Irrigating with Ollas

  • Jenn 
Garden with small rain tank and ollas

While I love a beautiful garden and delight in all the things I grow, I am also a lazy gardener. Truthfully, I would love to have more time to tend my plants, but I have a full-time job, a family, and now this blog. In order for my plants to thrive, they must be self sufficient.

Ollas for Water Conservation

We use a variety of tactics around our property to conserve water and keep our plants happy—one of which is irrigating with ollas. Ollas, pronounced oy-ya, are low-fired, unglazed clay pots that you bury in the ground and fill with water. The lack of a glaze allows water to slowly seep through the clay as needed to water the plants nearby. It is an ancient technique, dating back more than 2000 years in China.

How to Build an Olla Irrigation System

In our vegetable patch, Mr. Modernita built a self-watering system using a small tank to collect rainwater off our metal shed. He used 4-inch round ollas, attached to standard 1/4-inch irrigation tubing. Using barbed tubing tees, he connected the olla tubes to a 1/4-inch main irrigation line, and the ollas are replenished by the tank as needed. Moisture radiates out from each ball to provide water in an approximately 8-inch circle around the ball.

Since we have had a wet winter, we have not needed to refill the water tank yet. We anticipate that we will need to refill it in May and June when hot, dry winds mercilessly bake the Sonoran Desert. To refill the small tank, we will use rainwater that is stored in our 2000-gallon tank, which collects water from the roof of our house.

Where to Buy Ollas

We purchased our ollas from Native Seed Search. They are made locally by Cutting Edge Ceramics. According to Cutting Edge Ceramics, this system uses up to 90% less water than traditional irrigation. While I can’t verify the percentage based on experience, I can tell you that it’s been shocking how slowly the water in the tank has been going down. A few times, I have wondered if it’s working, but we have a garden full of happy vegetables, so I have to believe it is working well.

The Perfect Solution for Lazy Gardners

While the system did take a little effort up front to set up, the olla irrigation system is a remarkably simple system with little maintenance required. With this in place, we never have to remember to water the garden or fix a leak—a common problem with the soaker hoses we’ve used in the past. With a little effort in the beginning you reap a bounty of vegetables that will make any gardener happy.

None of the links on this page are affiliate links. I’m simply sharing the local businesses that carry the products we used to create our olla system. 

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