May 31 2016

Clay Pot Irrigation: The "Olla"


Do you have a big garden but you don’t want your water bills to give you headaches? Would you like to have a big garden but you are not at home everyday to water it? Here is the perfect solution for you to have a big garden and have it irrigated properly everyday, without having enormous water bills. You can make your own irrigation system with a simple clay pot, using an ancient technique with the “Olla”, which is a Spanish word for the pot. Here you can read about the history of the “Ollas” and learn how to create one of your own. 


The ancient irrigation technique using the “Ollas” is an incredibly easy form of the garden to water itself, using as small amount of water. The origin of the irrigation technique using the “Ollas” is not specifically known, but similar techniques are known to be first used in the Chinese agriculture and goes more than 2000 years back. It has been used all around the world in India, Mexico and many more. The Spanish name of the pot comes from the colonial times and was first presented to Americans by the Spanish settlers. The “Ollas” were being used for irrigation of the soil and gardening, storing and cooling water and also for cooking.


The main feature of the “Ollas”, the unglazed clay pot is that “it sweats” and it has the ability to seep the contained water into the soil with the osmotic pressure. This way the water from the “Olla” let’s the water through steadily and irrigates your garden all the time. Its feature to seep and evaporate the contained water, also allowed the ancient nations to use the “Olla” as a refrigerating system, because the heat went out through the clay pot and this ways the pot kept the water inside cool.

Benefits of using the “Olla”

The “Ollas” most important benefit is its high efficiency. The “Olla” seeps the water to the soil steadily and keeps the soil well moisturized all the time. If the soil is moisturized enough with the rain the “Olla” will not let the water through to its surroundings and when the soil surrounding the “Olla” is dry, the water will seep through it and moisturize the soil. This way the soil will always be evenly moisturized as it needs to be and your plants will be equally irrigated as well. This is the best kind of irrigation for the trees and plants in your garden, because they use only the amount of water they need and leave the surplus. In the times of drought the roots of the plants will grow to reach the “Olla” and they will pull the water from the clay pot and keep themselves well moisturized. The “Ollas” are the best irrigation for dessert climates and places with low precipitation.

The other important benefit of using the “Ollas” is that it helps you to save from 50% up to 70% of your water consumption, but still keeps your garden well irrigated and therefore green and blossoming. It is easy and cheap to make and it saves you a lot of money and trouble with watering your garden. You can use big or small “Ollas”, for your garden, flower beds or the flowering plants on your balcony.

Make your own “Ollas”

“Ollas” are very simple and very cheap to make. First you need to decide for which plant would you like to make the clay pot irrigation. The bigger the plant, the bigger the “Olla”. You can use used clay pots or buy new ones. If you use used clay pots, you have to make sure that you clean them properly first so that you get rid of scale that has gathered on the walls of the clay pot. This is important, because the scale stops the water from seeping through to the soil. You can use ordinary clay pots or ceramic jars with a thin or wide neck, depends on how deep you want the pot to be buried into the soil. The ceramic jars are easier to dig into the soil and they don’t require you to glue two of them together, but they have lower capacity for containing water, therefore you will have to fill them up more frequently. The process of making the “Olla” with ordinary clay pots is described below.

Three ceramic clay pot for flowers, in a row, the growth

First you have to buy two clay pots for one “Olla” and choose the right glue so that the clay pots will be glued together properly. The best glue is the silicone glue, but you can use any other waterproof glue.

Then you take one clay pot and you seal the hole at the bottom, to prevent water to start flowing through it. It doesn’t really matter what piece of material or shape you glue to the hole to seal the clay pot, the important thing is that it doesn’t let water to go through.

Then you take the other clay pot and you add glue first on the edge of the sealed clay pot and then to the edge of the other clay pot and you turn it up side down and stick it to the sealed clay pot. Some glues need a lot of time to dry up, so you can use tape to keep them packed or put a big stone on the top of it overnight. When the glue dries up, voila, your “Olla” is made.

When your “Olla” is finished, you need to dig a big hole in your garden, next to the plants that you want your “Olla” to irrigate. But you have to be careful for the roots of your plants. You can place the “Olla” near the roots, not necessarily between them, because the plant will grow the roots towards the “Olla” itself anyway. The hole that you dig for the “Olla” has to be deep enough, so you can put the whole “Olla” in to it with the sealed side down and the opened side up. When your “Olla” is put into the hole, you have to bury it, but still leave the upper opened side uncovered. There is where you will be adding water into your “Olla”.

When the “Olla” is buried you fill it up with water and put something over it so that you reduce the evaporation of the water from it and keep the dirt, the insects and bugs getting inside of it. You can use a ceramic tile and cover everything up with lots of stones or rocks. And your own home made clay pot irrigation system is done. We fill up the “Olla” once to twice a week and in the dry season even more than twice a week. You can also put a bucket somewhere in your garden to collect the rainwater or you can use water from your rain barrel to fill the “Olla”.

You have to keep an eye on how moisturized your soil around the “Olla” is and when it gets dry, you fill it with water. You should also fill up the “Olla” with water when it is half empty so that you prevent the scale to start gathering in it.

You can simply help yourself with a dry wooden stick when you measure the amount of water that is left in the “Olla”. When you fill up the whole “Olla” for the first time, you take a dry wooden stick and dip it into the “Olla” through the hole at the top and check the level to which the water has soaked the wooden stick. You mark the level with a sticker or a permanent marker and the next time you will measure the water level in your “Olla”, you will easily know how much water you have to add to it. You have to be careful with your “Ollas” in winter, because the volume of water in them will increase when it freezes and they can quickly crack. The best thing you can do is to dig them up and storage them until the next spring.

The “Ollas” are an incredible home made clay pot irrigation system that will help you save time and money when it comes to watering your plants and keeping your garden green and blossoming. It is incredibly easy and cheap to make and it is perfect for any size of the garden. It is a perfect stand by irrigation system when you are away from home for few days and you don’t want to worry about your plants being well moisturized. The water in the “Olla” will seep steadily into the soil and offer your plants a water stock, always available when they need it. You plants will take as much water from the “Olla” as they need and you can sit back, relax and enjoy your garden. Let your “Olla” do the work for you and enjoy the incredible ancient technique. All you have to do is fill it up once or twice a week and keep it full and clean to prevent the scale to gather up in it.    


Written by: Lara Lekič Omerza for Bring Back Nature, a benefit Corporation