Plant Pottery That Works

The buried clay pot or pitcher method of irrigation is one of the most efficient systems known and is ideal for gardeners and small farmers. Buried clay pot irrigation uses a buried, unglazed clay pot filled with water to provide controlled irrigation to plants as the water seeps out through the clay wall at a rate that is influenced by the plant’s water use.

This leads to very high efficiency–considerably better than drip irrigation and many times better than conventional surface irrigation.

When should you use clay pots?

Buried clay pot irrigation should be considered wherever water conservation is important. It will probably continue to prove most valuable for producing high value crops in dry lands. Buried clay pot irrigation is also valuable for food production and revegetation of areas affected by salinity or where only saline water is available for irrigation.

Buried clay pot irrigation is also valuable for gardening, landscaping, and growing plants in containers. It can be very effective for plants that are prone to diseases from over watering or wetting leaves by sprinkling. It could also be of commercial value for many situations encountered in landscaping, gardening, and plant propagation.

The Fan Sheng-chih Shu (the first agricultural science text book) describes the use of buried clay pot irrigation in China more than 2,000 years ago. It is likely buried clay pot irrigation had been used for many decades or centuries before this description was published. Current practices remain much the same.

—-writings courtesy of David A. Bainbridge

Now is the time to start thinking about spring.

Stock up on one of the hottest item on our online store

We’ve been using this simple, yet effective clay pot irrigation system throughout the garden and even making “self watering pots” for the last four or so years.  I have written many a blog post and shared many photos of how we go about using ollas in the garden.    In our observation we have found that the plants are healthier, less stressed which means less disease and extended growing season.

Here’s how we use them here on our urban homestead.


  1. Chris says:

    Hi Dervaes Family. I”m trying to figure out what size olla/quantity to order for a container planter 18″ X 30″ x 15 1/2 ” deep?

    It would be helpful to know the diameter watering capacity for each size that you carry. (i.e Jules/Justin used (3) 1 1/2 gallon ollas for a 4 x 8 bed). Also, when will you have the 1 1/2 gallon ollas in stock again? Thanks! Keep the photos coming!!!

  2. Chris says:

    PS… I started my first freedomseeds.org yesterday!!!! I had goosebumps. I’m trying some indoor cucumbers here in New England (ya I know), but I’m growing tomatoes on my sunporch that I started last November. Slow growing, but I have eight baby tomatoes! Rodale Indoor Gardening book inspired me to give it a try. I’ll keep you posted on the cucumbers. Come on Spring!!!

  3. Sarah says:

    We are in an area where the water is VERY RUSTY. If we had an Olas, would the rust deposits keep the water from filtering through after a while? I would LOVE to purchase some for my garden, but was unsure about the rust thing…

    Thanks so much!

  4. Johanne says:

    Here’s another question to add to the ones above. In one of your videos Anais mentioned watering with the ollas about once a week. I live in Utah (desert) and the ollas would be dry by the next day. So I watered everyday. Is that too much? Can I let the ollas go dry for a few days? I never took the chance because I didn’t want the plants to be stressed by not enough water. I’ve read all the literature I could find about ollas but never found this exact question.
    Thanks for one of the greatest blogs anywhere!

  5. Jared says:

    I garden in 4’x4′ 12″ deep raised gardens using a soil that is equal parts compost, vermiculite and peat moss. How many and what size ollas would I need? how would you place them?

  6. UPCYCLING | Little Homestead in the City says:

    […] always enjoy receiving the shipment of ollas not only does these clay pot work in the garden to conserve water but because we can “go […]

  7. Miss M says:

    I can’t afford to buy ollas right now, so I was looking into the best way to make milk jug ollas. I found a page here: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/resuse-plastic-milk-jugs.html that describes it one method very well. In that article is a link to a blog at http://www.closertothedirt.com/experimenting-with-ollas/ that describes how to make your own terra-cotta ollas from plant pots. This is very inexpensive, and many of us probably have some unused pots on hand with which to get started. 🙂 Thank you for the valuable information you are providing. I just found your site yesterday, and it looks like it is a great resource!

  8. Eugenio says:

    are a lot of creative ways to use flewor pots in your backyard. One of my favorites is the beautiful clay pot lighthousea0that we’ve featured previously. Here is another fantastic and creative way to create a

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