How to use an olla to water your garden

Ready to plant

We’ve been talking about ollas for the last few months in our efforts to find more efficient methods or watering.  If you’re just joining us now, an olla is essentially an unglazed clay pot that you bury in the ground, fill with water, and allow plant roots to pull as much water as they need through the clay.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 7.33.22 PM

Photo courtesy of Dripping Springs Ollas

We put an olla to test in the Sunset Test Garden and have been pretty impressed with the results so far.  All we need to do is fill the olla with water once a week and the plants take care of themselves.

Here’s how we set it up.

Dig

Senior garden editor, Johanna Silver, getting her hands dirty but keeping those sneakers clean.

Step 1: Dig

Dig a hole in a well amended garden bed large enough to submerge the olla.

Place olla

Step 2: Bury

Bury the olla in the ground, leaving the neck exposed above soil level.

Done olla

Step 3: Plant

Lay out plants within a 36″ diameter to the olla. We chose Mediterranean herbs, including German thyme, variegated thyme, tricolor sage, and ‘Magic Mountain’ basil.

Done olla

Step 4: Water

Fill the olla to the brim with water and cover with the clay cap to prevent evaporation. Plant roots will draw water through the clay.

UPDATE (2 months later):  For the first few weeks after planting out the herb seedlings, I also hand-watered the plants with a watering can, assuming that baby plant roots might not have enough pull to draw water from up to 36 inches away. Once the plants got established, I’ve relied entirely on the olla to water and the herbs are thriving.

In fact, the ‘Magic Mountain’ basil grew so quickly that it began taking over the rest of the bed and I ended up replacing it with low-growing ‘Chef’s Choice’ rosemary. Stay tuned for an aftershot of the herb bed in an upcoming garden-to-table story!

 

COMMENTS

  1. Shamin

    Fantastic idea ..yes with water restrictions this is the perfect way to keep our plants watered ..Tnk u for sharing ❤️

    April 28, 2016 at 10:00 pm
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  8. blueberry4pi

    Reblogged this on blueberry4pi.

    July 27, 2015 at 8:01 am
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  10. Lori H.

    Billy, Find photos of ollas in use here– http://www.drippingspringsollas.com/our-ollas/.

    July 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm
  11. Jacob

    Unless you can pick one up locally, looks like cost runs rather high with shipping. Instructions for making one, just glue 2 unglazed clay pots together creating a well and seal the bottom drip hole, sound simple enough. Several tutorials on the web e.g. http://www.savvyhousekeeping.com/make-your-own-olla/

    July 18, 2015 at 3:49 pm
  12. Michelle C

    Yes, would love to see the “after” photo!

    July 15, 2015 at 4:18 pm
  13. Billy W

    Where is the picture after the plant growth?

    July 14, 2015 at 7:34 pm

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