Chinampas also called floating gardens were artificial Islands, were created by staking out shallow lake bed and then fencing in the rectangle with wattle. The area would be filled with mud and vegetation. Often willows would be planted along the edge of the plot, to provide further stable fencing as well shade.
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. Chinampas were separated by channels wide enough for the a conoe.
Chinampas weren’t the only type of farming that was used. There were crops on the mainland, as well as gardens, both small personal gardens and large experimental gardens. The gardens were a common feature in the homes of the ruling class. The people would also collect naturally growing food, such as algae in the water.
Maize, beans, squash, chili peppers and tomatoes were the primary crops for chinampas, they were also used to grow flowers making the Aztec farming land an even more lush and colourful place..
Food consumed by the city of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital is estimated up to one-half to two-thirds, were provided by chinampas. Farming was begun in Xochimilco and Chalco. The Aztecs also conducted military campaigns to obtain control of these regions. Today the city of Tenochtitlan is known as Mexico City. Tenochtitlan was considerably enlarged overtime due to the use of chinampas.
Most of the chinampas have been abandoned and filled in – they weren’t used as much after the conquest. When the Spanish arrived, the chinampas covered nearly 9000 hectares. However, some remain in use today. Remnants of the canal system can be seen in Xochimilco. You can still visit chinampas today if you take the time. The picture to the right shows someone boating on the chinampa canals.
In south america on Lake Titicaca there is another form of chinampas and its most notable for a population of people who live on the Uros, a group of 44 or so artificial islands made of floating reeds (totora, a reed that abounds in the shallows of the lake). These islands have become a major tourist attraction for Peru, drawing excursions from the lakeside city of Puno. Their original purpose was defensive, and they could be moved if a threat arose. Many of the islands contain watchtowers largely constructed of reeds.