We received another shipment of ollas today. For those of you who have ollas on backorder – the wait is over! Thanks for your patience.

We’ve been increasing this effective clay pot irrigation method here on the urban homestead. To conserve even more water this season, we are adding ollas many of our raised beds and containers. Having first used this method of irrigation about 3 years ago we have noticed a considerable difference in the growth of plants that are planted near the ollas. The plants are healthier and their growing season is slightly extended since they don’t seem to get stressed due to the constant flow of underground moisture.

What is an Olla?

An ollas (pronounced oh-yah) is a handmade terracotta clay pot used as an ancient method of drip irrigation for container gardening or ground applications. Ancient agrarian cultures living in or near desert regions have used olla irrigation methods for millennia. Thought to have originated in Northern Africa and brought to the Americas by the conquistadors, research has also found ollas used in China over 4000 years ago.

How to Use an Olla

1. Bury the Olla in soil leaving the neck exposed.

2. Plant seeds or plants within 2” – 5” radius based on olla size.

3. Fill the Olla with water and let it do the work.

The water slowly seeps through the unglazed porous clay, directly irrigating roots that will encircle the jar to absorb leaking moisture.

Ollas virtually eliminate the runoff and evaporation common in modern irrigation systems, allowing the plant to absorb nearly 100 percent of water. In places with water conservation ordinances, ollas can help maintain a steady flow of water to plants because they dramatically reduce the need to water.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How often does an Olla need to be filled with water?
A: Depending on factors such as the plant’s water needs, soil type, time of year, and environment Ollas may need filling weekly or daily. Always check the moisture level of the soil before refilling because an empty Olla doesn’t necessarily mean the plant needs more watering.

Q: What size Olla should I use?
A: As a general guide, smaller Ollas are good for container gardening. The larger Ollas are good for larger containers or outside ground applications. A plant’s water needs should also determine the Olla size (tomatoes and melons and other high water plants need a larger Olla)

Q: Should I take my Ollas out of the ground for the winter?
A: Probably to be safe. Our research has shown damage to some Ollas (out of hundreds) when left buried in the ground over winter. If you live in a region where it does not freeze, you might be able to leave them in the ground. You can leave Ollas in your indoor plants for as many years as your like.

Also check out our previous journal entries

Readers, do you have any ollas “discoveries” to add? How are they working in your garden?


  1. Becky says:

    Thanks for the great info on the ollas. Are they certified lead free???


    • Christina says:

      Lead is in the glaze and since the ollas are unglazed, it is my understanding that there is no problem with lead.

  2. Evelyn says:

    Yeah!! I am buying some. Do you use any other irrigation system? What are you thought about drip irrigation system?

  3. EmilyB says:

    We live in Australia, so sadly we can’t buy them from you, I have tried to source them locally and can not, so I have been using a simlar type of pot made of terracotta. They are no were near as easy to plant around BUT oh they have worked so well for me! I have a trial currently running with peas and the ones with the ‘ollas’ are up to my waist! The others are only up to my knees.

    I have two sized pots, one holds 15L and the other holds almost 12L I only have to fill these once a week with our heavy clay soil. Which is great as I often forget to water my some areas and with 2 littlies under 5 it is even harder to get out to water everyday.

  4. Diana says:

    Oh this looks just GREAT! I have no running water at my Patch, so what a perfect solution.

    I’m going to go make my own today – lucky I’m a potter huh? 😀

  5. Anais says:

    Becky – Good question. As a matter of fact I have contacted the folks who make the ollas and they have confirmed that the ollas are indeed LEAD FREE

    Evelyn – They only other irrigation system we use is “spot hand watering” It’s a bit labor intensive, but it does help us save water since we are able to control the amount of water over the entire garden

    EmilyB – Thanks for sharing this alternative method. Very inventive!

  6. Becky says:

    Thank you so much for checking on the lead free status Anais! That is wonderful!!!

  7. Anais says:

    You are welcome Becky. It was a good question worth finding the answer to direct from the company.

  8. Joe says:

    I have never used ollas before, but I had an idea. You could run a tube along your garden, with a smaller tube going down into each ollas (is “ollas” both singular and plural?) and the end of the main tube attached to a sealed bottle. As long as the entire system was water-tight, the ollas would automatically refill as their water level went below the level of the tube. Then you’d only need to refill the one big bottle when it got low. It’s the same principle that automatical pet watering cans use.

  9. Rod Newbound says:

    Very useful information. I’ve been gardening for most of 40 years, but didn’t know about ollas. Thanks.

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  13. Cares says:

    They look great, I had never even heard of them before…but that probably has something to do with being in a high rainfall area where my plants are more prone to drowning!

  14. Robin Feltner says:

    This is such a cool method. I’ve never heard of it. I’m definitely trying this in my garden. It’s amazing! Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Anais says:

      @Robin Feltner: You are welcome. We absolutely LOVE our ollas

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  18. MetroOwl says:

    Very cool item; thinking I may like these in certain areas of our property, especially because we have water restrictions during the dry season. But we’re in South Florida, and I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on whether mosquitoes are a problem, being that this is “standing water”?

    • LFond says:

      You could try getting some Plastic Window Screen (Plastic Mesh Screen) with the smallest holes you can find. Then cut it into squares that can be secured around the olla opening with a rubber band or a stretchy hair tie.

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