follows all Ocean Friendly criteria and you would like an Ocean Friendly Garden Yard Sign, visit Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens page.