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OFG Workshop Series with Far Out West Community Gardens

This March, the San Francisco Chapter's Ocean Friendly Gardens crew teamed up with Far Out West Community Gardens to host a 3-part hands-on workshop series highlighting native plants, rainwater retention, and how we can support and expand the impact of local green spaces. These OFG workshops are creating connections within the community, raising awareness about nature-based solutions to environmental challenges, and sparking motivation for change to create a greener, more resilient future. 

During the 1st workshop, volunteers came together to learn about the inspiring history and mission of Far Out West Community Garden. The goals and purpose of the FOW community garden are aligned with Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Gardens program, which uses natural solutions to reduce polluted runoff and support resilient coasts. Volunteers put on their gardening gloves, weeded like champs, and even flexed their skills by building shelves for the Far Out West greenhouse. Removing weeds without using chemical herbicides prevents these harmful chemicals from polluting the watershed and impacting the health of local bays and wetlands. Every pull, plant, and build brought volunteers closer together as a community and made a meaningful impact!

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Building resilience & biodiversity with native plants

The 2nd workshop introduced the vibrant world of native plants and the local outer dune ecology! Native plants are key to restoring nature to our urban spaces and creating a sustainable, thriving garden. Lou Krippenstaple, a native plants expert and natural resource specialist from SF Parks and Rec, and Dana Betterly, sustainable garden designer, led the educational and hands-on experience. 

Lou and Dana shared their wisdom on the wonders of gardening with native plants, from resilience to local weather conditions to supporting our ecosystem and attracting pollinators. Volunteers got their hands dirty planting native plant seeds and learned essential gardening techniques to give these seeds the best shot at sprouting and thriving.


Retaining the rain

At the final workshop, DJ from Far Out West and Westside Water Resources led a deep dive into the vital role of water retention in the local ecosystem and its importance in recharging aquifers, conserving and maintaining the local water supply, and helping keep excess stormwater from overwhelming our combined sewage system and spilling pollutants into our beloved oceans.

The FOW garden features a rainwater catchment system that collects water from the church roof adjacent to the garden and stores it in a 1,850 gallon tank. The rainwater is used to water the garden plots during dry summer months and any overflow is diverted into the ground to help recharge the local aquifer. 


San Francisco boasts an impressive 7 aquifers beneath its surface. The Westside Basin aquifer, which lies right beneath the community garden, stretches a whopping 800 ft deep and is vital to supporting the water levels in nearby Lake Merced. Lake Merced formerly was a pristine, crystal clear lake teeming with salmon and trout before development and diminished groundwater recharge lowered its water quality.

SF’s water use stands at just 42 gal per person daily, a relatively low amount and impressive for a city of its size!  While SF drinking water is usually sourced from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, recent issues with O’Shaughnessy Dam have had SF tapping into aquifers for drinking water. Another reason to support rainwater capture and recharge with OFGs! 

Volunteers helped perform a percolation test by digging a hole in the garden and filling it with water to measure the water absorption rate of the soil. The results? An impressive rate of 72 inches of water per minute thanks to FOW’s fertile and sandy soil. This means that it drains water quickly, great for capturing runoff and recharging the groundwater below.


These Ocean Friendly Gardens techniques and strategies use nature-based solutions to support vibrant, resilient watersheds and protect clean water at the coast for us all to enjoy. This workshop series was an awesome way to empower volunteers with the knowledge to take action at home or in their community green space and inspire community collaboration for a greener, more resilient future.

Want to get involved with the SF Chapter's OFG program? Reach out to