Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ocean Friendly Gardens Are In Bloom

OFG Expert Greg Goran Tells How to Grow Your Own

Second in a series of SurfWriter Girls features on Ocean Friendly Gardens

Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hold the exclusive rights to the following copyrighted material. For permission to reprint or excerpt it and/or link it to another website, contact them at 

California Fuschia

With the spring planting season almost here, what you plant in your garden will have a major impact on the quality of our oceans.  

SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel gathered more information from the Surfrider Foundation Huntington Beach/Seal Beach Chapter’s Ocean Friendly Gardens Chairperson Greg Goran to help you create your own ocean friendly garden.

Know Your H2O

Greg Goran is a recipient of the 2012 Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce Educational Partnership Award.

He has overseen many Ocean Friendly Garden installations, including one at the Shorebreak Hotel

and a current project at the Rainbow Environmental Services facility.

Goren emphasized that “water management is a critical component in designing an OFG garden.”  

By choosing plants and ground cover with minimal water needs and paying attention to drainage, fertilizers and pesticides, you can help to preserve our water supply and keep pollutants from contaminating the oceans, rivers and streams.

Residential water runoff – and the pollutants that go with it – is a major threat to the environment. It eventually ends up in the ocean, damaging its beauty, making it unfit for recreation and poisoning the sea life. 

But, it doesn’t have to be like this. OFGs are low in water usage, low in maintenance, and, best of all, they’re beautiful – for you to enjoy and for what they do for the environment.

To breathe new life into your garden and save the coastal environment, Goran explains that it’s “important to know CPR – Conservation, Permeability and Retention – gardening methods.”

Conserving the water, fertilizer and pesticides you use keeps waste to a minimum.  Using permeable (porous) landscaping surfaces, such as gravel and biologically active soil, reduces water runoff. Focusing on retention techniques – basins, trenches and rain water barrels – enables you to collect and store water for reuse.

Less Turf = Better Surf

In creating your own OFG the first place to start is with your lawn. When it comes to wasting water, lawns are the biggest offenders. “The typical California lawn uses 45,000 gallons of water a year,” says Goran.

Seventy percent of the water used in residential landscaping is for our lawns. What’s more, 50% of that water is wasted due to runoff and over watering.

In addition to all the water we pour on our lawns each day, we use tons of fertilizers and pesticides to keep them green, notes Goran, adding that “lawns take up more of this than any crop in America.” SurfWriter Girls learned that homeowners apply close to 80 million pounds of pesticides a year to lawns, much of which ends up in our waterways and oceans.

Culprits that cause water runoff

So, serious consideration should be given to reducing the size of your lawn and replacing some of the turf with other types of vegetation or ground cover.

It’s not hard to find drought-resistant plants – the best choices are usually plants that are native to your area or to regions similar to yours. Mexico, the Mediterranean, and Australia all have climates much like Southern California’s. 

These mature cacti are at least 50 years-old

You’ll find a wide range of succulents (water-retaining plants, such as cacti, that store water in their leaves, stems, and roots) to choose from. And, there are hundreds of shrubs, flowers and trees, as well, like the California Redbud, a hardy shrub with beautiful, magenta flowers.

California Redbud photo by Melissa Goodman©

Through the Municipal Water District of Orange County’s Turf Removal Program homeowners can receive $1 per square foot of turf that is removed and replaced with native plants and permeable materials. 
 Start now!

Designing an OFG isn’t just something to think about; it’s something to do – for yourself and the environment.

Goran’s new garden is a perfect example of this. When Greg and his wife Sharon moved to Seal Beach recently they were eager to put into practice as many OFG techniques as possible. 

The Gorans’ son Finn in the yard as it was before – one big lawn

In designing the home’s 3,200 sq. ft. outdoor space, they chose their plants and ground cover carefully, while keeping an eye on water usage and conservation.

Then Gorans’ New OFG garden – looking beautiful!

The key features of the garden include about 80% native plants, including sages (clevlandii, black sage, and white sage)…

Black Sage

and grasses (deer grass, carex, and juncus).

Deer Grass

To improve the biological activity and permeability of the soil, Goran covered the entire area with 2 – 3” of organic compost, a layer of cardboard as a weed barrier, and 4 – 6“ of mulch.

The OFG garden’s protective barrier of compost, cardboard and mulch

Also included, says Goran, are “several species of manzanitas, California fuschia, a ton of drought tolerant succulents


and an edible section of six fruit trees and raised veggies beds.”

To add visual interest to the site and help direct and capture water, Goran installed three bioswales and grouped different types of plants into “hydrazones” based on their water needs.

A Bioswale

An important element of the garden is its rainwater holding and harvesting abilities, Goran explained. “In a 1" rain event the garden can capture and hold over 1,100 gallons of water with zero runoff, which means in one year we capture over 11,000 gallons of rainwater, which we use to water our fruit trees and put back into the ground water supply.”

One of the ways that Goran is able to save and reuse so much water is that he utilizes a system of four, strategically-placed rain barrels.

Goran, who has been surfing for over 30 years and a member of the Surfrider Foundation for 11 years, loves the fact that his garden isn’t wasting water or polluting the ocean.

Goran’s OFG near garage which was designed with a bioswale

"If people realized how much precious potable water they dump onto their front lawns every year and conserved some of that with an Ocean Friendly Garden, there would be plenty of water for all of us,” he said. 

Sharon is happy with her new garden, too. “I really enjoy watching people stop by to take a close look at some of the plants in our yard. We are excited about teaching people here in town about Ocean Friendly Gardens, and helping people do it with their own yards".
Making your garden ocean friendly calls just as much for planning as it does for planting. To help you get started Greg Goran and SurfWriter Girls put together this step-by- step plan.

Creating Your OFG

Step 1: Evaluate your site. Determine your current water usage and water runoff. A typical 800 sq. ft. lawn uses 18,000 gallons of water a month.

So, check your water bills for the past few months to see how many gallons your household uses.

Step 2: Create an ocean friendly garden design. You can get help from your local Surfrider Foundation chapter or go online ( There are programs, classes, books, and more to show you the basics. 

Greg, Sharon and Finn Goran display OFG design at Surfrider Ohana (Family) Day

Check out garden shops and home improvement stores, too, or talk to a landscape professional. Landscapers can save you time and even money since they know where to get everything. You can find landscapers in your neighborhood through the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.

Step 3: Gather the materials you’ll need – soil, plants, gravel, pavers, irrigation supplies, gardening tools, and so on. 

Step 4: Invite family and friends to help install it. The more, the merrier. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” When the Gorans put their garden in friends from the Surfrider HB/SB Chapter showed up, including Casey Metkovich, Marilee Movius, Tim Hendrix, and Whitney Redfield. The project took two days.

Surfrider Members Installing the OFG at Shorebreak Hotel

Step 5: Provide refreshments. This will give everyone the energy to keep going and make the day fun. So, make it a party – whether it’s a barbeque, pot-luck or KFC.

Step 6: Get your neighbors on board…helping you with your garden and putting in their own OFGs. 

Sunny and Patti getting ready to plant

There, you have it. Now it’s time to get your hands dirty!

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