Irrigation is always a hot topic when it comes to gardening. Especially here in Central Texas where drought is a common word (well aside from this current spring…and maybe last spring, when the heavens opened up and dumped trillions of gallons of water on us).
There are many different irrigation techniques you can utilize for your garden. Many of these techniques depend on the size of your garden and how much money you might be willing to spend. But no matter the square footage or the size of your wallet, there is always a water saving irrigation method that will work in your gardening space.
This year I decided to incorporate ollas into my garden. Dripping Springs OLLAS based right here in Central Texas helped outfit my garden with several ollas that I gladly installed into my raised bed and some larger pots. Here are some of the things I have learned about this irrigation method the past few months.
You might be wondering what ollas even are? Great question, I wondered that the first time I heard about them as well.
Ollas are large unglazed clay pots that you bury into the ground close to the roots of your plants. They are generally wide and outfitted with smaller necks that sit above ground level. When you fill the ollas up with water the unglazed clay walls allow the water to slowly seep out into the soil and provide water to your plants.
Ollas originated in Latin America as an irrigation method and are becoming a more popular option in arid climates in the United States. But they really could benefit any garden regardless of climate.
And as a side note, olla is pronounced “oy-ya.” Like you would pronounce the L’s in “tortilla.” It is Spanish afterall. Just thought I would clarify, you know, in case you were wondering.
Water Conservation :: This is definitely the biggest benefit of utilizing ollas. Because the water is going directly into the soil, less water is wasted due to evaporation like when you use a sprinkler or hand water with a sprayer. It also waters deeper and keeps your plants watered for longer, thus you don’t need to water as often.
Time Saver :: This might have been the top reason I personally wanted to incorporate ollas into my garden. Ollas allow you to water less. Because, let’s be honest, I am all about lazy gardening. Well that and I have a lot of other life going on that it makes it difficult to head out to water my garden every day.
Plants Thrive :: When you use ollas, the water source is directly where the plants need it—at the roots! Not only are you helping discourage fungal growth by not watering from above, but the soil is able to fully soak in the water and provide nutrients directly to the plants. If I was a plant, I would like this too.
Travel :: It is always a dilemma what to do with your garden when you travel. But having ollas installed gives some peace of mind knowing your garden can go a little longer without you needing to water every day. This also helps for those of us who might, um, forget to water from time to time.
When I started my spring garden this year I added some ollas from Dripping Springs OLLAS to my garden. I installed two of their larger two-gallon ollas into my raised beds and two of their smaller ollas into larger pots on my patio.
The smaller ones are adorable with their cute smiling faces that I almost didn’t want to plant them underground. But I did and I’d like to think my plants are appreciating those smiles.
The hardest part was digging a hole large enough in my raised beds to fit these ollas. I wish I had installed these when I first started my garden because it would have been so much easier to place them then add the soil. But alas, I did not so I just kept on digging, and after what seemed like forever, the olla finally fit!
Once they are buried in the ground, they are super easy. You just fill them with water when they are empty and viola! your plants get watered.
Depending on the weather (remember it’s been exceptionally rainy in Austin lately) my goal is to fill the ollas up once a week. When the weather gets hotter (and less rainy) I will probably have to fill them up 2-3 times a week, but I am a-ok with that.
In all honesty, my garden probably isn’t the best shape to utilize the ollas to their highest potential since it is quite long and skinny. But even with my skinny garden, my plants so far are loving the ollas. I placed one of the large two-gallon ollas by my tomatoes and the tomato plants closest to the ollas also happen to be the tallest and fullest…and I’d like to think that is not a coincidence. The other large olla I placed in my herb garden which had been struggling through the fall and winter before I installed the olla. And guess what…it is now thriving! I definitely think having this water source close by has been making a difference.
The biggest surprise, though, has been the ollas I buried in my pots. I planted tomatoes in these pots and they are just thriving. In fact, I am getting more tomatoes from these plants than the ones I have in my garden.
In the end, I highly recommend adding ollas to your garden, no matter where you live. I am kicking myself for not having these in my old garden, because a standard 4’x4’ or 4’x8’ raised bed would be perfect for these. Sigh.
And if you happen to be in Central Texas, I definitely recommend checking out Dripping Springs OLLAS. But if not, you are in luck because they sell their ollas online. Or you could always try to give it a go and DIY some for your garden.
Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post, however Dripping Springs OLLAS did send me some of their products to review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
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