Are you looking for an alternative to watering your garden with a hose, sprinkler or conventional watering bucket? Then you may want to consider an Olla pot.
Originally used in China and North Africa more than 4,000 years ago, Olla is a clay pot that is buried near plants and periodically filled with water. The small pores of the pot allow the water to seep out when the soil moisture tension and the roots of the plants near the pot create a suction force when the soil is dry. If the ground is saturated, then the water in the pot remains there. The water is released only when there is a need for it.
The Olla pot is a very efficient means of watering plants and it prevents extreme evaporation and water runoff. In addition, since the pot is buried near the roots of plants, it offers deep watering that promotes dense root growth and offers a very efficient supply of nutrients for the plants. In addition, some styles are available for purchase.
More Benefits Of Olla
The Olla pot assures that the soil and plant roots do not experience extreme drying and moisture cycles while the soil surface remains relatively dry preventing the appearance of weeds and minimizes the arrival of unwelcomed insects.
This irrigation alternative is ideal for crops with fibrous roots including squash, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, and chilies. It is also ideal for crops with fairly shallow root systems like lettuce and herbs.
However, the shape of the pot and its location in relation to the plants may affect the flow of the water. For example, large round Ollas pots featuring a thinner neck will emit most of the water below the roots of some crops, causing the need for surface watering until they are established.
On the other hand, this form of irrigation is not suggested for grains and legumes because these crops require a larger area of coverage. While the use of more Olla pots may satisfy the issue, their use may be too costly.
Ollas can also be used with perennial plants including young trees, vines, or shrubs and are great for raised garden beds, plants in the ground and planters. Be aware, however, that roots of woody vegetation may crack the pot. The appearance of such a crack will make it necessary to fill the pot more frequently.
Types Of Olla Pots
There are five different types of Olla pots. They include:
- Hand built clay pot
- Olla bottles
- Ola ball
- Do-it-yourself terracotta flower pots
- Do-it-yourself plastic bottles with holes
Each pot design has its own advantages and disadvantages.
The advantage of the hand built clay pot is that it is extremely water efficient, is locally produced, and, if you make one yourself, the shape and size can be customized. The disadvantage is that this style of pot can be expensive to cover an entire garden.
The advantage of the Olla bottles is that their glazed tops that are situated above the ground surface minimize evaporation and won’t chip, and their cylinder shape are ideal for containers. The disadvantage is that they are moderately expensive, especially if used to cover an entire garden.
The Olla ball does not require the manual filling of pots and is considered to be the most water efficient type of system. Its small size means it can be buried right next to the root of the plant where the water is needed. However, this too can be expensive, the plastic drip tubing that is a part of the system is vulnerable to animals and could breakdown in the heat of the sun.
The do-it-yourself terracotta flowerpot is inexpensive and easy to make. On the other hand, some of these pots are fired at higher temperatures so that they are more durable and efficient as a planter and this is not preferred for irrigation where water seeps. Moreover, they can chip over time.
The do-it-yourself plastic bottles with holes are inexpensive, recycled materials can be used to make them, and they promote deep watering. However, the water does not seep out of them, so they need to be filled daily, they aren’t as water efficient as the clay pots, and they can deteriorate in the sun and heat.
Constructing An Olla Irrigation System
As noted, Olla pots are available on the market. They can also be a do-it-yourself construction project.
If you are interested in making an Olla pot irrigation system yourself, you will need the following materials.
- Unglazed terra cotta pot
- Putty or sand and cement
Take the terra cotta pot and stuff the hole from the inside and outside of the pot with the putty. Bury the pot in soil up to its rim and fill with water. Cover with the base that came with the pot.
If you prefer a more permanent Olla, then stuff the putty in the hole on the outside of the terra cotta pot. Place the bottom of the pot onto cardboard. Mix cement and sand with water and place the solution inside the bottom of the terra cotta pot. Form the mixture so that it is flat against the bottom of the pot and let the cement harden for 24-hours. Bury the pot up to its rim in soil next to the plants. Fill with water and cover with the base of the pot.