Gardeners grow 45,000 oysters for restoration

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Dec 02,  2009

New Adopt-A-Garden program to support science in schools


When people ask Martha Crosby of Point Clear, Ala., what she’s been up to, her answer isn’t going to the gym or volunteering at the hospital. She tells them she’s raising oysters on the end of her pier.

Crosby is a volunteer with the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program. This year, she and other volunteers helped grow more than 45,000 oysters that were planted on reefs in Mobile Bay in November, according to Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant and Auburn University Maine Extension and Research Center Extension Specialist Phillip “P.J.” Waters, who helps lead the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program.

Volunteers grew the oysters at 44 gardening sites. They maintain juvenile oysters (spat) in submerged cages by cleaning the cages about once a week during the summer months and removing any predators, such as blue crabs and oyster drills, from the cage.

“We saw excellent growth,” Waters said. “Even though Tropical Storm Ida took 17 cages as she went by, we had a successful season.”

This year’s average was 1,027 oysters per gardener, which is in line with the 1,000-oysters-per-gardener average, he said.

David and Lois George of Mobile County and Steve Crockett, also of Mobile County, tied for most oysters produced this year with 2,000 oysters. Sue and John Caudil of Baldwin County boasted the biggest oyster at 3.26 inches, and Ann Browdy’s oysters had the highest average size at 2.4 inches. 

It only takes about an hour a week to clean the cages, Crosby said, and it gives her a chance to see firsthand that reefs are breeding grounds for many species. In the program, she also had the opportunity to tour the Auburn University Shellfish Lab and learn about the science of oysters. And, friends and family keep up with her oyster garden by asking her for reports, she said.

Crosby has spent a lot of her time on the waterfront, and her property is located on conditionally open waters, which allows her to participate in the program.

A new Adopt-A-Garden Program allows people who do not own waterfront property to participate in oyster gardening. For $25 a year, participants will receive a monthly newsletter and be able to follow their oysters as they grow.

“This is an excellent way for folks who do not live on the water, but recognize the ecological and economical importance of the oyster to our area to get involved with the program,” Waters said.

All proceeds will support science research programs in area schools.

The oyster gardening program is sponsored by Mobile Bay National Estuary Program in cooperation with Auburn University and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. It teaches students and adults about the ecological and economical roles oysters play in Mobile Bay.

Adopt a Garden
: Adopt-a-Garden Program.
Who: Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program.
Where: Mobile and Baldwin counties.
When: Start anytime.
Why: Support science activities in schools and receive monthly updates on the oyster gardening program.
Price: $25 per year.
How: Contact P.J. Waters, 251-438-5690 or


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