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James Slaughter
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"Because water seeps through the walls of an unglazed olla, these vessels can be used to irrigate plants. The olla is buried in the ground next to the roots of the plant to be irrigated, with the neck of the olla extending above the soil. The olla is filled with water, which gradually seeps into the soil to water the roots of the plant. It is an efficient method, since no water is lost to evaporation or run-off.[2]

This irrigation technique was introduced to the Americas by Spanish settlers in colonial times. Agriculture and gardening specialists are teaching it, and olla use is making a comeback in New Mexico and the American West. The state’s master gardening program is spreading the word. An olla factory has been founded in Albuquerque to produce the pots. It can be effective for homeowners to use in the desert climate.[3] It has also been put to use by the Global Buckets project." - wiki

Anyone have any experience using these? I would think they'd only be useful in certain vegetable setups, especially for shallower rooted varieties (lettuce, etc).
Mainly wondering how the clay responds to being in the soil, if they get clogged, how long they last etc. Cheers.
 
maje culture
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Hi,

I haven't experienced myself, but I have been studying this system and it sounds like a great alternative to save money, time and water (you save up to 75%). It is also an easily maintained system and easy to install. They recommend it specially for vegetables, herbs and flowers.
 
Eloise Martindale
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Ollas are terracotta pots with narrow necks, that are dug into the ground BEFORE planting the particular crop with which you are using them. They are not cheap. I have spent 3 years collecting enough for my use. I have used gallon ollas in the center of the hill of squash and pumpkins. The first time I tried it with pumpkins, I got a 25 lb. Musque de Provence, which is the maximum size they grow! I was impressed. I have also used long narrow ones in 15 gal. pots with Potatoes and small round ones with small melons. If you get gallon or larger, they will work with tomatoes as well.

They are durable, but need to be dug up and stored for the winter in any place with frost. If you are careful with them -- don't drop them on concrete, bang them into each other, let water freeze in them or bang into them with a shovel or hoe -- they should last about 3,000 years. It's the sort of thing archaeologists dig up.

I like them, but sometimes I have placed them in inconvenient places and had a hard time getting them filled with water. Keep this in mind when you decide where to locate them in relation to the path in your garden. Also, you need to insert a stone of appropriate size and shape in the top of the olla to keep mosquitoes out. This stone must be removed each time you fill with water, so keep the location within easy reach. I learned the hard way.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Here's an article about making ollas from unglazed clay pots: http://gliving.com/home-made-garden-watering-ollas/
 
Mark Hilliard
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I make ollas! I use them in my farmer's market garden and in the local university community garden. Take a look at my blog for more information. http://runningwaterpottery.wordpress.com/
I'm 40 miles NW of Lubbock Texas. The recent drought has made me re-think irrigation. I've even set up some ollas to be re-filled by my drip system. Works nice!
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new olla design
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cucumber roots around an olla
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table full of freshly made ollas
 
Aly Sanchez
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"Anyone have any experience using these?"

I have used the DIY joined pot set-ups. In 2011 I did some experimentation with water methods. The attached picture shows a bed with three squash mounds. One with an olla in the center, one with a "junk pit" (hole with paper, mulch, etc.), and one with no central water storage. I wasn't diligent about taking pictures as time went on (and the bed got messier with more mulch) but the olla and junk pit both outperformed the no-retention mound significantly. The junk pit and olla, however, both did about as well - so, for me, the junk pit is a much cheaper and less fussy option. Far outperforming either of those set-ups was a wicking bed I built in an area that was previously the least hospitable veg bed on the property (Albuquerque, NM, south facing bed against a wall and near another - so wicked hot and dry).
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gani et se
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Location: Douglas County OR
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Alycat, can you elaborate a little on the junk pit? Is it right beside the plant? Under it? I'm thinking of half rotted wood...
Thanks,
Gani
 
