“Ollas are a great way to keep your plants watered. If you want to make your own you’ll need some terracotta pots, mounting putty, some sand and cement to make concrete, and also a few saucers to acts as lids,” says gardening expert at Irish garden and farm center Atkins with over 20 years experience in the gardening field.
Ollas have been around for hundreds of years, mainly because they provide a simple and very effective method to watering your plants and keeping them alive.
“Terracotta is a very porous material and when a pot is filled with water, the moisture wicks its way through the terracotta,” she says. “When you leave one of these pots out in the open air you can actually see the moisture begin to form in beads on the surface of the pot."
If you'd rather buy an olla than DIY:
How to make your own olla for irrigation
To make your own olla, you’ll want to plug the hole in the bottom of a terracotta pot with something—there are a few options, but Vincent recommends an adhesive putty. “Stick some from the inside and outside for a proper seal,” she says. “Terracotta is quite sturdy and will survive its time in the ground.” You can use large pots in an outdoor garden. You can use smaller ollas in potted indoor plants as well.
“Putty is preferable as it is easily removed meaning if you wanted to use the pot as a regular planter you could do so,” she says. If you wanted a more permanent option you could fill the bottom of your pot with about an inch of concrete.
Once you’ve completed the olla, you’ll want to bury it into the ground with the rim of the pot just barely exposed. “Place the olla deep into the soil so that the rim is just at the surface and then fill the pot with water, then put the saucer on top—this will act as a lid,” she says. Then refill the pot, as needed. Over time, the roots of the plant will grown around the olla.
What you need to buy
How to use your olla
After your olla is buried (in the ground or in a potted plant), fill it to the brim with water and cover with the saucer. You’ll see that the ollas slowly leak out water, (about an inch per day), leaving your soil quite moist.
Ollas provide efficiency in watering plants, and “they can combat water runoff and extreme evaporation,” she says. Plus, since the pots are buried near the roots of the plants, these ollas encourage deep watering to promote root growth, and in turn, provide excellent nutrition for the plants.
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