The most significant difference between the Ancestral Pueblo people and the earliest inhabitants of the canyon was a reliance on agriculture. Corn, originally cultivated from native grasses in Mexico, was introduced into the American Southwest about 4,000 years ago. Early corn was planted but not cultivated. Nomadic people scattered the seeds, returning later, if possible, to collect any harvest.
By 1200 AD Ancestral Pueblo people began to practice agriculture on the Pajarito Plateau and in Frijoles Canyon. Small fields, some in the canyon and many on the surrounding mesas, were planted with corn, beans, and squash. The Ancestral Pueblo people used numerous techniques to take advantage of available moisture. These included planting seeds deep into the ground where moisture is stored by the soil, grouping of plants to provide shade and support to each other, and mulching plants with water-retaining pumice and rocks. Check dams, terracing, and waffle gardens provided methods for controlling water flow. (Waffle gardens are constructed by forming small depressions surrounded by a low earthen wall. Seeds are planted within the cavity.) Since summer rainfall is often localized, the people scattered their fields across the landscape in the hopes that some would receive the necessary rainfall to produce a good harvest.