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a garden full of CA native flowers

Ocean Friendly Gardens

Ocean Friendly Gardens is Surfrider’s sustainable landscaping and education program that provides beautiful, inexpensive and natural solutions to reduce polluted runoff and support resilient coasts.

A Nature-based approach

Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) program offers simple and beautiful nature-based solutions to protect clean water and support resilient coasts and communities. OFGs restore the natural functions of healthy watersheds by contouring landscapes for rainwater retention, directing water back into the ground instead of storm drains. The extensive root systems of native plants help naturally filter pollutants and sponge up extra water while restoring biodiversity to our urban landscapes.

By returning nature to our urban spaces, OFGs support climate resiliency goals by sequestering carbon, reducing air and water pollution, and avoiding climate emissions from energy-intensive maintenance practices. OFGs provide an opportunity to build equitable access to nature within neighborhoods and communities that lack green space while empowering volunteers with the skills to grow a more resilient future. 

For more information or questions:
Kathryn Dressendorfer, Southern California Ocean Friendly Gardens Coordinator

10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater runoff flow into U.S. waterways every year

Growing more good

Surfrider chapters use OFGs to build awareness of the connection between how we care for our yards and public spaces and the resulting health and resilience of our local waterways and beaches.

OFGs can be anywhere, whether you live inland or at the beach. Any yard, park, or community green space can help protect clean water by using the watershed approach to reduce pollution that harms our waterways and coasts.

OFGs work as green infrastructure to better prepare our communities for storm events, reducing local flooding and preventing runoff from overwhelming storm drain and sewer systems. Rainwater is directed back into the soil to naturally filter pollutants and recharge groundwater supplies.


What Is An Ocean Friendly Garden?

OFGs apply CPR – Conservation, Permeability and Retention – to landscapes, hardscapes and streets. They allow soil to act like a sponge to help restore the helpful functions of watersheds like protecting local water supplies and preventing pollution from reaching the ocean. They also reduce flooding during storm events, pull carbon from the air and into plants and soil, and create wildlife habitat (above is a typical OFG and below is a curb cut flowing into a bio-swale).

OFGs apply what is coming to be known around the country as the watershed approach. The principles are the same: healthy, living soil; retain rainwater; climate-appropriate plants; efficient supplemental irrigation as needed.

You can stay in touch with OFG through our national OFG Facebook page. Please connect or volunteer with one of the Surfrider chapters or student clubs.

OFG Criteria

Does your yard or community space meet our Ocean Friendly Gardens standards? If all criteria are met, you can be an ambassador for ocean-friendly gardening with an OFG yard sign and a spot on our OFG map (coming soon).  

Plants: support wildlife & resilient habitat

  • Native plants cover at least 50% of garden or yard
  • Turf grass kept to a minimum in appropriate climates and maintained sustainably
  • All plants are climate-appropriate (rainfall keeps them healthy when established) or edible
  • No invasive plants

Water & Irrigation: conserve water & avoid wasteful runoff

  • Hand watering or high-efficiency irrigation system (drip, rotator sprinkler)
  • Automatic irrigation controller (if present) has a rain shut-off device

Healthy, Living Soil: sponge up water & filter pollutants

  • No use of pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides
  • No commercial fertilizers. Compost, worm castings, or homemade organic solutions are applied if fertilizer is needed
  • No landscape fabric (weed cloth) or artificial turf
  • Natural mulch used as needed around plants to conserve water, rebuild soil health, and suppress weeds

Redirect & Soak Up Rain: prevent runoff & stormwater pollution

  • Simple contours such as bio-swales, dry creeks, and basins are used to maximize rainwater retention and prevent runoff
  • Rainwater from the roof is directed to landscaping, a permeable area or into rain barrels and cisterns that overflow onto permeable areas
  • Existing walkways and patios direct rainwater runoff to landscaping where possible
  • Pavers with gaps or permeable materials used for new hardscapes
mw planting copy

Ocean Friendly Gardens

Restore habitat and watershed health in your own yard with Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG). OFG is Surfrider’s sustainable landscaping and education program that provides beautiful, inexpensive, and natural solutions to reduce polluted runoff and support resilient coasts.

Methodist Lane Bioswale, Eastern Long Island Chapter
Beyond Baroque OFG, Los Angeles Chapter
Residential OFG, Long Beach CA
A monarch butterfly visits an OFG in Los Angeles, CA


Program Criteria
  • OFG Criteria (en Español)
  • To order an Ocean Friendly Garden Sign, please email Kathryn Dressendorfer,
Benefits of Ocean Friendly Gardens
Take Action at Home 
Educational Resources
Resources for Chapters
Surfrider Publications

Ways To Get Involved


Join our network and help us tackle the issues that face our ocean, waves and beaches.


Support Surfrider and our network of coastal defenders.

Take Action

Take action right from your computer by contacting your local officials.