Nonprofit teaches sustainable gardening to save oceans
Green workshops benefit area residents
By David Percival 04/19/2012
The grass is always greener on the other side — unless the other side is Jon Huber’s front yard.
Huber, a Ventura resident, ditched his emerald-green turf for native vegetation.
“I was initially kind of tired of feeding and watering my lawn all the time,” said Huber. “I saw a thing in the [newspaper] about Ocean Friendly Gardens. I went to a seminar and they explained about water usage.”
Ocean Friendly Gardens, a nonprofit organization formed by the Surfrider Foundation and other agencies, strives to educate people about ocean pollution caused by urban runoff from gardens and yards. It promotes a practical solution called conservation, permeability and retention or CPR.
Water conservation is the critical first step. Some people dump as much as four feet of water per square foot on their lawns each year in an effort to keep them green.
“[For] Marathon lawns, most people put on twice that,” said Paul Herzog, national coordinator for Ocean Friendly Gardens. “On average, 40 (percent) to 70 percent of the water people use is outdoors, and we think that a garden using native plants can use as little as 20 percent of the water that a traditional garden is using.”
Huber had his sights on native vegetation from the beginning.
“I’ve always been interested in native plants and biology,” said Huber. “I tried to pick plants that had green or flower all year round. I opted for things that looked good all year round.”
Permeability, allowing water to seep into the soil, is the second rule of thumb, followed by retention or trapping water on the property to prevent it from flowing off. By joining forces with Ocean Friendly Gardens, Huber covered these bases as well.
“I covered [the soil] with mulch so it cuts down on evaporation,” said Huber. “When we did the earth work, I dug a big trench so that it gathers as much water as possible.”
Huber’s property was selected by Ocean Friendly Gardens as a Hands On Workshop, a way to get residents directly involved with sustainable gardening.
“We’re going to focus on ordinary folks,” said Herzog. “We want to teach people about CPR being applied to your home.”
As a regional coordinator for Green Gardens Group (G3) of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, Renee Roth helps Ocean Friendly Gardens develop the educational material for their Hands On Workshops and other programs.
She stresses the environmental consequences that can result from unnecessary runoff.
“When it rains, the runoff pollutes our rivers and streams, which drain into the ocean,” said Roth. “Runoff also leads to erosion of topsoil, which contributes to flooding that further pollutes our waterways and costs billions of dollars to clean up or prevent.”
But it all comes back to native plants. Bob Sussman, owner of Matilija Native Plant Nursery in Moorpark, believes more Ventura County residents are interested in adding native vegetation to their properties.
“I think there is just a general overall acceptance,” said Sussman. “Ten years ago the notion was ‘I don’t want my front yard to look like the hillside over there, it’s just too wild.’ Now the ‘open look’ looks pretty good.”
From planting drought-tolerant vegetation to using drip irrigation instead of traditional sprinklers, Ocean Friendly Gardens is on a mission to enlighten communities and heal the environment, one educational workshop at a time.
“I’m not an environmental evangelist,” said Huber. “But I walk past lawns, and every day I see the water running off the sidewalk onto the street and it’s such a waste. If we could get more people involved in this, it would be great.”
For more information on the next Ocean Friendly Gardens event, a Hands On Site Evaluation workshop, visit www.surfrider.org/