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Aztec Farming


The city of Tenochtitlan was built on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. They needed good farming practices to support their large population. The Aztecs devised irrigation systems, built terraces on nearby hillsides, and used fertilizers to increase useage of the soil. The Aztecs planted corn and other crops in the irrigated fields around Lake Texcoco.

They raised ducks, geese and turkeys, which were only consumed by the rich nobles and merchants. They had dogs, but did not use work animals, plows or any wheel-driven vehicles. They used pointed sticks to make holes for planting seeds in the soft soil and a wooden hoe for tending and harvesting crops.

Since they needed more farmland and there was none on the island, the Aztecs created farmland with a new agricultural technique that was called chinampas or floating gardens. These manmade islands were from large woven reed mats that were piled with rich earth from the bottom of the lake. The mud was rich in minerals and ideal for growing crops. Fast growing willow trees were planted so the root systems would grow to the bottom and anchor the islands. The islands were planted with crops that produced large amounts of food. They grew tomatoes, avocados, squash, chili peppers, flowers and corn which was their principal crop.

These island gardens covered most of the southern part of the lake. The size of the islands was not important, just so two canoes could go between them for navigation.

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