Build an Aztec Water Garden




About: Hello. I am the host of the pod cast, The Pond Plant Girl I am here, because I have tons of ideas about how to better grow your garden with simple inexpensive tools, such as my latest - a 5 x 10 ...

Grow vegetables in your pond with an Aztec Water Garden. It's a great shelter for your fish and adds a new dimension to your pond!

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Step 1: About the Aztec Water Garden

The Aztec floating garden looks like a floating garden.
In reality, it is a garden that is supported by pylons. This is a drawing I made of an Aztec water garden. It is actually called a Chinampas.

The benefits of growing a Chinampas garden are: they provide shelter for the pond fish against predators, and vegetables grow healthier, and the vegetables yield 7 times more crops.

The next picture is a modern day Chinampas.

Step 2: What You'll Need

Grape Vines
Palm Frawns

2 Cinder Blocks
Soil and Compost
A fish pond
Plants or Seeds

Step 3: Step 1 - Vines and Saplings

Start with grape vines and saplings and build a square frame.

Fasten the cross pieces of the frame with twine twine (I used zip ties).

Layout rows of saplings vertically and tie down.

Weave the vines horizontally across.

Tuck in extra pieces of vine and wrap vines around the edges of the frame.

The picture might appear to look like a tangled mess, but it actually looks much better in person. All this is is a simple crisscross pattern - horizontal / vertical pattern - over under. I used the left over short pieces to fill in a few holes.

Step 4: Step 2 - Palm Fronds

Palm Tree Frawns were used to cover the woven grape vines and tied down with twine. If you do not have access to a palm tree, then banana tree leaves or bird of paradise will work well too. If you do not have access to these, straw is your next option.

Step 5: Step 3 - Cinder Blocks

I used 2 cinder blocks to hold the mat above the water. Cinder blocks will also provide a place for the smaller fish to hide. A traditional Aztec garden, however, uses steaks or pylons driven down into the muddy water below.

Step 6: Step 4 - Adding Compost and Plants

Add a layer of cured compost on top of the chinampas and plant your seeds or plants. It's okay if a little compost falls into the water. I planted mint and parsley in this garden. When it takes off, the entire platform will be covered. See my little fishy statue? I put it there for decoration.

This garden is 3 foot square. I want to make an Aztec garden with straw instead of palm fronds. If I built another garden, I would make an edge around the sides to keep the soil boxed in. The traditional Aztec garden, however, is flat and much larger than this one. Instead of using the hemp twine, I would use a hemp net that I saw in the garden center.

See the plastic and PVC pipe in the picture? This is the cold frame that I made to keep the pond safe from frost... which is another one of my instructables.

Please see more of my how-to's and videos at





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    15 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Why did you add a pic of ur face it makes me feel threatned

    From. Child


    4 years ago on Step 6

    That is really cool! I love the way you brought history and gardening together. This would be a neat project to do with the kids.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    In Burma, people in the Inle lake have been planting on floating farms made of dirt and swamp vegetation. The food they harvest are quite impressive.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You can make a floating one with a piece of foam board. Just cut holes the size of some neti pots (look for them online) and drop your young plants into the holes. (just make sure the holes are not so large the neti pots fall through!)
    I do this in my farm pond and grow all kinds of greens throughout the year. (*deep south) I anchor it with a nylon rope and screw eye to our dock so can let it float out and still be able to bring it in for picking.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    What a brilliant idea! So, the Aztecs had hydroponics (almost) thousands of years ago. The plants will also take nitrates from the water and improve the health of the pond. How about a floating version?? I'll be installing a pond this spring and a small Chinampas garden is now a must.
    (I thought 'frawn' was a typo until I looked it up. In all my 50 years I have never heard that word before ;¬)

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    well as far as a floating one, i would imagine if you made a system of floats out of PVC pipe and made a stilt system to keep the soil just out of the water as not to drown the plants or rot the roots that it would work.


    Thanks Andy! I am going to have fun with his one. But, I keep on wondering if my grape vines will take root and grow!

    does it have to be fresh straw? because it will probably get wet anyway and rot, so if it doesn't I can just use the rotted bales that we have. Thanks, Tessa


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Why did you put a picture of your face above "step 3 Step 1 - Vines and Saplings"? What are we supposed to learn from that?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    That's pretty awesome, but how far above the water are the plants? I'd be thinking the water would rise, and drown them. xD (Florida can get a good helping of rain if mother nature feels like it.) Now, I just need a pond to try this in. There's definitely plenty of palm frawns around here too. :q hehe


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I remember seeing this done on a documentary, that's really cool, thanks for posting a instructable for it.