Current oyster gardeners: Spring spat return dates are now open for registration. If you would like to participate in the program as a new oyster gardener, join our email list to be notified when registration opens for our fall 2022 season or complete our volunteer form at the bottom of this page.
What Is Oyster Gardening?
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 Oyster 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?
- 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.
- Gardeners grow their oysters in the cages for about a year until the oysters are about one to two inches long.
- The gardener then returns the adult oysters to CBF, and our staff plant the oysters onto sanctuary (non-harvest) reefs in Maryland waters.
- 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.
This video by Gillian Ray tells the story of 15-year-old oyster gardener Jamie Attanasio.