Olla! Olla! Olla!

My gardening efforts heretofore have been dismal.  Mainly, I forget about to water the poor little veggies, and they wilt under the relentless Texas sun.  I think my main problem is that I’m not committed to my garden, heart and soul. I want to care enough to go tend it every day, I just… don’t. But I’m trying!

I need to find a method of gardening that fits with my laissez-faire attitude and general ineptness.  Enter ollas.  Earlier this spring, my wonderful sister told me I needed to look into ollas, which are a traditional irrigation tool in the southwest.  Basically, it’s a clay pot full of water planted in your garden. The beauty of ollas is that you can keep a steady supply of water to your garden without having to remember to water every day. (Although this is NOT a set it and forget system!)  The plants then take just the amount of water they need. Because they’re buried, you have less evaporation, so in addition to getting your plants enough water, you’re also using less water. Hello, lower utility bill!

You can buy them, but they can be kinda pricey. (They are lovely, though.) Fortunately, there are tons of instructions online for making your own, so that’s what we did!

You need:

  • Clay pots with saucers
  • Glue to seal it. We used this, but other people suggest gorilla glue or similar. Go where your heart leads you!
  • Cover for the holes. We used wine corks, but anything, even a small plastic plate would work.
  • A husband to do the work while you take pictures. (Optional.)

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Step one: glue the saucer on the pot

olla 3
Try not to get the glue on you because it does work as advertised! (Ignore the tarp in the background. We don’t hold to fancy “grill covers” in these parts. Bless our hearts.)

Step two: line your pots up for a picture and let them dry. Once dried and BEFORE you plant them, test to make sure they’re completely sealed. We had to patch two pots.

olla 1
You obviously don’t have to be neat for it to work. This look is what we call “authentic.”

I couldn’t find any standard “This is how far apart you need to space them.” It varied. But the recurring theme was to place your plants close to the pots.  Now part of my attempt to not fail miserably at gardening this year is to cut down. So I’m doing two boxes instead of four and I’m planting few vegetables. I think 8 pots will work at this juncture, but if I need to add more it’s cheap and easy.

olla 4
Notice our fancy chicken wire fence? This is our attempt to keep out the bunnies. As our poor eaten lettuces will attest, it needs work.

This is where I need to take notes: Fill ollas with water! How often do you fill them? Well, I got another “it depends.” Man, plants are fickle things. So I’ll just check every couple of days till I figure it out. I did read that you may have to fill them more frequently when you first start out.

olla 5

Finally, cover the opening. You can use anything, but I like the look of the wine cork. Plus I have a lot of them because someday I’m going to make this. Someday.

olla 6
And fin. Isn’t it cute?

I will keep you apprised on how the ollas work, if we are successful in our war with the bunnies, and if, for the first year since starting our Texas garden, we will actually eat anything we grow. I’m ever the optimist!

7 responses to “Olla! Olla! Olla!”

  1. Dana Avatar

    This is my next garden project. Thinking I may make a few next winter and plant a whole strawberry patch on my patio . . . if I can figure out how to keep the poultry out of it. They wiped out my container plants last year even before I got a chance to kill them through neglect.


    1. April Avatar

      That’s how I felt when the bunnies ate all the lettuce. They didn’t even give me a chance to kill it!

  2. Carrie Avatar

    This is so wonderful! Did you ever find a good cheap place to buy the pots?

    1. April Avatar

      No, I never found time to bargain shop and wanted to get them in the ground. So we just picked some up from Home Depot. I know I’ll want more for fall planting, so I can look over the summer when things are slower.

  3. […] tips to making gardening work with my laissez faire style. And I’ve found some tips, like my ollas and this very cool method of irrigating with wine bottles.  But the truth is, all gardening takes […]

  4. […] did plant the other bed with lettuce and carrots. I’m hoping the combination of ollas, worm poop, and actual sunlight may result in food. The herb garden was doing well before it was […]

  5. […] half of our ollas have come undone. I can’t dig them out to fix them without uprooting the entire beds, so […]

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