homemade clay pot watering system
Bury olla up to 1-2; add plants - Photo by Lauren River of Easy Country Gardens-n-Chickens

Olla Irrigation

What is an olla pot?

Generally pronounced as OI-yah, or OY-ya, but also as AW-yah, and olla in English as OH-lah, Olla pots have been in use for centuries, from ancient Rome, Spain and the American southwest, the olla was a handmade clay vessel used for storage.

An olla pot is an unglazed ceramic pot or jar, used for storing food and water. More modern versions of ollas may be glazed and can include lids to look more like casserole dishes. Often short and wide, ollas are terra cotta pots or clay urns made in many different sizes and shapes.

Clay Pot Irrigation System

Until recently, ollas have been used more for decoration than utilitarian in North America. Now, many in the natural gardening and permaculture movements are reintroducing the ancient olla irrigation method for garden irrigation using earthen pot water jars. The olla pot irrigation is a practice that’s especially beneficial in arid climates like the southwestern united states.

Advantages of an Olla Water Pot

*NOTE: If used in colder climates, you may need to dig them up and bring them in for winter.

Disadvantages of an Olla Pot Watering System

There are clearly more advantages to using an olla irrigation system than disadvantages. If you have personal experience with olla watering systems, please let us know your experience, and we can add it to this article to help others decide if it’s for them.

For a how-to video, we really enjoyed this introduction by the founder of Dripping Springs Ollas, Laurie Hanes.1)

Clay Pot Irrigation Explained

 

If you’re intrigued by the concept of ollas, but would like to do less in the way of weekly watering, there’s an innovative invention that may offer the best of both worlds.

A Self Watering Olla Irrigation System

>>A Drip Irrigation Olla System ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (currently 4.5 stars rating on Amazon)

olla water irrigation system
Olla drip irrigation system – Image by EasiOyYa, available on Amazon

You can find olla pots for sale at your local garden center. Amazon has quite a nice collection of ollas.

Or you can make your own.

DIY Ollas?

If you’re a DIYer, then perhaps you’d like to save some money and make your own clay pot watering system. A GardensAll community member has done just that and shared it with us so we can share it with you!

Below is how Lauren River makes olla pots.

 

How to Make an Olla Pot System

Contributor, Lauren River, Easy Country Gardens-n-Chickens

Easy Country Gardens -n- Chickens is all about making things as easy as possible.

I like gardens that all but take care of themselves, which is why I like the olla pot irrigation system. But they can be expensive, so I made my own!

MATERIALS USED:

  • 2 unglazed terra cotta pots
  • aquarium caulking
  • small plastic pot
  • utility knife

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take two unglazed Terra Cotta pots and adhered them together by using aquarium caulking. I like aquarium caulking because it’s non-toxic.
  2. Cut a hole in the bottom of a small plastic planter: Place the clay pot against the bottom of the plastic pot. Mark the circle with pencil, chalk or sharpie; (something that you can see). This is for sealing the bottom hole in one of the Terra Cotta pots. Use the caulking and the small round piece of plastic. You can leave the hole in the other pot open.
  3. Once the caulk has dried, test the seal to make sure it’s not leaking water. Then bury the pot in the soil up to about the last top 1″ to 1/2 ” of the pot rim.
  4. Fill around the outside of the olla with soil; then fill the olla with water. The water will slowly begin to seep out of the surface ares of the olla, keep the roots watered and moist.

I only have to fill the olla about once or twice a week depending on the amount of rain we get. If the soil is moist, water won’t seep out because there is enough moisture in the soil already. When the soil starts to dry out, the olla will once again seep water into the soil.

This ancient irrigation method is perfect for raised garden beds and planters as well as plants that are in the ground.

For a planter, you will probably only need one olla, and you might use smaller pots. For a 4’x4′ raised bed, 4 ollas would be best.

A Visual Guide on How to Make an Olla from Clay Pots

Cut a circle from a plastic pot to plug up the clay pot drain hole – Photo by Lauren River of Easy Country Gardens-n-Chickens.
DIY Clay Pot Watering System – plug the drain hole – Photo by Lauren River of Easy Country Gardens-n-Chickens
DIY homemade clay pot irrigation system
Glue two pots together with aquarium caulk. The open hold will be on top – Photo by Lauren River – Easy Country Gardens-n-Chickens
homemade clay pot watering system
Bury olla up to 1-2; add plants – Photo by Lauren River of Easy Country Gardens-n-Chickens

Thanks to Lauren River for sharing her DIY clay watering pot system! You can visit Lauren’s Easy Country Gardens-n-Chickens Facebook page here.
One thing that we’d probably add to Lauren’s instructions is to cut out another plastic plug to “cap off” the top olla hole to help prevent mosquitos and other bugs from taking up residence there. Either that or a rubber tub stopper type cap

Or Buy an Olla Pot?

If you don’t have time to make your own, you will enjoy perusing the many olla pots available on Amazon. Our favorite olla pot for sale is this bottle styled one, especially for smaller areas or large potted plants, otherwise, it doesn’t hold as much as the short squat jug style. See what you think and please let us know if you’re doing an olla system.

Meanwhile, if you’d prefer a to explore other options, we’ve also tried both the soaker hose method as well as a drip irrigation system, which is what we’re preferring thus far.

Happy Planting!

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I’m LeAura Alderson, entrepreneur, ideator, media publisher, writer and editor of GardensAll.com. Pursuits in recent years have been more planting seeds of ideas for business growth more than gardening. However, I’ve always been interested in medicinal herbs and getting nutrition and healing from food over pharmacy. As a family we’re eager to dig more deeply into gardening and edible landscape for the love of fresh organic foods and self sustainability. We thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the creative ingenuity of the GardensAll community.