Joel Glanzberg is a palaeohydrologist — he studies water use of ancient American Indians in the Southwest. He says the Zuni in New Mexico used sunken beds called "waffle gardens" for growing high-value crops like tobacco and chiles. Modern kitchen gardens can benefit from this prehistoric technology. American Indians survived for centuries in the desert by harvesting rainwater to grow crops. And while today's water supply may not be as scarce, gardeners still can tap into ancient water-saving strategies. The two main techniques used were to sink the planting areas and to mulch with rock. "Waffle gardens work just like a waffle, with the plants placed where the syrup would go," Glanzberg says.
Ground-level berms surround each 2-foot-square planting area. The berms are several inches high and built with unamended soil. The depressions catch and hold water close to the plant's roots. Grid gardens are similar, with 10-foot-square grids bordered with rocks. Larger versions of grid gardens have been used in the Southwest and also for dryland farming throughout the world.
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