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Happy fish eating mosquito larvae and duck weed – https://www.permaculturenews.org/

A chinampa is a traditional Mesoamerican agricultural system used to grow crops in fertile, man-made islands or raised beds in shallow lakes or swampy areas. It was developed by the Aztecs and other indigenous groups in ancient Mexico and is still practiced in some regions today.

The construction of a chinampa begins by driving wooden stakes into the lake or swampy ground to form a rectangular or square shape. Bundles of reeds and aquatic vegetation are then piled on top of the stakes to create a floating garden bed. Layers of mud and sediment are added on top, creating a fertile, nutrient-rich soil that supports plant growth.

Chinampas offer several advantages for food production, particularly in arid or water-scarce environments like deserts:

  1. Water Efficiency: Chinampas are highly water-efficient because they utilize the water from the lake or swamp in which they are constructed. The floating garden beds help to retain water and reduce evaporation, requiring less irrigation compared to traditional farming methods.
  2. Nutrient-Rich Soil: The sediment and organic matter used to build chinampas provide a natural source of nutrients for crops. This fertile soil allows for the cultivation of a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and other crops.
  3. Crop Diversity: Chinampas support a diverse range of crops, allowing farmers to grow different types of food in a relatively small area. This diversity improves food security and provides a variety of nutritious options.
  4. Year-Round Cultivation: The continuous water supply in the lake or swamp ensures year-round cultivation, even during dry seasons, making it suitable for desert regions where water availability is limited.

To use chinampas in the desert to grow food without much water:

  1. Identify Suitable Land: Look for low-lying areas or shallow lakes/swamps where the construction of chinampas is feasible.
  2. Build Chinampas: Drive wooden stakes into the ground to form the desired shape of the chinampa. Pile bundles of reeds and vegetation on top of the stakes and add layers of mud and sediment to create the floating garden bed.
  3. Plant Crops: Choose crops that are well-suited to the desert climate and can thrive with minimal water. Drought-resistant vegetables, fruits, and grains are ideal choices.
  4. Manage Water: Utilize the natural water source effectively, allowing the chinampas to retain water and minimize evaporation. Consider implementing water-saving techniques like mulching to further conserve moisture.
  5. Crop Rotation: Practice crop rotation to maintain soil fertility and prevent nutrient depletion. Rotate different crops in each chinampa bed to ensure a balanced nutrient cycle.

By employing chinampas in the desert, farmers can grow food efficiently, making the most of available water resources while promoting sustainable agriculture practices.


Here’s an idea: Why not try to build a chinampa inside a greenhouse.. (water/land mosaik). They are ideally 6m wide and 1.5m deep – which is ideal for a greenhouse. Half meter thick clay should seal the dam/chinampa. Put a greenhouse over one end to heat it and a net house over the other to cool it and your water will move through a thermosyphon that moves your water from hot to cold automatically.

More info:

Chinampas 2.0 – an Elegant Technology From the Past to Save the Future

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