Non-Commercial Oyster Culture, or Oyster Gardening

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Non-commercial oyster aquaculture, popularly known as “oyster gardening,” has received a great deal of attention throughout the range of the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica (Fig. 1). Some people might oyster garden to help restore oyster stocks or improve water quality. (Oysters improve water quality by filtering out algae and sediments, and an adult oyster can pass up to 50 gallons of water per day through its gills.) Other people choose oyster gardening as a way to grow a tasty meal. Regardless of your reasons, oyster gardening can benefit our coastal environment. Oyster gardening also can be used in the classroom to give students a hands-on learning experience and to teach research protocols (sampling techniques, record keeping, etc.), biology and ecology, water quality monitoring, and general academic skills. The oyster gardening experience helps connect students with the coast and demonstrates how their actions can affect our natural environment. The first section of this publication addresses the growing of oysters, while the second contains information for educators who would like to use oyster gardening in their lesson plans.