Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Olla in the Garden

A few months ago, I received an Olla. In my case, it's an unglazed terra cotta jug with a wide neck and a lid to close it.

This one is from Dripping Springs Ollas in the Texas Hill Country. The Olla is placed in the garden bed- or container- with the soil up to the neck. Then, keep the jug filled with water, and plants to about 15" away from the Olla will be watered.

On October 18, I decided to plant salad greens in a large tub with my Olla. I mixed the soil I wanted to use and started to fill the tub.

 I set the Olla so when the tub was filled the top would be about even with the rim of the tub. Since salad greens aren't deeply rooted plants, I didn't need the tub filled to the brim with soil mix. Then I finished filling the tub and planted the transplants.

This is how it looked upon finishing planting. I watered them in with a hose to get them situated. I found I did need to water with a hose a couple of times for about the first 10 days. The weather was hot with no rain.

Below, is how my Olla Tub Garden looked on November 2, 15 days after planting. Now, I only need to keep the Olla filled, which I do about twice a week. Since the roots aren't very deep, I've found I need to keep the water level topped off in the jug.

I've already harvested some of the greens, and they are quickly regrowing for further harvests of succulent, tender and tasty salad greens.

When I first got my Olla, I did some reading about this method of gardening and found it's used all over the world, especially is very dry areas like North Africa, China, Central Asia, Mexico, Central and South America as well as the desert Southwest in the United States.

There are varied themes on this same principle. YouTube has quite a few videos and people have posted other ways to create a self watering pot in the garden. Here are some references:

Global Buckets
Urban Homestead
Olla Irrigation
Tree Hugger, Unglazed Clay Pots Create Efficient Irrigation

Until Next Time- Good Gardening to you!


  1. Great idea Cindy, I have an earthen pot that has developed a crack I feel this can be an innovative way to use the pot as an aquifer.

  2. That sounds like it would work just fine. I'm finding I have to refill my olla about twice a week right now. The air is very dry and it's been breezy, so a lot of moisture is being pulled out of the soil and the plants. I'm looking forward to making a couple from terra cotta pots I have, too.

  3. Hi, I found your website while looking for herb festivals in Texas. I have enjoyed your articles. I have an herb farm as well, in Canton Texas. The Farm On Holly's Hill, is the name. I have a blog- I love all things about herbs.
    Holly Ross

  4. Hi Holly, Thanks for the comment. I've visited your blog and love the recipe for chicken pot pie! It sounds like you're really busy with everything up there in East TX! Gotta love those herbs!

  5. Wow, this was great timing. I run a plant swap here in Charleston, SC. We swap more than just plants, seeds, tools, garden art, etc. One of the things this past Spring swap that I ended up with was two terracotta pots, glued together with one of the holes plugged. The only tag it had attached to it was, put in pot and fill with water. I had NO IDEA what this thing was going to do. I thought maybe there was something planted in it, or who knows what. I did put water in it. It all leached out in a couple of days. I figured it was some kind of watering device, but never gave it much thought after that. Until now.
    Thank You Cindy!
    I now have something new to play with.