Aly Sanchez
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gani et se wrote:Alycat, can you elaborate a little on the junk pit? Is it right beside the plant? Under it? I'm thinking of half rotted wood...
Thanks,
Gani


If you look at the mound lowest in the picture you can see the opening. It's in the middle of the mound and has some cardboard scraps peeking out. The seeds are then around it for side growing. I used a post-hole digger to get...maybe 18" or so... down after forming the mound to keep the squash roots from soaking in the berm. I filled with mostly paper products like newspaper and cardboard, maybe some rags/cloth. With our arid climate it acts more akin to sponge or wick than something biologically active (hugel, compost, etc.). If it was getting rarer watering, an olla might make more sense, but it worked great for my needs. The junk pits are good here for trees as well (place one or more at the drip-line of new trees or those needing supplemental water.
 
Shaz Jameson
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What about re-using plastic bottles for ollas in places where it freezes?

I know plastic is the demon but it's free and it's re-using... or is the problem with leachate?

I'm just thinking I've got really sandy soil and along with a 'junk pit' some ollas could be quite helpful... I will have a scout around for unglazed clay pots, that's an awesome link
 
Charli Wilson
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Location: Derbyshire, UK
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Shaz Jameson wrote:What about re-using plastic bottles for ollas in places where it freezes?

I know plastic is the demon but it's free and it's re-using... or is the problem with leachate?

I'm just thinking I've got really sandy soil and along with a 'junk pit' some ollas could be quite helpful... I will have a scout around for unglazed clay pots, that's an awesome link


With the unglazed clay the water seeps out through the clay very slowly- with plastic pots you'd have to experiment with how big the holes in them would be to let the water out at the speed you want.
 
Aly Sanchez
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Shaz Jameson wrote:What about re-using plastic bottles for ollas in places where it freezes?

I know plastic is the demon but it's free and it's re-using... or is the problem with leachate?

I'm just thinking I've got really sandy soil and along with a 'junk pit' some ollas could be quite helpful... I will have a scout around for unglazed clay pots, that's an awesome link


I'm not averse to using plastic even with leaching concerns (e.g wicking beds are pretty magical here). I've used two-litre soda bottles above ground, but getting the hole size just right was something for which I didn't have the patience (little pinhole will drain in a couple hours). Milk jugs degrade and shatter here.
 
Shaz Jameson
pollinator
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Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
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Good point Charli.

Aly -- using them above ground? I thought it was always in the ground? Did you just got for pinhole size then?
 
Aly Sanchez
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Shaz Jameson wrote:Good point Charli.

Aly -- using them above ground? I thought it was always in the ground? Did you just got for pinhole size then?


I didn't mean using plastic as ollas, just my experience using them for "drip irrigation." I wanted a bit more flexibility/mobility than with buried jugs/bottles. I was surprised at how fast a pinhole drained (it was years ago - but I think I used a corkboard pushpin) - so run some tests and likely better to use different size sewing needles
 
leila hamaya
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yes i have done this both with unglazed clay pots and with the plastic pots. with the plastic pots i poke lots of holes in them. one bed i made was very tall so i used a whole stack of plastic pots, all with holes poked in them, they all had rocks in them.
 
Shaz Jameson
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Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
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Oh right ok, thanks for clarifying Will experiment!
 
Aljaz Plankl
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James Slaughter wrote:I would think they'd only be useful in certain vegetable setups, especially for shallower rooted varieties (lettuce, etc).

All vegetables love moisture in top inches of soil where life is happening, so ollas are useful for all veggies.

It's not the same effect when using plastic "ollas" with holes. As soon as you have holes it's different story. Of course plastic will work, but It's the surface area of the olla that is working so nicely and efficiently.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I found this link on Ollas... A chapter from someone's PhD thesis looking at yields under different watering systems.

Ollas come out way ahead on yeild/mm of irrigation water used compared to other watering systems. It talks in depth about using them for annual market garden crops, but also for establishing perennial tree crops.

phd thesis on olla use
 
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