Ancestral Puebloan people have been growing food in the southwest for more than a thousand years. They learned ways to grow food in hot temperatures and without much water. Learning about and sharing the ways Pueblo people traditionally grew food can help the Pueblo and other communities prepare for climate change.

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Corn was wild, then domesticated. Initially it was smaller… but over time, we've selected the larger versions of that plant. You have all these different varieties of corn today based on that type of selection. So I continue that practice today. When I farm, I always save my biggest, most perfect ears of corn and those are the ears that I use for my seed next year or the following year… People do the same for varieties of chili and melons.

Joseph Aguilar

Crop Selection

At the end of each season, farmers save seeds from their garden to plant the next year. Pueblo farmers traditionally saved seeds from the plants that grew best in the region’s dry climate. Because of crop selection, plants that were traditionally used by the Pueblo have adapted to the environment and can grow well in higher temperatures and with less water. Growing plants that are traditional to the Pueblo is one step that can be taken to grow food in a changing climate. In addition, using and storing heirloom seeds may preserve traditional crops and plants that could be lost from wildfires, floods, and droughts.

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Grid Gardens and Waffle Gardens

These are two types of raised wall gardens. Grid gardens are made by building raised walls around an entire field. Waffle gardens look similar to grid gardens, but with a raised wall built around each plant. These gardens get their nickname because each field looks like a waffle.

The raised walls in these gardens help trap water, allowing it to seep slowly into the ground and keep the soil wet for longer. Grid gardens and waffle gardens were traditionally used by Pueblo people and waffle gardens were used as part of the Farm Program.


When multiple plant types are grown near each other (instead of in separate rows), it is called intercropping. Intercropping helps plants by:

  • Allowing more rainwater to reach the plant’s roots

  • Decreasing weeds

  • Producing more food per acre than if plants are grown alone

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Rock Mulch

Rock mulch is made by placing rocks or pebbles on top of soil. Rock mulch helps keep the soil in place because the wind can no longer move the soil around. It also increases the amount of water in the soil by reducing evaporation. In the spring, rock mulch can help hold moisture in the soil to allow seeds to germinate and young plants to grow. In the summer, rock mulch helps reduce evaporation from the soil.

Watering in the Evening

Watering plants at night allows more water to reach the roots of the plants. Less water is lost to evaporation when plants are watered in the evening because the sun is down and temperatures are lower.

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To conserve water we would wait until the evening to water.


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Using Less Water at Home

Water from your sink at home and water for growing food come from the same place. Using less water at home means there is more water to grow food. Examples of ways to use less water include taking shorter showers and fixing leaky faucets. Find more ideas for water conservation here.