Growing Your Own Oysters: At a Glance


Oyster gardening is the practice of growing oysters using a cage, either floating or suspended, to raise oysters at your pier.

Oyster gardening is the practice of growing oysters using a cage, either floating or suspended, to raise oysters at your pier.

Five Easy Pieces

This quick look at getting started is adapted from the excellent Virginia Oyster Gardening 2013 guide, which you can download here

1. Pick your site

Your needs are simple: no silt, no strong currents, no high and dry exposure at low tide.

2. Choose a cage

It needs to keep predators out, can be handled (weight) when oysters are grown, and allows a free flow of water through it. There is a list of equipment providers below, and if you are handy, follow the steps in this DIY video:

3.  Be regulated:  Get a permit

The  Abbreviated Joint Permit Application For Noncommercial Ripariaan Shellfish Aquaculture Structures – “Oyster Gardening”  form can be downloaded here.

4. Buy Spat

A little help from a small dock winch can make anyone smile

A little help from a small dock winch can make anyone smile

Oyster seed hatcheries and vendors change from year to year, but the list here can be a start. The Tidewater Oyster Gardeners’ Association keeps an updated list, as does the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Oyster Spat

Oyster Spat

5. Set It Up, Keep It Clean, (wait 12-18 months), Enjoy or Donate

Secure your cage(s) to a piling or pier, pull them up and wash them every week or two in the summer (less in the winter), and tie them tight when storms are expected. It’s a good idea to put your name and address on your float, or if necessary pull the float out of the water and store where it is cool and dry – good for a couple of days to ride out a storm.

Oysters grow approximately 2” in length during each growing season. Oysters can be transplanted onto reef sites after just one growing season, or kept to the size desired to eat. —Oysters live for up to 10 years.

Feeling Insecure?

Find your own, personal mentor. The Master Oyster Gardeners program can be your lifeline. Download a list of “MOGs” and approach them on figurative knees. What a service. MasterOysterGardeners_2014

Oyster Gardening Resources, Company, Products, Contact Information

This list is updated to 2014 and is courtesy of the Tidewater Oyster Growers Association. Many thanks to this organization for a great website, full of helpful information

Atlantic Aquaculture Supply, Inc.
Pete Sebring
Aquaculture supplies
86 Tupelo St.
Bristol, RI 02809
FAX 401-253-3334

Capt. Jack’s Seafood Co.
Jack White
Oyster floats, oyster seed and accessories
PO Box 35
New Point, VA 23125

Capt. Tom’s Oyster Floats (2 locations, same products)
Tom Noffsinger
Taylor Floats (2 sizes), Oyster Seed/ 1000 and 500 count, oyster gardening supplies, oyster
gardening “how to” manual
Deltaville,VA  Chesapeake, VA

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Rob Brumbaugh
Oyster donations and education
Tommy Leggett
142 W. York St., Suite 318,
Norfolk, VA 23510

Chesapeake Bay Oyster Company, LLC
Doug McMinn
Oyster equipment, bags,cages,floats, seed oysters
PO Box 96
Wake, VA 23176

Circle C Oyster Ranchers Association, Inc.
Rich Pelz
Covered Taylor Floats, Floating Oyster Reefs, Maryland Oyster Seed (with equipment purchase), Commercial Products and Training for Commercial Producers
49676 Freeman’s Road, Dameron, MD 20628

Eastfield Farms
Peter Perina
Oyster flip float kit $42 [for 1000 oysters], oyster bags and cages, cable ties and hooks , shell bag, and netting by the roll or piece. As a distributor we can offer discount prices for large orders. 25 yrs experience.
PO Box
Mathews, VA 23109

J.C. Walker Brothers Tom and Wade Walker
Seed oysters and clams
Box H
Willis Wharf, VA 23486

Ward Oyster Company
John Vigliotta
Seed oysters

Ocean Products Terry Murphy
Wire mesh, pig rings, ties, synthetic rope, bungee chord
PO Box A1A
Diggs, VA 23045

Rappahannock Oyster Farm
Charlie Ransone
Oyster floats and liners
PO Box 53
Wake, VA 23176

Keith Rodgers
Oyster seed (triploid)
271 Bay Watch Ln.
Reedville,Va. 22539

Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association
Brian Wood, President
PO Box 2463
Gloucester, VA 23061

Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Sanitation
Miller Smith
PO Box 241
White Stone, VA 22578

Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Karen Hudson Advisory services
PO Box 1346
Gloucester Point, VA 23062

Virginia Marine Resources Commission
Jim Wesson, Chip Neikirk Permits
2600 Washington Ave – 3rd Floor
Newport News, VA 23607

Jett’s Hardware
18425 Northumberland Hwy.
Cages and cage building supplies
Reedville Va. 22539

Oyster Floats by Chesapeake River Restorations
Self Cleaning Oyster Lodge oyster floats for oyster gardening.


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