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Garden ollas

By Mark C. Carroll

What on earth is a garden olla? Simply put, it is a clay pot of water, buried in the ground.

Why might you care? Garden ollas are used to maintain a consistent supply of water to the garden. Typically, all but the neck of the pot is buried. Placing the rim of the pot a couple inches higher than the soil allows you to fill it when necessary.

How does it work? Well first, the clay pot should be low-fired and unglazed, which generally means terra cotta. The water inside will slowly seep through or condensate on the outside of the olla. This provides water more consistently during drier periods. Ollas are not new and have reportedly been used since the first century. Here is how you can make one.

Get some terracotta clay pots. They could be like the ones above or different based on how you intend to use them. Also, I bought the drip trays as a lid, but it is not required, as simple stick or rock place over the hole used to refill the olla will work fine.

Get some silicon adhesive and seal the bottom of the pot. I suggest sealing it with a milk jug cap or something like that and then silicon. Then seal the two pots together as shown above. Depending on the sealant you buy, you may have to wait for it to properly cure or dry.

Dig a hole where you want to use it. It is particularly great for young or newly planted trees which require more water during establishment or areas in the garden that stay drier than others.

While replacing the soil around the olla, wet the dirt so the air will come out.

Lastly, refill the olla as needed. Some gardeners use PVC pipe or other technology to automatically refill their ollas.

This time of year, some local dollar stores stock terra cotta pots, so you might get them cheaper than you can at gardening or home improvement stores. Two of those (generally smaller) pots could be glued together with the bottom hole plugged, and it will make it an even cheaper garden olla. Using ollas is a simple, low-tech way to have more success in your garden regardless of its size. Better still, you don’t have to lug a huge hose around to do it, which means in more remote areas it can be a huge labor savor. Simply refill it with your watering can. Until next time, keep your garden plants and yourself hydrated, healthy and happy.