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Any ideas on how to build a floating vegetable garden for the cottage? Answered

I'd really like to grow veggies at the cottage, but our wee little island is covered with trees and hence, too shady. I don't want to clear any trees so I was thinking a floating vegetable garden would be great! Here are some of my ideas:

-some sort of floating dock-like structure holding/attached to garden beds
-some kind of earth-box style planters
-some sort of string/osmosis type system that could suck water out of the lake to keep the soil moist (okay, I know this is really pushing it. Maybe a pump would be more realistic).
-NOT hydroponics: I'd like to grow veggies in regular soil, just out floating on the water instead of on the land!

Some inspiration:

Like the pic in the link above, but something a wee bit tidier and smaller?

Any ideas how to do this on the cheap? All notions welcome!



What you want is a Chinampa garden - A method originally used by the Aztecs and still in use in Mexico today.  They grow their crops on tethered rafts and platforms over a lake.  There's an Instructable for a smaller version HERE.
For a slightly larger version you could make a sealed framework of 2" diameter drainage pipe with a 'floor' of bamboo tied across.  The sealed pipe and air-cells in the bamboo should give enough buoyancy for a fair weight of soil and vegetables.

Wow, those are some pretty cool looking gardens. This is definitely an option....more homegrown and less "constructed" than I'd thought but very cool. I'm surprised you can climb right on top of these and they are strong enough to support your weight while gardening??

Thanks for the links -- now I need to get reading...

Hi, Sally, did you ever find any other options? I am also interested in building something like this but cannot find many resources online.

Thanks, Josh

Hi! This thread is old but oddly you're the second person in the last few weeks who's asked this.

I wish I had a solution to share - I still haven't come up with an idea I really like yet or gotten around to doing it. Still want to - but little kids and a shortage of time have slowed this down. I'll let you know if I end up making any progress!

I did wonder if using old pallets to make this might be a quick shortcut - like this, but not vertical, with some sort of floats on the bottom and wicking strips hanging off each row of the pallet?



7 years ago

You many want to check into Square Foot Gardening - http://www.squarefootgardening.org and/or the book All-New Square Foot Gardening. It seems to me that they would work great for a floating garden.
There is a forum on the website where you could ask if anyone has ever done that. Square Foot Gardening is used around the world and some have used it for rooftop gardens.

Andy hit it on the head.

Although using modern building and flotation, I think you could them one better

One thing I'd point out is that you should be just a little careful about the method.

Not to sound alarmist, but it might be worth sending a water sample to the county extension or equivalent, just to make sure that you're pond/lake doesn't contain high levels of anything harmful that might get taken up by the plant's root systems, since for vegetables that often means that those same contaminants can be ingested and digested by humans.

And that caution isn't just for areas that have seen a reasonable amount of human traffic over the years (never forget that the big, fat, exit-only pipe that goes out through the basement goes somewhere...), but also, and perhaps more importantly, for areas we wouldn't assume are "contaminated by humans".

Fact is, in addition to the banally obvious human source of taint, there are both naturally occurring biological and chemical threats that have nothing to do with human refuse disposal, be they as simple as pools in which animals have routinely defecated or even died, or high levels of heavy metals or other chemical toxins that leach from the underlaying substrate.

But both mean that a check is a good idea. It's inexpensive, accurate, and sensible if you intend to reap what you sow. Even if you live on a farm with your own lake or are part of a lakeshore community. You didn't own it forever, and who knows what "Bob" pours down his storm drain when no-one's looking, or...that your lovely clay lined lake is in fact a naturally occurring  toxic sink.

The rest is just kudos. It's a great idea.

EXCELLENT points, thank you!

We have a lake association that regularly checks the water at various points across the lake and posts results, and so far our little lake has been healthy and free of dangerous contaminants. That said they encourage us all to chase geese off the lake as the Canada Geese tend to be the major source of eColi bacteria.

We're pretty tuned in to these issues as the cottage is on an island so we have to deal with all of our own waste. We have 2 compost toilets which require regular maintenance but overall are fantastic. Our grey water system is well, probably not as great as it should be but we're super careful about what goes down the drain.

Even though the lake association runs testing, your idea to do our own tests is a good one. I know the township will test your water for free so hey, why not! I'll definitely do this when we get back to the cottage this spring.