Many people around the world experience flooding. Where there is frequent flooding the growing season is affected and crops become damaged or even washed away. Another problem for poor communities is that there is little land available for growing food.

One solution, used in Bangladesh, is a floating garden. This is a base of aquatic weeds on which vegetables can be grown. The gardens float on flooded land or small ponds. They can be used all year round, for summer and winter crops, and can provide families with enough vegetables to eat and to sell.

STEP 1 Collect mature water hyacinth that covers an area of 8m by 2m. If hyacinth is not available paddy straw, coconut straw or bamboo can be used. Put bamboo poles on top of the hyacinth to make a raft. Move the raft near to a bank.

STEP 2 Collect more water hyacinth and place it on top of the bamboo poles. Weave all the hyacinth plants together. It should be 0.6m to 1m deep. Once the basic structure has been formed, remove the bamboo poles. Attach the raft to anchor points so that it does not float away.

STEP 3 After seven to ten days add another layer of water hyacinth to the top of the raft. Then add a layer of mulch, followed by soil, compost and cow dung to a depth of around 25cm.

STEP 4 Plant seedlings on to the raft. Crops such as leafy vegetables, gourd, aubergine and onions grow particularly well. Move the raft to a shadier or sunnier location as required.

STEP 5 Protect seedlings from ducks, rats and other animals using broken fishing nets or sticks as a barrier around the edge of the raft.

STEP 6 Once the crop has been harvested the raft can be reused. Eventually it will decay and can be made into compost.

DO NOT use a floating garden in areas of water affected by tides or currents because the raft may get damaged. DO NOT use a floating garden in salty water as the crop will not grow.

Adapted from Floating Gardens in Bangladesh Technical Brief by Practical Action

For further information: Practical Action, The Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ, UK

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