I just made my first ollas. They are terra cotta clay pots buried underground and filled with water. The water slowly seeps out of them and gives the plants very consistent soil moisture for the roots. They're also great for when you go on vacation or for particular plants that really need extra water. You can buy one for $100, but I'm a cheap bast*&$! so I made them out of a saucer and a pot. You can also make them out of two pots for a bigger one.
I put cement in the bottom of the pots, so the water would only seep out, not down. I found that watering it through the hole was much easier with a funnel. You can see that they are holding water by the water line on the ollas.
Then I buried them with just a bit of the pot and the hole showing. It's useful to have a bucket or something to put the soil in while you are digging the hole for the olla.
I just added the tops of the ollas. You might recognize some of the materials, which I accessed quite inexpensively. I am experimenting with both "innies" and "outies" to see if one works better. You can even commemorate your favorite beverage!
I am very curios how often you have to refile these?
I haven't yet. I'm guessing maybe every 2 weeks, which would make it ideal for vacationing.
I think the best use of these is plants that seem to need more water than they can regularly get. Many plants seem to be doing better with biochar, and that helps every plant. But some need extra water beyond the biochar. I think part of it has to do with where they came from . Some came from summer rainy climates, so they want that rain in summer. However, some of those plants seem to adjust better than others. It's the few that suffer in our dry hot summers that I am focusing on. My Szukis American persimmon is a small tree and it seems to suffer a lot in dry periods. The other persimmons seem to be fine with just biochar. Szukis is one that I will try to put an olla under next year.
I am excited to see how it works out.
So Chris M,
To answer your question, I refilled them yesterday, after 5 days. I added about 5 cups of water, which is about what I was giving them every day. So the crude math would work out that I am using 1/5 of the water to water them, and they look very happy,even in the 89 degree weather today. That crude math gibes quite well with other data I have seen about water consumption with them. I think the biggest key is that the water is under ground. It doesn't just flow away. It stays there next to the roots. You can even see pictures of roots attached to the sides of Ollas, which is what they do. I wouldn't use ollas for all of the garden, but just for those particular plants that are suffering in the heat. I've noticed a few. My Pineapple guavas haven't been flowering or fruiting the last couple of years as it got hotter. Same with Himalayan honeysuckle and the yellow cornus mas, cornelian cherry. I think I'm going to try it next year with those and the Szukis persimmon and see how they do.
Are you going to make them bigger for the trees?
Yes. I found some places where I can get cheaper ones. Also, they'll be bigger because they will be pot on bottom to pot on top, so almost twice as big. Some of the pots are expensive new, so it's good to be choosy about what sizes to put together. I won't start the ones for trees until next Spring. The first three are experimental, but the experiment seems to be working.