Ocean Friendly Gardens, Basic Class, Water Quality
April 09 2019

Ventura Chapter Hosts Ocean Friendly Gardens Community Workshop

by Katie Day

The Ventura Chapter invites their local community to learn about Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program. The chapter recently held a workshop where participants learned how to apply the watershed approach to transform their yards and neighborhoods into beautiful, healthy habitats, while helping to protect water quality at downstream beaches.

Image 1. An Ocean Friendly Garden and accompanying mural in Ventura brighten the busy street corner.

Last year, Surfrider worked with the California Water Efficiency Partnership, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers California Chapter and the Green Gardens Group to develop the California Watershed Approach to Landscape Design handbook. This booklet provides design ideas and step by step instructions on how to assess your landscape and transform it into an Ocean Friendly Garden. It covers how to test and enhance your soil; and design, install, and maintain a climate-friendly landscape by developing beautiful, drought-tolerant gardens that sequester carbon dioxide, capture stormwater, and provide important habitat for local wildlife.

In March 2019, the Ventura Chapter took it one step further, and hosted a public workshop to walk community members through the steps outlined in the Watershed Approach handbook, answer questions, share experiences and even provide local know-how. Recommendations for nearby nurseries and where to source materials at various price-points, from boutique shops to wholesalers were provided. Chapter volunteers even provided tips on where to find free mulch and upcoming native plant sales! Special guest presenters included a representative from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to discuss plants that attract pollinators, local landscape professionals to provide free gardening advice, and a representative from the Ventura Water Turf Rebate and Reclaimed Water Programs.

Image 2. Laura Oergel, Surfrider Ventura Chapter Chair, explains how to install an Ocean Friendly Garden at the Community Workshop.

Attendees received a free copy of the California Watershed Approach booklet, native plant lists, information on local rebate programs to offset the cost of removing turf, and information on Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens criteria. The workshop even covered modifications that can be made to yards to reduce a home’s fire hazard risk. This is especially important in communities in fire hazard areas like Ventura and Santa Barbara, where nearly 1,000 homes burned in the Thomas Fire in 2017, and hundreds more lost during subsequent mudslides in 2018.

Many attendees asked specific questions about troubleshooting in their own backyards- why one plant species seems to be performing better than another, or why, after three years, their french lavender plant is starting to change shape. In addition to providing answers to direct questions, the workshop presenters also shared methods to control weeds and pests organically- without the need for pesticides and herbicides. This is among dozens of other helpful hints and tricks to make local gardens more successful, tolerant, and beneficial to the local ecosystem and watershed.

Image 3. An Ocean Friendly Garden’s progression from initial installation (top) to year 1 (middle) to becoming fully established at year 2 (bottom).

For instance, did you know:

  • bark mulch is the best when it comes to building healthy soils, and though flammable when dry, it can actually be extremely fire resistant when wet?

  • one-gallon plants are not only more affordable than larger plants, but are more tolerant when being replanted because their roots are more vigorous?

  • there are over 1,000 species of native bees and wasps in California, and native bees are solitary (not colonial) so they are not aggressive?

  • your local Surfrider Chapter and native plant society or botanical garden might be great resources for you when designing your landscape or garden?

Are you interested in joining an Ocean Friendly Gardens program in your town, or planting your very own Ocean Friendly Garden? Check with your local Surfrider Chapter to see if they have an active Ocean Friendly Gardens program or download the Watershed Handbook to learn how to do-it-yourself! If you’re located in Ventura and would like to volunteer with the Ocean Friendly Gardens Program or learn about the Chapter’s upcoming events, click here.