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Olla Irrigation: An Ancient Water Saver

Thanks to those who were able to help May 19th when we incorporated a few new herb plants in the main sections of our 4 herb beds in the community garden. We realize it was late in the season, but the goal was to test out an ancient localized watering system known as ollas (said oyas) on established as well as new plants (see picture from our May planting day).

Ollas are fired, but unglazed clay vessels that are buried in the ground and filled with water. They seep water into the surrounding soil dramatically decreasing waste water. This ancient watering system puts water where plants need it most- underground.

Clockwise: May 19th planting day, 2 foot diameter planter with small olla, and three sizes of Growoya.

There are a variety of styles on the market and DIY versions on YouTube using putty, a terra cotta pot and saucer turned upside down, but we went with a commercial product (pictured above) to test out this summer. We “planted” medium sized ollas that hold about 3 L in the center of each of the herb beds. They should each water plants within a 3 foot diameter.

The bottom right picture is from a 2 foot diameter planter where I’ve used a small sized olla which holds approximately 1.5 L. Look for the bright green silicone stopper hidden in the center of the container that keeps dirt and mosquitoes out of the olla.

Our unusual heat has end the season for several of our less hardy herbs, particularly the cilantro, but our rosemary, basil, thyme and oregano are going strong. Please harvest what you will use!

The jury is still out on the ollas, but so far so good!

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