Olla Plant Watering System Saves Time & Water

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Everyone gets thirsty during the hot summer months -- even your plants. An olla can help reduce your water usage and make gardening less time consuming. What is an olla? Simply stated, it is a ceramic pot. Ollas used for plant irrigation are unglazed.

This ancient form of plant irrigation uses seepage from buried pots to deliver a steady supply of water beneath the ground. The vessel is placed in a hole and covered with soil, leaving the opening above soil. The olla is then filled with water and covered with a lid. The permeable properties of the unglazed pot will then allow water to gradually seep through its sides into the surrounding ground. Plants are placed in the ground near the pot. As long as the olla is kept filled with water, the plant has water at its roots.

Four benefits of using olla irrigation pots are:
* The pots don't clog or lose water to evaporation as other systems can.
* Plants aren't overwatered as they only draw as much water as they need.
* Water usage is greatly reduced.
* Gardeners don't have to be on hand for frequent watering.

Ollas retail for around $27 for a large pot. However, you can make one yourself for about a third of that cost -- or FREE if you have the materials on hand!
Place duct tape over the drain hole of one of the larger pots. Use a caulking gun to fill the hole with silicone sealant. Wet the lip of one pot and apply the glue. Invert one pot on top of the other.

Moisten the bottom of the 4" pot with water and glue it on top of the pot with the OPEN drain hole, making SURE the holes are aligned.
Wrap these with duct tape for stability and allow to cure overnight. The glue will expand.

The next day, remove the tape and scrape any excess glue from the sides. Check the top drain holes and make sure they are still opened. If the glue has expanded to close the hole, you'll need to ream it back open using the narrow end of a file.

Your homemade olla now looks like a space capsule. Apply silicone sealant to the seams at the middle and where the 4" pot joins the top.
Let this cure overnight. The next day, check for leaks by filling the pot. You will notice a pleasant glugging sound as it fills.

If there are leaks, use a pencil to mark the spots, invert the pot, let it drain, dry and re-apply sealant. Test again for leaks after this application cures.

Watch your filled pot and you will notice the terracotta changes color as the water permeates through the sides.

Another alternative is to bury a tall pot and use a
dinner plate as a lid. Here's a video demonstrating that method:

To use your olla, bury it leaving the 4" pot elevated above the ground. I painted the 4" section white to make it watertight and prevent any seepage from the above ground terracotta. A small saucer or large flat stone can be used to cover the opening, discouraging mosquitoes and preventing water loss. Here's a video demonstrating how to incorporate an olla in your garden.


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