In the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program, volunteers who have access to waterfront property in Mobile or Baldwin counties grow oysters in gardens that hang from their piers. They clean the gardens weekly from June to November by pulling the gardens out of the water and rinsing off mud, algae and any other fouling material. After visually inspecting the gardens and removing predators, such as blue crabs, stone crabs and oyster drills, the gardeners return the gardens to the water. On average, each volunteer grows 250 oysters per garden.
At the end of the gardening season, the oysters are collected from the volunteers and planted on restoration reefs in Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound. This education and research program has planted more than 600,000 oysters since it began in 2001.
Program partners include the gardeners and adopters (people who make donations to sponsor gardens), as well as the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and Auburn University.