In the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program, volunteers who have access to waterfront property along the Mississippi gulf coast grow oysters in gardens that hang from their piers.
Gardeners clean the gardens weekly from June to November by pulling them out of the water and rinsing off mud, algae and any other fouling material. After visually inspecting the gardens and removing predators, such as blue crabs, stone crabs and oyster drills, the gardeners return the gardens to the water.
Can you find the juvenile blue crab in the picture to the left? They can be hard to find, but it is important to remove crabs like this from your gardens.
On Average, each volunteer will grow 250 oysters per garden. The oysters will grow into large clumps as seen in the picture below. Oyster reefs are formed by high densities of clumps in one area. As the reefs continue to grow through settling of spat (young oysters), they develops a matrix of interstitial spaces that provide habitat for over 300 different species.
At the end of each oyster gardening season, all oysters are collected from the volunteers and planted on restoration reefs in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. The end goal is that these reefs will continue to grow naturally and become self sustaining.
Program partners include the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, and the Volunteer Oyster Gardening Community. With appreciation to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, and Governor Phil Bryant.