A step backwards, clay pot irrigation

We bought a couple dozen olla’s from you last year but only had two beds and few oak whiskey barrels at that time. This year we made a few more raised large beds and added a few more barrels (barrels perfect for the olla’s) installed drip lines to water all of the ollas at once by turning the handle on the hose. OH MY OH MY. We have a few whiskey barrels with just drip irrigation 360 sprayers and no olla’a and what a difference the olla makes, all of the whiskey barrels (holding tomato plants surrounded by herbs or strawberries and herbs combined are thriving, just thriving, taller than the no olla barrels. Plants love them, when removing them this past winter, they were hugged by roots of vegetables that had grown with them that past summer. They work and work well, we all have been utilizing the plant nanny a clay spike that holds a wine bottle. They have the same concept as the olla yet can not be filled with the drip lines. look very nice in the whiskey/wine barrels. very vineyard feel to our courtyard now.
We love it. – Patricia

Plant Pottery That Works

We can’t sing the praises enough of clay pot irrigation, an ancient method of plant irrigation – considered the original drip irrigation system. And yes the ollas are 100% LEAD-FREE

Sure they are somewhat pricey but here on the urban homestead we’ve been slowing putting ollas [pronounced OH-ya] throughout the yard and over the last three years have cut our water usage in 1/2 while maintaining our annual poundage of close to 6,000 lbs. {our water bill for the entire year is $600}

It’s great to hear of others who too have success with this ancient yet highly efficient watering method, thanks for sharing Patricia.

What about anyone else, care to share your olla experience? O yah!

Or better yet, share what water wise efforts you are doing to reduce your water use in the garden. Are you getting rid of the lawn to grow more food, mulching or planting crops closer together all in an effort to save water?

Here’s our latest Water Saving Projects and list of Water Wise Ways

:: Resources ::

Buy Ollas from our Urban Homestead Shop

Using Ollas in Your Garden

Pictures of Ollas in Raised Beds

Ollas FAQ

Make Your Own SWC (“self watering container”) Ollas in Containers (pics sent to us by another LA urban homesteader)


  1. Emily says:

    I live in the High Sierras. We have lots of snow and freezing temps every year. Am I right in thinking I would need to dig these up every year to prevent cracking?

    • Aubrey says:

      I would also like to know this. I live in central Alberta, Canada, and frost and snow are inevitable…

      • Anais says:

        @Aubrey: For cold weather climates, it’s better to take the ollas out of the ground and store till spring.

  2. Mrs.C says:

    I bought 6 Ollas from you all this past Spring & theay are a MUST HAVE!! I live in Georgia where it has been dangerously hot this year & my plants ae holding out so well! They are green & growing all over the place. I have heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, pinneapple sage, pumpkins, pineapple plant, & marigolds. My neighbor who is in his 90’s looked confused & questioned me about my “pots” I was about to put into the garden. I explained the method of watering to him & he didn’t seem to understand it so well. Well when all of our heat came down this summer his tomato plants, cucumbers, & beans just dried away. It was a awful site & a mess to clean up. At the same time my plants were flourishing & I was getting many tomatoes & my small pinneapple sage turned into a bush!! All this to say that your Ollas are AMAZING!!! I will be ordering two more soon & would NEVER want to garden without them. As a mother of 5 they save me so much time & water usage. I feel them up a couple times a week & my plants simply flourish! Mrs.C

    Question: Can you use these to water blueberry plants?

    • Mrs.C says:

      “fill” them up not “feel” Lol….

      • Anais says:

        @Mrs.C: LOL. Very funny!

    • Anais says:

      @Mrs.C: Yes, you can use them to water blueberry plants. What a great story, thank you for sharing. I printed up your success story and passed it around today!

    • DeeDee Schmeisser says:

      @Mrs.C, I also live in Georgia and was considering buying some Ollas. Are you using then in raised beds or in the ground and how far apart are you spacing them? I know our red clay gets like a brick in August. I’m using drip irrigation right now with only so-so results. Thanks for your post. DeeDee S

  3. Annette Triplett @ CoMo Homestead says:

    A new step we’ve taken this year is connecting our rain barrel to a soaker hose that goes out to the garden. That way, I can just turn on the rain barrel spigot and the garden is watered with free(!) reclaimed rain water.

  4. Dog Island Farm says:

    We run drip irrigation on our 1/4 acre with an auto timer. I’m hoping to soon add on a SMART system. While the ollas sound great, they are cost prohibitive for us and I can get all of our drip irrigation equipment free or very deeply discounted because I work in landscape architecture (yay vendor bribes!).

    We don’t have any turf. Our house had a “lawn” which was mostly crabgrass and foxtails when we moved in and has since been ripped out. We’re still working on a design for it, but most likely it will involve more vegetable beds for our neighborhood.

    Does your water bill cost that you shared include sewer and service fees as well? Our city requires that we all pay the same sewer and service fees regardless of how much water we use. So the family of 6 in the 8,000 sq ft house pays the same in sewer and service fees as the two of us in our little 750 sq ft house. Then they tack on your actual water useage on top of that. No matter how much water we cut we could never get it down to $600/year because the fees alone are over $60/month.

    • Anais says:

      @Dog Island Farm: Um, I’ll have to ask Justin on that one. He handles what bills we do have here on the urban homestead.

  5. Temica says:

    I find the ollas simply beautiful. I wish I could use them. However here is sunny florida and living next to a pond the mosquitoes are horrible and open water container will be and usually is affected. Instead I collected soda bottles from family and friends. I clean them out well and poke holes in them. Bury them fill them up and the top goes back on keeping the bugs out but still watering at the roots. Works very well for me!

