In my world they live in a swamp similar to the Okeefenokee swamp in Georgia. My question is, would it be possible to farm certain plants like wild rice, milkweed, and lilypads in these conditions?

Extra Info:

  • The people in this world are the average height of a human now, but the plant life is much bigger. So crops would be about the size of a one story home.
  • They have primitive ways of farming and no modern day tools like tractors, but they do have ways of using animal pulled equipment. They also have the wheel and basic medal work and simple boats.
  • The swamp water is deeper that normal, about 20ft deep because of the growth in the environment.
  • The swamp also cannot be drained as it is too large.

If you need any more information please ask.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I'm finding your question confusing. Lots of crops, including wild rice and lilypads, are currently grown in bodies of water. Also, no swamp is too big to be drained. Entire lakes have been drained to provide agricultural water. Maybe the entire swamp can't be drained, but large fields of it can be for sure. Look at the Florida Everglades. Then you take the question of your title and change it around so the plants are abnormally big. That is a different question. Please focus it to ask one question at a time, one you've researched. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Jul 2, 2019 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ Is there an analog to the population of hungry alligators living in the swamp, too? $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 2, 2019 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say there's about 500+ alligators, but they, like the plants, are much bigger. They'd be about the size of a school bus. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2019 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ "The swamp also cannot be drained as it is too large": I am very curious to understand this. What's the linkage between the size of the swamp and human ability to drain it? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 2, 2019 at 5:47
  • $\begingroup$ Do these primitive humans have any successful methods of hunting, trapping, fencing-out, or driving away those school-bus-sized alligators? That seems key. Farming without huge, hungry predators seems certainly possible. However, if alligators are effectively invincible and roaming freely, the humans (and any livestock) are merely a sweet snack...and alligators are very good at lying in wait. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 2, 2019 at 15:47

3 Answers 3


Chinampas: There have been variations on farming in swamps, and if you study the chinampa style of farming in central/south america you will find examples of swamps/wetland/lakes that have been modified to create raised beds with channels between.

These allowed for farming of various produce and have also been used to providing grazing for livestock. Furthermore, aquaculture is practiced in the channels of water between the fields.

Plants. Animals. Fish/Shellfish.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinampa https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-americas/chinampas-floating-gardens-mexico-001537 There are other/better links out there too if you keep digging.

Basically, you dredge the bottom of the swamp and start to stack the soil in an area. This builds the soil and raises it above water level as you continue to stack it.
This is stacked in an area where a "basket" has been prepared by using stakes and reeds woven together. This basket forms the boundary of the "field".

I have also read that trees, such as willows, have been planted along the field edge. The willows roots grow to create a natural basket that is alive, versus dead wood that eventually rots away. You can see in various images from the links that there are these trees lining the boundaries of the fields.

These raised beds are made from stacking the dredged nutrient rich soil, and as they sit above water level, act sort of like a low-tech/passive organic hydroponics system by drawing water naturally from below.

Some additional benefits are that with the proximity to water, the temperature extremes of the climate are regulated owing to the function of water and it's ability to carry/hold heat. Also, with the channels formed between the beds, aquaculture production of various fish/shellfish can be pursued.

Furthermore, the beds can be used for livestock.

All in all, an impressive adaptation.

Amazonian techniques: In the amazon there was also a form of soil improvement/adaptation that was part of a process to continually improve fertility/arability.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180723142845.htm I read about this in the book 1491. This above article is really scant on details.

Anyhow, the amazon basin is a humid, waterlogged region, with soils that are actually fairly nutrient deficient. The amazonian people developed a technique to improve, dramatically, and in a long-lasting manner, the quality of the soil.

They "smoldered" wood, NOT burnt, and produced charcoal which was mixed into the earth with broken clay pottery as well as compost/manure. This produced a type of soil that, even hundreds of years after its production/use, is highly valued and productive today.

It's astounding, actually, if you read the science (I recommend reading 1491 as it covers it extensively), where yields are increased several-hundred fold, and with soil that maintains its viability for generations of continuous farming.

Essentially, by farming in a style of permaculture, with trees mixed with various crops and livestock areas this is a pretty incredible and sustainable adaptation.

I know that this amazonian dark earth aspect isn't directly attributed to being a swamp adaptation, but given the fact that the amazon basin is largely swamp/wetland area, I figure it's worth mentioning.

It's also worth mentioning the land-reclamation techniques used by the Dutch.

Dutch Land Reclamation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuiderzee_Works

Although, this is not farming in the swamp per se, it speaks about damming off regions, and pumping the water out from them. Theoretically, if your swamp and farming of it, was on such a large scale as the executed by the Dutch, you could investigate this also for your world design.

Cheers, -A



The key is the right plants to meet the needs. You have things like the water chestnut, taro, Watercress and lotus

You can also dredge up mud from the ponds to build raised garden beds for more conventional foods as well as using potted plants


I was putting the following in a comment on @Thorne's answer. Then I realized it was too much. Already gave Thorne a thumbs up.

Also, if you are going to have domestic animals, they need to be OK with a swamp. Probably going to include certain kinds of reptiles. Maybe certain kinds of fish. Possibly certain birds, geese and ducks maybe. Maybe there needs to be some selective breeding to produce varieties that work well in a swamp and that are popular.

Also, you need a way to travel around the swamp. Air boat, barge, what-have-you. Probably there would be some innovation to allow the various activities to happen, without having the vehicle get stuck, and without destroying the growing crops. Maybe you bring two boats in, quickly attach a little bridge from one to the other, and work while standing on the bridge. Things like that.

Also you can have both raised areas for conventional farming, and dredged out channels for boats, regular aqua culture, etc. It means there are a lot of variables you can work with to get an over-all improved output. Possibly this kind of fish in the river is good for eating the algae that you want to control in the swamp. Maybe this material that runs off out of the swamp is good for growing this other kind of plant in a pond or river.

Also, you would be considering removing species that were not particularly helpful. Plants that don't help your farm, animals and insects that don't help. Alligators and snakes that harass your help or your livestock. Varieties that are not edible or not popular, in favor of varieties that are.

Also you would be considering water level control. Presumably you want some kind of dam on a river nearby so you can control water content in the swamp by controlling river flow. Possibly you need a variety of water barriers so you can raise and lower the water level as required. Maybe some crops need water higher at this time of year and lower at that. In local plots maybe you have a honking-big pump, possibly portable. Might be an interesting way to harvest a pool full of fish is to pump all the water out then just walk in and scoop up the fish.

A lot of farming experience will translate fairly directly. For example, you would be sampling the soil and water to make sure the chemical and pH balance was correct, and adding chemicals (fertilizer) as required. Maybe you would do crop rotation, similar to more conventional farms. Maybe certain domestic animals produce fertilizer that works well with certain plants. I seem to recall that chickens were what you wanted to raise if you wanted to grow raspberries. Maybe you want to raise certain kinds of fish if you want to grow rice there next year, just as an example.


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