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Hands-on Ocean Friendly Gardens Workshops in Long Beach, California

The Surfrider Foundation’s Long Beach chapter hosted three hands-on garden workshops and a walking tour around Long Beach to teach volunteers about Ocean Friendly Gardens. These workshops were part of a grant project implemented in collaboration with Dashboard.Earth, aimed at engaging Long Beach residents in tangible and personalized actions that anyone can easily take at home and in their neighborhood to conserve water, reduce pollution and build climate resiliency. The gardens we installed will have a lasting impact in reducing stormwater runoff, providing habitat for pollinators, and creating a climate resilient community.

At the beginning of the project, we hosted a walking tour that visited several Ocean Friendly Gardens around a neighborhood near El Dorado Park. This helped interested attendees learn about what ocean-friendly landscapes can look like in different sizes and shapes of yards. We saw examples of rain water retention features on a house with gutters, without gutters, and on a steep slope, and discussed the different strategies of preventing runoff. Attendees got to see and smell native sages, mint, and discuss plant selection with our local OFG leader and landscape expert Kai Craig.The walking tours help build literacy about sustainable, ocean-friendly landscapes and provide tangible examples of how to take action.

Our first demonstration project was at a vacant yard next to a convenience store. The gutters on the building were previously draining into a planter that overflowed into the yard, but many of the original plants did not survive, and the area was overdue for an update.  We had an amazing crew of volunteers that transformed the yard in just a few hours, and learned a lot about Ocean Friendly Gardening. We dug out the basin of the rain garden to capture more runoff and direct more water to the plants, and created a small dry creek to guide the flow of rain. We added lots of native plants and wildflower seeds, and topped everything off with a layer of water conserving mulch. With all of the rain falling over the winter months helping to establish the plants, the garden is well on its way to providing cheerful green space to the community, pollinator habitat, and runoff prevention.

The next project we tackled was to transform a front yard in California Heights. The historic home had some issues with drainage in the backyard, and the pipe that drained into the front yard was spilling polluted runoff onto the sidewalk. The sloped yard used to have a traditional grass lawn, but to save water the homeowner had let the grass die back. Our volunteer team added a rain garden to the top of the yard and incorporated a dry creek onto the side with the drain pipe. We also planted low growing native buckwheats and manzanita to the edge of the slope to help prevent erosion and provide a transition between the rain garden and the remaining grassy areas.

Many of the volunteers expressed their appreciation for the hands-on learning experience, especially since they have been interested in making their yards and homes more sustainable for a while but didn’t know where to start. One homeowner told us that after our workshop they felt confident they could do a rain garden project in their own yard. Lots of people planted a plant in the ground for the first time, and are now empowered to keep making an impact at home and in the community.

A couple volunteering at the second project told us they were in the process of completing the City of Long Beach Lawn to Garden rebate and wanted to add a rain retention feature to their new garden. The following month, our newly trained crew of community volunteers showed up to help shape their yard into an Ocean Friendly Garden, adding a rain garden feature with native and climate appropriate plants to their new front yard. The downspout from the roof originally drained next to their concrete porch, and was wearing away the soil against the house. We sloped the ground at the base of the downspout and strategically placed gravel and rocks to help guide the water away from the house and into the basin of the garden. The result looked beautiful and will only look better with time as the plants grow in.

Through these workshops and walking tours, the Surfrider Foundation’s Long Beach Chapter is beginning to foster a team of dedicated volunteers that are taking action for the environment through gardening. We are excited to keep building on this momentum and growing green spaces that protect our coastlines and waterways while preparing us for the future. The Surfrider Foundation appreciates the collaboration of Dashboard.Earth and the support of Accelerate Resilience LA towards making these grassroots projects happen. If you live in LA, download the Dashboard.Earth app here, and take action yourself to protect clean water and build climate resiliency in your neighborhood.