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Baby chinampas: testing their viability in Kentucky.

 
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Ever since reading about chinampas as a child, I have always found them interesting. I've considered attempting something along these lines for years, but have never gotten around to any experimenting. I had some of these styrofoam containers, and had an idea that perhaps they could provide a useful platform for a little experiment. I simply punched several holes in the bottoms, shoveled in some dirt, and planted some seeds. Total cost involved: a few cents for seeds. The water did wick up the soil after a couple hours. I can see advantages to chinampas around here, such as no lack of water, and less likely depradation from wildlife and maybe even insects. I hope this experiment  may reveal any negative issues that the text books don't mention, or are specific to this area.
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This project is Pup approved!!!
This project is Pup approved!!!
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We we have quite a few of these containers, too. I've never been able to bring myself to simply add them to the landfills, and have turned a couple into mini warm beds, for sick or weak critters. But this idea??? Love it! Thank you!

Are you linking them together, somehow? Anchoring them in place? Floating them, or just keeping them on the wetter parts of the banks?
 
Jordan Holland
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Carla Burke wrote:We we have quite a few of these containers, too. I've never been able to bring myself to simply add them to the landfills, and have turned a couple into mini warm beds, for sick or weak critters. But this idea??? Love it! Thank you!

Are you linking them together, somehow? Anchoring them in place? Floating them, or just keeping them on the wetter parts of the banks?



I haven't really decided yet. Right now, they are free to roam, but I've been considering how to manage them. To keep animals away, I don't want them right by the bank. Also, if the water level goes down too much, they would get beached. I'm thinking about lashing them together and using ropes or poles to hold them in the middle, and be able to pull them to the bank when needed. If this seems viable, it may be worth making a pier or dock lined with floating boxes. If it works, I'll have all winter to think up a bigger plan for next year. The issue we have here a lot is water, especially this late in the year. Trying to plant seeds right now would not likely be successful with many plants without extensive irrigation. This is a good time to try and see what a difference free access to water will have on crops. Lots of possibilities.
 
Carla Burke
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Agreed, on all counts. I used to live in south central KY, and am now in central MO, and still drive through the Paducah area to visit my mom, sister, and step kids. The areas are very similar in many aspects, including climate, soil issues, and water issues. We have a small pond, in our back yard - maybe 1/3acre? - and it's well loved by the local wildlife, both predators and prey. The deer, squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, armadillos, oppossums, raccoons, turtles, tortoises, various birds often get to anything we plant, before we're even sure whether what's coming up is wild, or something we planted. I think your idea of a pier or dock might also have the added benefit of a means to cover them with netting, so an actual harvest could happen!
 
Carla Burke
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Hmmm...  thinking another minute here, simply creating a lightweight frame of bamboo, or lattice slats, to hold them together might be all that's necessary, sil be enough to anchor some netting to, and it could just float freely, with a light anchor & retrieval rope...
 
Jordan Holland
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Carla Burke wrote:Hmmm...  thinking another minute here, simply creating a lightweight frame of bamboo, or lattice slats, to hold them together might be all that's necessary, sil be enough to anchor some netting to, and it could just float freely, with a light anchor & retrieval rope...



Yes, there are so many possibilities. And I have also given much thought to plant varieties. I think some would be better suited to chinampas than others. Plants that require copious amounts of water come to mind, but not plants that get overly tall or sprawling. But then I imagined adding structure in addition to the actual floats. Imagine a floating arch or pyramid covered in beans or peas, or cucumbers! Then the issue of buoyancy comes up...as the plants get bigger and loaded with fruit, how much lower can it sit before drowning the plant? That led to the possibility of growing vining plants with just the roots floating but the structure and bulk of the plant located on solid ground. You would loose some pest resistance, but gain ease of access for yourself for thing that need to be picked everyday. This could turn into a lifelong project.
 
Carla Burke
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It sounds like a lot of fun possibilities! We also recently got ducklings that we plan to eventually free-range, as much as possible. I'd imagine they'd also love the shade & protection of a small, floating arbor...
 
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Very cool stuff.
I love wicking beds and sub irrigated planters and this is like those on a grand scale.
One could potentially cover most of a ponds surface with these rafts,  preserving the water from evaporation or freezing.
I wonder if azolle ferns would add nitrogen to the water?
Even if not, they could be a ready at hand high nitrogen mulch for the rafts.
 
Jordan Holland
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Carla Burke wrote:It sounds like a lot of fun possibilities! We also recently got ducklings that we plan to eventually free-range, as much as possible. I'd imagine they'd also love the shade & protection of a small, floating arbor...



I've done the duck thing a few times...I know where the term "sitting duck" comes from now. I had thought about a nest box on the pond, or fenced on the bank with the only opening facing the water, but then there would still be hawks and snapping turtles to worry about. Too bad, because ducks are so much fun, and can be good layers.

I forgot to say I'm about 30 miles from Paducah. If this thing takes off some day, you may have to come see it!
 
Jordan Holland
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William Bronson wrote: Very cool stuff.
I love wicking beds and sub irrigated planters and this is like those on a grand scale.
One could potentially cover most of a ponds surface with these rafts,  preserving the water from evaporation or freezing.
I wonder if azolle ferns would add nitrogen to the water?
Even if not, they could be a ready at hand high nitrogen mulch for the rafts.



I'm hoping for the water to provide nitrogen for the plants. Too much nitrogen will lead to algea blooms, I think. There are fish, crayfish, tadpoles, turtles, etc. all pooping away in the water, so I'm hoping it will help create a well-balanced system that needs no mulching or fertilizing. We'll see.

And yes, self-watering containers here do so much better. In the hottest times, flower pots or planters basically need to be watered twice a day. Too much for me!
 
Carla Burke
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Jordan Holland wrote:

I've done the duck thing a few times...I know where the term "sitting duck" comes from now. I had thought about a nest box on the pond, or fenced on the bank with the only opening facing the water, but then there would still be hawks and snapping turtles to worry about. Too bad, because ducks are so much fun, and can be good layers.

I forgot to say I'm about 30 miles from Paducah. If this thing takes off some day, you may have to come see it!



Yeh, we have chickens, so have become well-versed in aerial predators, too. But, the arbor idea, if it works, might help with that. Snapping turtles... well. Anything they get close to is fair game, lol.

John and I'd love to stop in and see your homestead! That would be very cool!
 
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