Friday, February 26, 2016

Ollas Part 1: Gardening with Ollas and Where to Buy Ollas

I love experimental gardening!  One of my latest obsessions is gardening with ollas.  If you haven't heard of ollas, then just do a basic "olla irrigation" search and you will be promptly educated.

"What is an olla?"  Here is a link to my favorite article on ollas.
An olla is basically a porous earthen pot that is mostly buried under ground and then water is poured into the olla and it slowly seeps out water to the roots of nearby plants, according to their needs.  It is supposed to cut down gardening water up to 70%.  How cool is that!?!

Last summer I conducted my very own Homemade Olla Experiment and am here to post the results.
Testing my homemade ollas, my tomato plants surrounding olla, olla with roots, and olla root hole.
Last summer I made my own ollas by caulking together two unglazed terra-cotta pots (after sanding the top edges and plugging up the bottom hole of one of the pots).  It was a 2-3 day project to make 6 ollas that would hold 2.5 liters each and cost about $5 per olla.  Then I buried them and put about three tomato plants around each of them and almost exclusively watered with just ollas, which I filled up two times a week.
My tomato plants survived and produced tomatoes, but not extremely well.  It should be noted that last summer was not the best year for tomatoes for a lot of people.  Nevertheless, I was bummed that my homemade olla experiment wasn't a HUGE success.  I am no expert, but I think that I either put too many tomato plants around each olla OR that store-bought unglazed terra-cotta pots are fired at a higher temperature than the standard olla (which would make the water seep out at a much slower rate).  Any experts have thoughts on this?  I plan to do it again this year and make an even bigger homemade olla that will compete with the 6.5 liter olla I just bought (see Ollas Part 2).

"I don't want to make my own.  Where can I buy one?"
I feel your pain, reader.  Making them was not fun (I'm not a cool crafter) and I don't look forward to making any more either.  I have been keeping my eye on the olla market for over a year now and am here to direct you to all sorts of sources.  I have spent many, many hours throughout this past year searching for an online olla that I can afford.  So save yourself some time and glean from my searching obsession.

Note:  If you live in CA, NM, TX, or AZ, you are in one of the golden olla states.  Congratulations! Just start calling around plant centers and pottery places and ask where the best/cheapest garden ollas are sold and you can drive there and get one for a fraction of the prices that I am going to list below.

If you live anywhere else, you are going to have to pay much more.  Below is a quick list of where to buy an olla.  And just to be clear, none of these sellers have given me anything to list them, and I can't give you a comparison between brands.  (If you are one of these companies and would like me to test out your olla in my garden and review, feel free to contact me.)  And readers, please feel free to add to this list if you are in the know about ollas.
I wish you all the best of olla luck.  Share with me your experiences!

1 comment:

  1. One suggestion for you is that tomatoes only need an 1" of water a week so you may want to plant the tomatoes on the outer edge of the watering radius of about 18" and plant your basil and peppers in between the tomatoes and the Ollas. You could plant groups of salad stuff all around. I started the same way you did with flower pots I bought at several garage sales. They were approximately 2 gals. Those Ollas showed me just how lousy of a waterer I really was. Those three 4' X 8' boxes produced way more than twice as much than ever before. Good luck and thanks for the great contact information.