Los Angeles Chapter

Ocean Friendly Gardens


Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) is a volunteer-run landscape education, hands-on training and advocacy program, providing valuable information on how landscapes and hardscapes can be modified to prevent water pollution.


Urban runoff from lawns, gardens, streets and hardscape is the #1 source of ocean pollution. One inch of rain falling on the roof of an average sized single family home can generate over 1,200 gallons of runoff. Most buildings in California are designed to direct rainwater straight into the street. As this runoff travels through our urban landscape it picks up pollutants and bacteria that cause 20,000+ beach closures and advisories nationwide every year.

The goal of our Ocean Friendly Gardens program is to reduce Los Angeles County runoff and prevent it from contaminating our coastal waterways. Even if you live miles inland, the pollutants, trash, and runoff in your streets will eventually make its way into the ocean. Fortunately, you can take a water-wise, watershed approach and make changes to your landscape that help capture rainfall, reduce runoff and recharge our groundwater supply.

To mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff and replenish groundwater supply the Ocean Friendly Gardens program applies the principles of Conservation, Permeability, and Retention (CPR).

  • Conservation of water, energy and wildlife habitat through native and climate resilient plants.
  • Permeability fostered by using materials that allow water to slow and sink into healthy, living soil.
  • Retention of rainwater for reuse and groundwater recharge, preventing polluted runoff.

We’d love for you to join our local team of passionate volunteer gardeners and activists! Find out about upcoming volunteer opportunities and events on our chapter’s Instagramcalendar of events, and contact nfaltas@la.surfrider.org with questions about the program.


  • Go organic. Say no to chemical fertilizers and pesticides! Landscaping chemicals often leak into local waterways through groundwater and runoff.
  • Compost. Use kitchen scraps and green waste from your yard. Composting reduces food waste and prevents the release methane from our landfills, helping to reduce local impacts of climate change. Here are some easy-to-follow instructions for getting started.
  • Mulch. Mulch. Mulch.  Cover your soil with mulch and compost to build healthy, biologically-active soil that will act like a sponge to absorb and retain rain.
  • Go Native. Native plants and grasses are well suited to your local climate and don’t need supplemental irrigation when they are fully-grown!
  • Plant a vegetable garden.  Grow your own food and make less trips to the grocery store. It’s still not too late to start your seeds in many growing zones.
  • Say no to invasives! Invasive plant species spread quickly and can displace native plants, reducing biodiversity and availability of critical wildlife habitat. Look up any plants you are uncertain about here.
  • Shape your yard. Create contours in your landscape to capture, slow down and soak up rain, or consider installing a rain barrel.
  • Turn your yard into an energy efficient landscape. Most lawns are carbon sources but by using Ocean Friendly and sustainable landscaping practices your yard can be a carbon sink that offers solutions for climate change!


What better way to learn about Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program than by getting your hands dirty in our Hands-On-Workshops (HOWs). These workshops provide an opportunity for the public to learn about:

  • Site evaluation
  • Designing a garden for rainwater capture
  • Turf removal
  • Sheet mulching and soil remediation
  • Planting native, climate appropriate gardens which will provide habitat for birds, insect, and pollinators.

Even if you do not have a yard you can become an ambassador for change by volunteering with Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Garden program and participating in HOWs. Nationally, the Ocean Friendly Gardens program has prevented over 13 million gallons of polluted runoff from reaching our waterways and oceans.


Check out Surfrider’s Cycle of Insanity to learn about how water management issues are linked to the problems we’re facing in our oceans and at our beaches.

Curious if your garden meets Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly criteria?

  • Explore our Ocean Friendly Garden requirements here.

While conventional landscapes allow water to run off the property and often waste water, watershed wise landscapes are designed to hold on to rainwater and reduce the demand for supplemental irrigation.

Ready to create a sustainable garden of your own?


02Rebates & Classes:

Santa Monica offers a comprehensive landscape rebate to help you do your part in saving water, up to $8,000!

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) also offers rebates and suggestions to conserve water and energy and classes regarding irrigation and California friendly landscaping. Starting in August 2016, they will require an OFG-oriented approach to qualify for the turf removal rebate. Visit their website to learn more.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California provides classes, rebates, tips and tricks to save water, visit their Be Water Wise website.

Mulch & Compost:

There are pros and cons to anything free, but if you are looking for sources of free compost and mulch in the Los Angeles area, check out the City of Los Angeles Sanitation Department’s site here.

Rain Barrels:

Rain barrels are a great way to take advantage of the first flush of rain. Surfrider Foundation has partnered with The Ecology Center. Check out this short 7-page resource guide about rain barrels here.


Ready to plant? The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants is a non-profit dedicated to the preservation, propagation and promotion of California natives. They offer educational programming and also have a retail nursery.