The Ohio Chinampas Project, Toledo Botanical Gardens, Toledo, Ohio 4/01-10/01

Based on an ancient farming practice of hydroponic gardening developed by the Aztec Peoples, I designed floating forms that would make use of pond water to irrigate floating gardens. In the summer of 2001, four, 5'x 8' hydroponic gardens were built, planted and floated in a pond at the Toledo Botanical Gardens. With the assistance of Chad Rimer, galvanized sheet metal was crafted into truncated pyramid-shaped floating forms tethered to the bottom of a shallow pond. Expanded mesh at the base of each open-bottomed form held 6 styrofoam coolers planted with crops traced back to the original food crops planted on Chinampas. The original Chinampas were cultivated in the wet region of Lake Xochimilco, south of current day Mexico City. The floating gardens, reliant upon a highly successful hydroponic system of crop production, were developed to feed the burgeoning Aztec population. 

My contemporary interpretation of the Chinampas produced a surprisingly large quantity of produce including pounds of squash, sunflowers, mints, marigolds, corn, nasturtium and amaranth. The floating forms were designed with sloping sides to dissuade geese from nesting, but my designs did not originally take into account a possible attack from below the surface of the pond. Muskrats gained access from underneath the forms and harvested the crops early. The sculptural forms were then remediated part way through the growing season to prevent muskrat access, and new plants were added to finish out the season.

My contemporary system was hugely successful and required no maintenance to produce crops (beyond dealing with the muskrats!), the forms floated and flourished!

There is a great deal of easily accessible historic information about these gardens. For further information, visit: https://journals.ashs.org/horttech/view/journals/horttech/30/1/article-p13.xml