DIY Self watering pot

Pots of chard

Pots n’ peas

Pot of Onions

Pots of Strawberries

Irrigation with ollas (unglazed clay pots) is simple and extremely efficient, but the system gave way to modern watering techniques decades ago. With this type of irrigation, gardeners fill unglazed clay urns with water and bury them near plants. The tops of the ollas (pronounced OH-yas) extend above ground so the urns can be refilled as water is absorbed.The water slowly seeps through the porous clay, directly irrigating roots. As they grow, roots form a dense, fibrous mat around the olla — the water nourishes the plant, not the surrounding soil and weeds.Ollas virtually eliminate the runoff and evaporation common in modern irrigation systems, allowing the plant to absorb nearly 100 percent of the water.

For small city lots,  growing in containers is an ideal and practical growing medium.  Container gardening makes growing more versatile as you are able to move the containers around to  adjust to the seasons.   However, one of the drawbacks to gardening in pots or containers is that  they dry out too quickly.

Since we started using ollas back in 2005, we found out that the plants grow faster, better, and stronger near the ollas. And another advantage is that we cut out watering bill in half!  Of course, this went along with many water conservation efforts.



By making your own Self Watering Containers, your garden becomes:

Water Efficient
Low Maintenance
High Production
Patio, Deck & Balcony Friendly

Make your own using SWP (Self Watering Pots) using clay pot irrigation or “Ollas.”

:: Resources ::

Ollas in Containers

How to Use Ollas

Every Drop Counts

You can order Ollas online, or if you are local pick them at our Front Porch Farm Stand (Open Sun – Fri 9 AM – 7 PM) 

We also have another shipment of heirloom seeds too!


  1. Chris says:

    I love it! This is a great idea. We have talked about doing some container gardening on our porch which faces south, but I was afraid everything would dry out way too easy.

    I definitely look forward to giving the ollas a shot!

  2. Christie says:

    That is the coolest! Wow, I really want to try that now. This may be a stupid question, but do they ever get TOO wet using this method?

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      No question is ever stupid. Actually with ollas they keep the soil at a constant 80% of saturation. If the soil gets too wet, water will actually seep back into the pot, so there’s no need to worry about overwatering,

  3. Alice Crawford says:

    Can not use clay here in NW MT. Even flowerpots that are clay freeze and break in the winter. Would be a nice thing to do if possable

  4. Amadea says:

    Great information, though the prices for the olla seem to a bit much. I searched and found info on making your own olla’s, perhaps you can mention that.

  5. bonnie says:

    Do you ever worry about little critters such as frogs falling in the olla and not being able to get out?

    • WanderingArcher says:

      I saw an idea where a lady covered the top of her olla with a decorative stone or tile.

  6. Jeni Vandall says:

    I have a question about the onions:) I have always been told to plant them 4-6″ apart so the bulbs have room to grow, but I see that you grow them in “clumps”. Are those bunching onions? What is the difference in growing them in clumps vs. spreading them out like I have been doing? I am limited on space so growing them like you are above would help me out so much!

    I hope to soon have enough saved to buy some ollas from you guys:) I know they seem to be a little pricey, but I always keep in mind the fact that you guys share so much information freely and if I can help the “ma & pa” shop out vs. the big corporations then I am all for it!

  7. Rhonda says:

    I have 4 of these and I love them. To keep mosquitoes from breeding inside the pot, I slip an old sock or nylon knee high over the top of each one. it works great and its easy to remove when it’s time to refill.

  8. Angela At Frugal Gardening says:

    Great idea. I am an urban gardener and do a lot of container gardening. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Cyrano says:

    How much do ollas add to overall costs? How many do you have, and how many years do they likely last? I’d like to try this, but appears the capital outlay is quite large compared to the container harvest possible.

  10. Chris V says:

    I LOVE my ollas that I got from this site and use them in 4 x 8 beds. They are fantastic! Have not considered using them in pots, but since we’re in transition (moving) this year would love to know what size ollas you’re using in these photos. FYI .. I’m in New England and I just dig out the ollas before the first frost so they don’t crack. I amend the raised beds with compost anyway each new growing season and put my ollas back in the raised beds. You can do this with minimal disturbance to the bed of you just carefully dig out around the olla, lift out and fill in any gaps with compost.

    • Chris V says:

      PS .. I cover the opening with a large quahog (clam) shell to prevent evaporation and it looks so cute!

  11. Kelley Smith says:

    I am considering making an olla-irrigated “vegetable tower.” I am envisioning something like the Phytopod (which is beyond my budget). Here’s my thought. I’ll make a “cage” from animal fencing (like a homemade tomato cage). I will make a “cylinder” from burlap. The burlap will be inside the animal fence frame. Then I can plant various plants up and down the tower by cutting holes in the burlap and trimming out some windows in the fencing with wire cutters. What I am debating is what sort of irrigation this would need. I am wondering about clay sewer pipe down the center of the tower. The sewer pipe would need some sort of end cap at the bottom, but surely that wouldn’t be too hard. Any ideas how I could calculate the diameter of sewer pipe needed? If my tower were 18″ in diameter (could be anything) how far from olla can plant roots live and stay healthy and moist?

  12. Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead says:

    Awesome idea! Your article will make a great reference tool for a limited space garden. I actually host a weekly gardening link up every Friday on my blog. I’d love for you to drop by and join in.
    Thanks :).

  13. Shelby L'Rae says:

    Would love to use these! Wow!

    I have a question… is there a recommended distance radius within which to plant?

  14. Kristine Å.M. says:

    Came over a video on you tube about your lovely farm: SOOO Inspirational!! I hope I will be joining your lifestyle in a a few years from now growing my own food and live on renewable energy, just came over you site and can’t wait to check it out 🙂

    Best regards from Scandinavia

  15. Elise says:

    This is suppppper awesome. I can’t wait to get started on it in spring!

  16. Cliff H says:

    When I started to research this (about 5 minutes ago) after seeing it in your garden, I thought it would be fun to do as a ceramic project, but would take some pretty good pot ‘throwing’ skills, which might take a bit of time to develop. As I have been reading this, I am thinking that the same thing might be accomplished by making a box out of clay slabs and just throwing a small funnel-shaped piece for the top (to make the spout). This would only require much more rudimentary ceramic skills. Obviously, the way to find out if this would work is to try it. But, do you think this would work, or is the shape/thickness of the oja of particluar importance?

  17. Stan says:

    Where can I purchase 1 1/2-gallon ollas like the ones you use?

    Thank you!

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