Chinampa Agriculture

A long and narrow(in Mesoamerica) floating field on a shallow lake bed, artificially built up by layering soil, sediment, and decaying vegetation and used, especially by the Aztecs, to grow crops.

Chinampa, also called floating garden, small, stationary, artificial island built on a freshwater lake for agricultural purposes. Chinampan was the ancient name for the southwestern region of the Valley of Mexico, the region of Xochimilco, and it was there that the technique was—and is still—most widely used. It consists in building up a number of narrow islands, each averaging some 6 to 10 metres (20 to 35 feet) wide and some 100 to 200 metres (325 to 650 feet) long, using layers of vegetation, dirt, and mud. The lake provides the chinampa with moisture laden with decomposing organic wastes that irrigate and fertilize the island’s soil, supporting an intensive and highly productive form of cultivation.

Chinampa in Mexico City.© Gerardo Borbolla/Fotolia

Xochimilco floating gardens:

The floating gardens (chinampas) of Xochimilco, near Mexico City, formerly supplied crops to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán and are still utilized for the cultivation of flowers and vegetables.

The chinampas agricultural system is an articulated set of floating artificial islands built in a traditional way based on oral transmission chinampera prevailing culture since Aztecs times.

They offer high agricultural productivity (grown up to 5 times a year) and great ecological importance, surrounded by canals and ditches and rows of “ahuejotes” (Salix Bonplandiana) native willow species that performs several functions, such as  serving as fencesfor wind and insects, providing habitat for birds, and keeping the soil in the plots, whose roots protect the borders or edges of chinampa from erosion.