Water-Saving Garden Technique: Using Ollas

"What's an olla?" An olla (pronounced "oy-yah") is a terra-cotta bottle or pumpkin shaped pot. Ollas used for watering are buried neck-deep into soil, and then filled with water and capped. Plants near the olla will soak up the water that the terra cotta releases slowly. Gardening with ollas saves water, and plants love the slow, constant soaking at their roots. Ollas were brought to the U.S. Southwest by Spanish settlers, and the locals took up the practice of watering with ollas as well.

As drought conditions worsen in some parts of the U.S. (including where we live), watering with ollas would be a good way to help conserve this precious resource. If I can't afford to purchase them outright, I plan to try making my own for the garden beds this Fall.

Articles on how to use ollas:
Santa Fe Master Gardeners Assoc.
East Central Ministries
Urban Homestead
Continental Drift

Buy (or make your own) ollas:
East Central Ministries
Peddlers Wagon
Dave's Garden (make your own)
Santa Fe Master Gardeners Assoc. (make your own)

[Picture from Peddlers Wagon, which is a garden shop run by the good people at Urban Homestead]


  1. That is so cool, thanks for posting it. Up here in Vt. there's plenty of water but being from the droughtlands originally, I save water on principle. I'm reflecting on this - could it work in VT?

  2. The price of ollas put me off at first. I live Austin, and I found clay jars (not quite the proper shape but workable) at Hobby Lobby for about $6. I used some old 5-inch regular clay pots (read free) for tops. I'm only using them in my carrots and okra at the moment (test run), but they seem to be working. Yay.


  3. This is a fabulous idea! Thanks for posting. I live near Austin, and my garden is getting bigger and bigger each season. I'm trying to do parts of it more or less, in the dry farming method -- low irrigation, widely spaced plants. I'll definitely try this. I wonder if ollas would work for fertigation? And I wonder if Fiesta Market might have some ollas? I bought a small one for making hot chocolate there a few years ago.


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