Around Lemon Bay, gardening can mean more than planting lettuce and tomatoes in your backyard each summer. Many residents around the bay have discovered the fun and satisfaction of cultivating their own oyster gardens.
Oyster gardens are designed to propagate Eastern oysters, the bay’s native oyster species, on a vertical strand of oyster shells attached to docks. Once grown, these oysters are returned to the bay to help replenish the once-teeming oyster population that has been decimated by disease, poor water quality and overfishing.
Lemon Bay Conservancy is recruiting interested residents to participate in our oyster gardening project “One Dock at a Time”. If you have access to a dock, you can become a citizen scientist by hanging and monitoring an oyster strand. With guidance from Florida Sea Grant extension service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Lemon Bay Watch gardeners will assist you with the installation and monitoring process. Your observations of your oyster garden will provide an important source of data for our partnering agencies that utilize citizens’ observations and reports of any concerns to monitor water quality. All materials will be provided at no cost to you.
TJ’s Market Grille restaurant on Placida Road has generously contributed recycled oyster shells from their kitchen to be cleaned, cured and assembled by Lemon Bay volunteers. These shells are strung on marine grade wire and rope. An eye hook is provided attach the strand to the dock. As an oyster gardener, you will receive as many as three strands of twenty oyster shells each to be suspended from your dock. We use what is called an off-bottom system where the adjustable strong sinking-line allows some of the oyster strands to be held below and others to be held above the water part of the time. When the tide goes out, the suspended strands of oysters can dry out. This drying time is important to kill off any fouling organisms that may be present. Strands may be flipped to allow adequate drying time for all.
The Lemon Bay Watch committee has materials for 58 docks available during the month of April. If you wish to become an oyster gardener, call the Lemon Bay Conservancy office to have our team of oyster gardeners come to your dock to install your oyster strands. 941-830-8922 Mon-Thurs. 10:00-2:00
As an oyster gardener, you will learn valuable information about oysters and how they contribute to the health of the bay’s entire ecosystem. Oysters play a major role in filtering the water and provide important habitat for other marine species. The more oysters we can grow in Lemon Bay, the closer we will be to our goal of restoring the bay to its healthy, diverse natural state. We hope you can join us!