Staff from Under Armour and students from two local schools set oyster cages at a local dock.  Photo by CBF StaffStaff from Under Armour and students from two local schools set oyster cages at a local dock.  Photo by CBF Staff

Virginia Oyster Gardening Program

Here are Oyster Gardening cages hanging from a dock.  Each cage measures about 18 inches long by one foot square.  You will receive two cages with shell in it. What is it?

Oysters are the Chesapeake Bay's best natural filters. They also provide essential habitat for fish and other Bay creatures. Unfortunately today's oyster population is a small fraction of what it used to be. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Oyster Gardening Program gives citizens an 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?

First time oyster gardeners are required to attend a short seminar in June to learn how to maintain their oyster garden over the coming year. At the end of the seminar, they will have the option to take home spat-on-shell oysters (baby oysters set on recycled shells) and two 18" x 10" cages to grow them in. Gardeners will grow and care for their oysters in the cages for about one year and will return the mature adult oysters to CBF at an Oyster Round Up the following June. All of the returned oysters are transplated onto sancutary (non-harverst) reefs in nearby waters. Each oyster gardener can then start over with a new batch of baby oysters to care for. 

How to be an oyster gardener

Last oyster roundup and new-gardener seminar registration now open

Where can you do it?

Oysters can be grown from a private dock, community pier, marina, waterfront business, friend or neighbor's dock, etc. 

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 new gardener seminar and spat pick-up schedules.

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.

You may also be interested in:
  • Maryland Oyster Restoration Center CBF's Oyster Restoration Center serves as the central location for all of CBF’s oyster restoration activities in Maryland.
  • Building a Future for the Chesapeake's Oysters Today, there are important new reasons for hope for the Chesapeake Bay's keystone species.
  • Great Shellfish of the Bay Now, thanks to increased awareness, extensive restoration efforts, resisting the introduction of a non-native oyster species, and favorable weather conditions, there is hope for the mighty oyster yet.
  • Oyster Gardening in the Inner Harbor CBF and the Waterfront Partnership have created The Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership as art of the Healthy Harbor Initiative to make Baltimore's Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable.
  • Spat Catcher Program Each spring, volunteers from the Lafayette River area hope to attract swimming oyster larvae to special cages suspended from piers and docks.
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