oyster gardening woman

Oyster Gardening

The oyster gardening program encourages community participation in restoring local oyster populations to the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). Volunteers who live along the IRL learn how to grow and monitor juvenile oysters (spat) off their docks to help us bolster local oyster populations and reef restoration projects.

Oyster Gardening Workshops

Oyster Gardening

Local residents living along the IRL are trained to become Oyster Gardeners.

Spat Oyster Shell

The Next

Gardeners receive oyster shell covered in juvenile oysters (spat) to grow.

Volunteer Dock Oyster Gardening

Make it Happen

Oysters are placed off docks and pilings for approximately six to nine months to grow.

Measuring Oyster Collection

Data Points to the
Best Homes

Data collected from the gardeners’ oysters points us to the best locations for building new oyster reefs.

Volunteer Hold Shell Bag

Providing a
Sturdy Foundation

Oysters are collected back from gardeners and used to establish populations on restoration reefs.

Lagoon Reef Building

Building for

Through careful monitoring and care, the Oyster Gardener project has grown over 500,000 live oysters.

Help Us With Reef Restoration

Oyster Gardener

This work isn’t possible without volunteers like you! If you are a lagoon-front resident that lives in Brevard County, you may have just the right location for oyster gardening and play a key role in sustaining the success of the project. Oysters thrive in the brackish water of the IRL, so freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, and creeks are not applicable.


  • I have a dock on the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County.
  • I can commit one-to-two hours of time per week to maintain oyster habitats.
  • I’m not planning to be out of town (more than two weeks) between November and July of this coming year.
  • I can lift 30lbs.


How much time do I need to commit to being an oyster gardener?

Less than 2 hours each week to clean and maintain your oyster habitats (not including the time your habitats will spend drying out).

How many oysters do I grow?

You will receive approximately 35-60 oyster shells with oyster spat (baby oysters). There could be as little as none to as many as 30-40 spat on each shell. Once you have picked up your spat, you will distribute half of the oyster shells into one habitat and the remaining half into the other.

Who do I contact if I have any questions?

Please email Restore Our Shores at restoreourshores@brevardzoo.org. Email is the best way to communicate. You may also join our Oyster Gardening Facebook page and post questions there. Please click here to join the Oyster Gardening Facebook page.

How long will I keep my oysters?

You will keep and take care of your oysters for 6 -9 months. You will be notified and asked to return your oysters when we are ready to begin constructing oyster reefs.

How do I care for my oysters?

Everything you need to know to care for your oysters is in the Oyster Care Guide. You can also watch the Oyster Gardening Care 101 video to refresh your memory.  If you attended an oyster gardening training session and need a refresher class, please email restoreourshores@brevardzoo.org.

May I eat my oysters once they’re big enough?

These oysters are not for human consumption. They will be used to populate oyster reef restoration projects in the Indian River Lagoon. At these oyster reef sites, they will provide numerous benefits including water quality improvement, habitat, and food for important members of the food web, and as spawning adults they will help to restore natural population levels of oysters in the lagoon.

Oyster Gardener

Live in an HOA community that has a dock?

Please read and complete HOA Resident Gardener Form.

Please be aware that not every location is suitable for Oyster Gardening. Sites are regularly evaluated, and it may take time to determine if your location is a candidate. If your home is not selected, we invite you to become an oyster buddy, or consider some of our other Conservation Programs.

No dock? Become an Oyster Buddy.

  • I can commit to temporarily filling in one-to-two hours per week maintaining oyster habitats.
  • I have reliable access to transportation.
  • I can lift 40lbs.

Oyster Buddy

Special Thanks

Funding from Brevard County’s Save Our Indian River Lagoon Project Plan has gone a long way since its inception: supporting the project’s staffing, equipment/supplies, and the education of thousands of community volunteers who, after training, become our “Oyster Gardeners.” As a science-based program, we take a citizen scientist approach, equipping volunteers with the knowledge and the tools to further discovery and understanding of our natural world.

Help Us Restore Our Shores

We always need volunteers for our lagoon restoration projects. Our work would not be possible without the help of volunteers. We encourage you to investigate what availability we have for participants in our programs. We look forward to having you support Restore Our Shores. More Questions? Email us.