Ollas (pots in the ground)

Essentials of an Olla
Essentials of an Olla

What is an Olla?

An ‘Olla’ is an unglazed ceramic pot, usually once – fired terracotta, that allows water to slowly permeate through its walls and out into the soil.

It’s a system that’s thousands of years old and variations of the technique can be found from Mexico to Africa.

Ollas are usually placed in the garden in between a couple of plants so that more than one plant can benefit from the moisture.

How to use an Olla

Installing an Olla is very simple. When I used them, I preferred to put them in next to new plants where their roots would go. They also work well in new garden beds.

Just dig a hole where you want the pot to go and put the pot in the hole, backfilling the hole around the pot and compressing the soil a little. Fill the Olla with water and put a lid on it. That’s all.

After a short time, your Olla will have moistened the soil around itself. The great thing about using an Olla is that once the ground around it is wet enough, water doesn’t weep out from the Olla. That makes Ollas a great way to manage your watering in small areas without applying too much water – just top them up when they’re empty.

They’ll find a balance with your plants. As the plant withdraws water from the soil, water will weep our from the Olla to compensate.

Ollas moisten the soil a surprising distance from their sides. You’ll probably need a few in your garden but you can be sure that you’ll be using the same technique as generations of traditional Mexican farmers. That’s not a bad thing, is it?

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