Build your own Ollas: irrigation with a natural drip hose alternative
In the holiday season, a difficult question arises for many hobby gardeners: What happens to the plants in the garden or raised bed that often need to be watered during the absence? A dear neighbor is not always available to water the plants daily. And an irrigation system with a drip hose is quite complex and expensive!
Much less expense and effort is required to build your own ollas – watering pots that can keep your plants moist for up to a week.
Garden irrigation with ollas
The word Olla comes from Spanish (“Oya” spoken) and means pot. The watering pots have not only been used in Spanish-speaking South America for a long time, but are now also known here. Conventional ollas are bulbous pots or bottles made of unsealed clay that are dug into the ground. They are filled with water through the neck of the bottle, which protrudes from the earth, and release it very slowly through the water-permeable material.
The irrigation bottles are available from specialist gardeners or online. However, the purchase can quickly become expensive, especially since several of them are usually necessary. Instead, you can make your garden irrigation yourself much cheaper from two or more plant pots.
This is how you build an Olla
For a watering pot with a capacity of about two liters you need:
2 unglazed clay pots with a hole in the bottom, one with a diameter of 15 and one with a diameter of 16 cm (the smaller pot should fit upside down in the larger one, so that the edge disappears only slightly in the larger pot.)
with a hole in the bottom, one with a diameter of 15, one with 16 cm (the smaller pot should fit upside down in the larger one, so that the edge only disappears slightly into the larger pot.) a flat stone or a larger pottery shard to close the lower hole
Wax (beeswax or a vegetable alternative to beeswax) or cement (available in hardware stores or the Internet) as an adhesive
You can also build your ollas in other sizes and use different, even used, clay pots. It is important that they are unglazed and slightly different in size so that they can be nested together.
Depending on whether you want to use the pots permanently or for a trial period as ollas, you can use wax or cement as glue. Pots glued together with wax can be taken apart again with little effort and reused in their original function as a plant pot, with cement, however, the connection is permanent.
This is how the irrigation system is built:
1. Melt wax in a water bath or mix cement as instructed.
2. Glue the stone or pottery shard to the bottom of the larger pot with wax or cement so that the hole is sealed.
3. Put the small pot upside down in the large one and seal the crack between the edges of the pot with wax or cement.
4. Let dry or cool down.
How to use the Olla
You can now use the irrigation system. To do this, bury it in the garden, raised bed or in a bucket:
1. Next to the plant to be watered, dig a hole in which the ola will almost completely disappear – about three to four centimeters should later protrude from the ground so that the hole is not spilled.
2. Cover with earth and press down well so that the roots can grow up to the water source.
3. Fill with water through the upper hole.
At the beginning it is advisable to observe how long a filling lasts. If the level is not visible through the small hole, you can shine a flashlight into it. If the olla empties too quickly, you can distribute more in the bed or instead build and dig a larger watering pot.
Do it yourself instead of buying – garden and balcony More details about the book
The water requirement per olla can only be determined approximately, as it also depends on the outside temperature. However, after a week or so it will probably be necessary to refill the water. Some plants that hardly need watering, such as aloe vera, can cope for longer.
Tip: You can find information on watering correctly to save water, time and money in a separate article.
Even easier: dig in a clay pot for watering
It is even easier to dig in a clay pot, the hole of which is closed with a champagne or wine cork. However, with the same amount of water, this watering pot is somewhat wider and therefore more space-consuming than an Olla. A matching saucer made of glazed clay, placed on the pot, counteracts evaporation. Filled with a little water, it doubles as a mini pond for bees and birds. A stone or a small stick will help insects crawl out again.
The buried clay pot is particularly easy to refill and the fill level is easy to check.
You can find more suggestions for natural gardening here and in our book:
How do you ensure that balcony and bedding plants do not dry up on vacation? We look forward to tips from you in a comment.
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You can build ollas for watering your garden and raised bed yourself from simple clay pots. An expensive system with a drip hose is not necessary.