Ollas: The Ancient World’s Best Kept Gardening Secret

Longer days, warmer nights, and the sound of birdsong filling the air can only mean one thing. Planting season has officially arrived! Don your wide-brimmed hats and your gardening gloves, because it’s time to put your green thumbs to work again.

Whether you’re planting in a spacious yard with a perfectly planned garden, raised beds, or large containers on your porch, ensuring that your plants have access to the proper amount of water is always a challenge. This is where the ancient technology of ollas come in!

Ollas

Ollas (pronounced oy-yuhs) are unglazed ceramic or terracotta jars that have been used to irrigate gardens for centuries. Due to the porous nature of unglazed pottery, water seeps out through the walls and into the surrounding soil, hydrating nearby plants.

Ollas

Handmade in Bangladesh by our partners at Corr- The Jute Works, the Olla Plant Feeder looks so charming that you may hesitate to bury it underground. But don’t let its beauty fool you! Ollas are such a simple and elegant solution to so many common challenges that gardeners face, that you’ll be wondering why you didn’t try one sooner.

Here are the top four reasons why you should give ollas a try this season:

Ollas

Low maintenance and low key

There are few things as discouraging as putting a tremendous amount of effort into a garden, going out of town, and returning to plants that have wilted in the summer sun. Ollas provide an out of sight solution. Depending on the temperature and level of soil moisture, ollas can go a few days without needing a refill. So, go ahead and stay with your in-laws for the weekend! Your basil plants will be fine while you’re gone.

Reduces weeding

If there’s a gardener out there who actually enjoys weeding, we haven’t met them. Save yourself time (and an aching back) by embracing the olla. Unlike a hose, which waters a wide surface area, all water is dispersed from ollas underground. This means weeds have much less chance to take root and steal resources away from your precious tomatoes.

Ollas

Water conservation made easy

Using a garden hose or sprinkler, a significant portion of water is lost before it reaches a plant’s roots, due to runoff and evaporation. Because ollas are buried in the soil, no water is wasted at all! Our ancestors may not have had pumps and sprinkler systems, but they definitely knew a thing or two about maintaining a thriving garden. Simply bury an olla, with its neck protruding a few inches above the soil, in the area where you will be planting, fill it up, and voila! You have a subterranean irrigation solution that has been time-tested for generations. Water slowly seeps out of the olla and into the soil, hydrating a distance roughly the same as its radius.

Ollas

Self-regulating irrigation

Ollas have an amazing way of naturally regulating your garden’s hydration level. If the soil is dry, water will seep out into the surrounding area. If the soil is moist from a recent rain, the water inside an olla will remain there until the soil dries out. Even more incredible is how plants respond to being watered this way. Roots grow in the direction where they are most needed. As time goes on, they will surround an olla and draw water directly from its walls, making this irrigation technique’s efficiency unmatched.

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Have you tried gardening with an olla? Share your best tips!

 

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Valentina

A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Valentina lives in Lancaster, PA where she runs slowly, hikes often, and excitedly points out historical landmarks to friends and family. She is fond of curry and guacamole, and insists that vanilla ice cream is a waste of time and calories. Val is convinced that the greatest feeling in the world is stepping off a plane in a new place, and is a passionate believer that all the best days include books, baking, border collies, and bagpipes.

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