Ocean Friendly Gardens

Urban runoff is often the primary source of ocean pollution. The Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Program educates and assists people in creating landscapes that utilize native plants, permeable groundcovers and water retention features to prevent urban runoff, create wildlife habitats and design beautiful spaces.
Intro Resources Contact

Water runoff is the #1 source of ocean pollution in urban areas, and it erodes stream banks and creates flooding. Also, nutrients from fertllizers are a major cause of ocean acidification. The water could irrigate landscapes, recharge groundwater and help ensure base stream flows. Plus, plants do not need chemicals and commercial fertilizers. Click here to learn more about the problem. Read about how soil works to "sponge up" water, pollution, and carbon (from carbon dioxide).

Ocean Friendly Gardens is part of Surfrider's Clean Water Initiative, an integrated approach to water, where you will find resources such as our short, animated film, "The Cycle of Insanity." 

Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) revive our under-hydrated watersheds and polluted oceans by applying CPR - Conservation, Permeability and Retention - to our landscapes and hardscapes:

  • C - Conserve water and wildlife habitat with native or climate appropriate plants.
  • P - Permeable, living soil and hard surfaces that runoff to landscapes to filter pollutants, sponge up water for plants to tap into during dry months, and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmostphere.
  • R - Retain rain as the first source of irrigation.

OFGs are like rain gardens (pictured above/right), where water is slowed down, spread out, and allowed to sink in. Click here for a short-form version of the criteria, and here for a longer list of best practices. Think of the criteria as the techniques to follows. If you meet the short-form criteria, please order and display our yard sign - see info below in the "OFG Map" section. You can stay in touch with OFG through our Facebook page.

Help Your Garden #GetBarreled
Surfrider has partnered with The Ecology Center on their #GetBarreled program to promote the installation of rain barrels. Rain barrels can be the first step in Retention: slowing down rainwater and directing overflow into the landscape, or collecting it as needed. To get a sense of the impact, a house with a 2,000 square foot roof in an area that gets 30 inches of rain a year can generate 37,200 gallons of water for your landscape a year and keep that run-off out of our Ocean!  Learn more about the #GetBarreled program.

Barrel Resources: Installation Guide -- Rain Barrel Workshop Toolkit


Do It Yourself Info

You can also share this with a professional you hire:

 Programs & Partnerships

As the above video shows in part, we implement OFG through education, hands-on activities and policy change. (Check with your local Surfrider chapter to see what components they are offering.) We seek to collaborate with government, professionals and non-profits to help put on events and scale-up implementation. Here's info for:

  • Activists - The OFG Activist Toolkit explains how to run program events: walks, talks, workdays, and policy meetings. Here's a brief description of each event: walks, talks, and workdays (Garden Assistance Party). Just tabling at events is great! The Toolkit also has volunteer job descriptions, sample event flyers, tabling visuals, slideshows, case studies & more. (Note: the Toolkit only has .pdf files. Go to ChapterNet (Resources>Programs>Ocean Friendly Gardens) for .doc and .ppt files.) An "Intro to OFG" slideshow is in this Public Dropbox folder to download and edit; here's a short slideshow focusing on program objectives and how it has a national reach. Also, chapter OFG activists can enter their activity data at any time into this tracking sheet rather than waiting till the end of the year.
  • Workday hosts - Click here for more information on your responsibilities. Click here for more information on how Surfrider chapters may help. Here's a set of steps to follow to create an OFG.
  • Professionals - Chapters work with professionals who agree to follow the OFG criteria when leading an OFG class or an OFG workday. Click here for more information.
  • Public gardens (botanic gardens) - they often offer programs for children and adults, and may have connections with colleges, other gardens, nurseries, native plant societies and landscape associations. Check out the American Public Gardens Association for a garden near you.


  • See gardens and post yours - learn how others went ocean friendly, and see the water runoff prevented and water use savings, pictures and plants lists, and more. Click here.
  • Order a yard sign - the info is on the map's "Instructions" page (last item) - click here (and download the brief form in item 17).

Ocean Friendly Gardens Annual Reports - 2012, 2013, 2014

  • Starting in 2015, OFG info is included in the Clean Water Initiative Report - 2015

Ocean Friendly Gardens Brochure - send an order to Surfrider's Karli Barbour (kbarbour@surfrider.org) that states how many brochures you want, your mailing address, and when you need the brochures by. You can download an e-version and print it out.

Ocean Friendly Gardens How-To Gardener's Guide Book - order it here.


  • Garden tools - click here for a grant application for free tools from Corona Tools
  • School projects - click here for a grant application from Lowes Toolbox For Education (up to $5,000)


A 60 second public service announcement about OFG.

7 shorts from SWRCB on how to retrofit a landscape and hard surface to be an OFG. 

  • #1 - intro to stormwater
  • #2 - killing lawn through sheet mulching
  • #3 - disconnecting downspouts
  • #4 - lawn care
  • #5 - supporting healthy soil
  • #6 - permeable hard surfaces
  • #7 - swales and rain gardens

The value of a rain barrel with Surfrider-East Coast Regional Manager, John Weber

Stormwater outfall pipe in action - spewing runoff into Seattle's Puget Sound (on a rainy day)

A city hall landscape becomes an OFG through hands-on workshop with Conservation Corps

A GAP transforms a park's grass lawn into an OFG.

OFG featured on state water agency website.

Cutting the parkway curb to capture street runoff (LID). An OFG in action, capturing rain.

PSA, short intro video, and 3 videos about levels of OFG programming: Informational, Lawn Patrol, Series.

"Slow The Flow: How To Make Your Garden Act More Like A Sponge" (features San Francisco Chapter's OFG Program)

Pamela Berstler's OFG (Managing Member of G3, The Green Gardens Group)

Elmer Avenue - OFG + green street (Los Angeles Area)


A small residential OFG done with Surfrider volunteers - Long Beach Daily Bulletin

New York Times on the Garden Assistance Party: text and pictures

Fish put into rain garden-filtered runoff survive; those in un-filtered runoff do not, after just 12 hours!

National OFG Program Coordinator, Paul Herzog, interviewed by Los Angeles City Stormwater blog - click here

Article on OFG Program in Watershed Management Group's newsletter ("Get Your Garden Out Of The Gutter") - click here


Contact your local Surfrider Chapter to see if they are conducting an Ocean Friendly Gardens Program.http://www.waterla.org/downloads

Paul Herzog, Coordinator, Ocean Friendly Gardens Program: pherzog@surfrider.org and 310-430-9760
Ocean Friendly Gardens Updates