Maryland Oyster Gardening Program


What is it?

Oysters are the Chesapeake Bay's best natural filters. They also provide essential habitat for fish and other Bay creatures. Unfortunately, though, today's oyster population is estimated at only two percent of its original level. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Oyste Gardening Program gives people the opportunity to help bring back this vital species by growing oysters alongside their docks. Once grown, the adult oysters are returned to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for planting on sanctuary reefs.

How is it done?

  1. To grow oysters, each participant builds a set of oyster cages from wire mesh, which will hang from the dock. The gardener also receives several thousand seed oysters.
  2. Gardeners grow their oysters in the cages for about a year until the oysters are about one to two inches long.
  3. The gardener then returns the adult oysters to CBF, and our staff plant the oysters onto sanctuary (non-harvest) reefs in Maryland waters.
  4. The gardener starts over with a new batch of seed. The hope is that each gardener will continue to produce a new crop of healthy adult oysters year after year.

Want to become an oyster gardener? Sign our volunteer registration form and someone will get back to you soon. Looking for more information about CBF's oyster gardening program? Send an e-mail to


See oyster gardening in action with this video from


This video by Gillian Ray tells the story of 15-year-old oyster gardener Jamie Attanasio.

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Oyster Gardening FAQs

Where can you do it?

Oysters can be grown from a private dock, community pier, marina, waterfront business, friend or neighbor's dock, etc. Read our faq for additional information about which areas have appropriate salinity for growing oysters.

When can you do it?

Seminars and spat pick-ups are held in the late summer and early fall, due to the seasonal availability of hatchery-produced oyster seed. Check the current workshop and spat pick-up schedule.

For a more detailed description of what is involved in growing oysters, read our Frequently Asked Questions About the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Oyster Gardening Program.

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