Use an Olla Watering System to Conserve Water

An old-fashioned watering method has become 'cool' again. Ollas are clay pots that slowly release water to plants, making them a great, easy gardening idea.

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Ollas are clay pots used for irrigating plantsNoelle Johnson

Ollas (oy-yahs) are unglazed, clay containers, periodically filled with water that are buried next to plants in the ground.  When filled with water, the water slowly seeps into the surrounding soil, irrigating plants slowly.  The roots of plants grow toward the clay pot due to the readily available source of water.

Ollas are a great easy gardeningNoelle Johnson

So why should you use an olla watering system instead of a watering can or hose?  There are a number of reasons why you might want to use an olla for irrigating plants—roots grow deeper, you don’t have to water as often, and no water is lost to evaporation or runoff.

This old-fashioned watering method has been used throughout history, especially in areas where water is scarce. Ollas are a great way to water containers and are equally at home in the vegetable or flower garden.

See 15 ways to conserve water in the garden.

How to Use an Olla Watering System

Bury the olla in the soil so that the top 2 inches remain exposed. Add plants within 18 inches of the olla and fill with water and cover with the removable lid. Depending on your climate and the time of year, you will need to add water every few days. Wait until the olla is empty and then fill again.

olla watering systemNoelle Johnson

Watering deeply benefits all plants by encouraging deep root growth where the soil is cooler and stays moister longer. Ollas are a great way to water deeply and the soil at the surface stays dry, helping to keep weeds away. In addition, water is not lost to evaporation or runoff.

As gardeners learn of the benefits of using ollas for irrigating their plants. Olla watering systems are now being sold at a few nurseries and big box stores.  You can also order them online.

If you are more the DIY type, you can make your own olla using two terra-cotta pots and a tube of silicone. Click here for directions.

I am always on the lookout for easy gardening ideas and ollas certainly fill that definition. How about you? Where would you use an olla in your garden?

Interested in other ways to deep water plants? Learn how to make your own drip-irrigation using a milk jug.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.