Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Ollas are unglazed terracotta vessels that were introduced by Spanish settlers and used by Native Americans.  They have a reputation as one of the most water wise ways to irrigate a garden.  Usually they have a long neck and a wide base.  The base is buried in the ground near the roots of a plant, and the neck protrudes.  This design reduces evaporation and allows the water to slowly seep out to the roots of the plant, where it needs it.  Of course, after learning about ollas I wanted some for my garden; however, that was not feasible for me. 

I read about them this winter when I was pining away for spring.  There is an awesome website about homesteading that explains the history of ollas, and if you like you can order some for your own garden from there. 

I found other websites that explained how to make them by sticking two terracotta pots together and sealing them.  I wasn't crazy about trying that as I could imagine all of the various mistakes I'd make, how I'd ruin (waste) many very good terracotta pots, and perhaps leach sealant into my garden.  Fortunately, I lucked up.  On a snow day, my husband and I headed out to a local discount store, and there we found unglazed terracotta garden "globes" -- perfect and cheap!  We bought eight.  Because they did not have the long neck of a traditional olla, we also bought glazed plates to put on top of them to reduce water evaporation.  Today, they went into my beds!  I can't wait to see how they work this summer!

Earth Day is coming up on April 22.  What cool ideas do you have to conserve water?

The website, closertodirt.com has instructions for making your own if you can't find anything that will work locally:  http://www.closertothedirt.com/experimenting-with-ollas/

Visit The Garden Bloggers Sustainable Living (2011) Project for more great ideas on what we can all do and share your own great things:


  1. I have never heard of ollas. Thanks so much for telling us about them. Very clever of you to use what you could find, I bet they will work great!

  2. Alison, you're so welcome. I can't speak from experience, but everything that I've read suggests that they are unmatched in effective watering. I just read this new bit of info this morning: "When the surrounding area become saturated with water and the pot is emptied, water will tend to move back to fill up the pot. The system is therefore self-regulating."


  3. This is a very interesting concept. I've never heard of it, either. But it makes sense...unless the pots could possibly absorb too much water that should instead be out within the soil. However, based on the examples it obviously works! Thank you for participating in this project and linking to my blog! Jan

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Jan. And thanks for creating and hosting such a wonderful project. I will post again this summer on the effectiveness of our ollas. Fingers crossed.

  5. Oh that's new to me...I guess I need to try that to myself and see if it's really working..I am into growing of tomatoes and I am more than just positive that pots can help me double my harvest.