    • Elise says:

      @Temica That’s brilliant!

  6. Diane says:

    A small water saving step for our container garden….we keep 2 five gallon buckets in our shower. Since the master bath is a long way from the water heater it can take quite a while to get a warm shower. We run the warm-up water into the buckets and dump those into a rain barrel. We’ve cut our garden watering by about 80%.

  7. Nancy R says:

    You asked about digging up our lawns. I had to laugh. Last weekend in 105 heat-index Florida, I was out digging up my front lawn to plant fruit trees, while my neighbor across the street was working equally hard to replant her lawn. Then my nextdoor neighbor asked if I was putting up a wall of trees so I didn’t have to look at his (messy) house. When I told him “no”, I was planting food, he seemed quite interested. I plan to order a couple of ollas as soon as I get my new bank card, which hopefully will be any day now. Thank you for all you do! Nancy R

    • Anais says:

      @Nancy R: What a great story, thanks for sharing. Always great to hear it when folks/neighbors take interest! Bet he’ll be looking forward to some homegrown fruit. Please don’t remind me about the Florida heat… lived there for 10 years as a kid and the heat and humidity is hard to forget. More power to you!

  8. Jeni says:

    this may be a dumb question but can you only use these if you have raised beds?

    • Anais says:

      @Jeni: No, you can use them anywhere! Just bury the clay pot below ground.

      • Jeni says:

        @Anais, wow really! I am going to have to purchase some of those come spring then!!!

        • Courtney says:

          Stephanie Posted on Great! Awesome!1st up the wedding china my mohetr gave me 18 years ago, while saying, with a VERY disappointed voice Well since it seems that you aren’t getting married any time soon, I might as well give this to you now. I’ve been carrying them around, thru 3 moves, thinking that I ought to keep them, that I would somehow curse myself or jinx myself if I got rid of them..that I would indeed end up alone.Guess what? Yep, I am still single. I’ve had a couple of relationships between then and now, but the end result? The dishes are not magical and I don’t have to expend any energy trying to make myself feel better about the dishes so that I can keep them.So, I am hereby embracing the real possibility that I may never be married and commit the dishes to craigslist, may they be gone in a wink and trouble me no more LOL!Thank you for the entertaining video about a serious subject.

  9. Elise says:

    I double dug all my garden beds, added compost, planted stuff very close together, and used some straw mulch here and there. Supposedly, double digging the ground enables it to act like a sponge, absorbing and retaining water. I watered a lot in the spring to get things going (and because I didn’t know how much water things really needed), but I have only watered once or twice since June. Nothing has wilted or seems to be suffering from lack of water. I have no drip irrigation or anything. Mostly I just pray for rain, lol.

  10. Kevin says:

    My strategy has been grow a Robert Hart-esque forest garden based on native species that are tolerant to the moisture we get. The water for the annual veg beds comes from rain barrel water. Nearly at zero city-treated-water on the garden this year, and the older the plantings get, the more they create shade and mulch, further helping the water situation.

  11. Chris says:

    Love, Love, Love my ollas. Put two in my coldframe bed (cover is off now) where I planted tomatoes. Very hot, dry summer here on NE and a friend came by and said ‘look how thick those stalks are on those tomatoes”. Also, used Freedom Seed tomatoes and another friend commented how flavorful the tomato was, just delish! Put another olla in a small bed where I can’t reach with hose as am killing lawn and it’s worked out perfect.

    Did another long bag garden bed for my Freedom Seeds squash plants along the fence. Used the paper the ollas were packed in to set the bags on. Put the plants in late and they are thriving. I’ll dump the bags, top dress with some compost and then fresh seaweed in the fall. Instant spring garden bed for 2011 without ripping up lawn. I’ll use the dried seaweed next spring for mulch and to add to my composting system.

    Definitely going to order more ollas as I make more beds! Gift certificates to Peddler’s Wagon will be on my XMAS list this year!

    • Anais says:

      @Chris: glad you are LOVIN’ your ollas. Sounds like you’ve been quite the busy person!

      • Chris says:

        FYI ~~ Many Cape Cod gardeners are having trouble with their cucumbers this year because of the hot, dry weather. My Double Yield and Longfellow Cuke Patch (only 4 plants .. 2 of each from Freedom seeds) is still yielding heavily. Plants are well over 6 feet tall still with lots of flowers. Going to try canning the Longfellow as dill spears on Tuesday. I confess to having a new obsession with those Longfellows … delish! Haven’t done canning in years and I was/am still a canning novice. An experienced canning gal pal is coming over to supervise and show me her tips. Fingers crossed I don’t blow up my kitchen!

        • Anais says:

          @Chris: Happy canning!

  12. Joe from San Diego says:

    I am using 4×4 raised beds made of cinder block for my garden right now. How many would you use in each bed?

  13. Bobby Rodriguez says:


    I have a raised bed and a plot in the ground. Do you know if Ollas will work directly in the ground?


  14. Spring Meter says:

    Gardening in clay port can save extra expenses on water. You also make a moving garden according to your choice.

    Thanks for the post; it’s a great help in saving water

  15. Colleen @ A Curry of a Life says:

    I love the idea of a self watering raised bed. I’m starting my first food garden in my nearby community garden. They have a rule of not allowing a water timer and I don’t want to have to go in everyday to water. How often do you need to fill the pots? Do you have to place them in a specific way?

    Do you think this idea would work using plastic milk containers instead of ollas? I was thinking I could collect the milk gallons we already use and prick a couple of pin holes in them and bury them like the ollas and it would do the same trick while saving money. The milk gallons are probably a bit smaller than ollas, so I may need to refill them a little more often, or just use more milk containers.

    What do you think?

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