A how to guide to Olla pots – an effective traditional irrigation system.

Sebastian von Holstein
Saturday, 15th June 2013

Find out more about this traditional irrigation technique that uses Olla's, or clay pots to effectively and efficiently deliver water to the plants that needs them. Remember if you live in rainy climate this is a useful method for polytunnles and greenhouse. IN your live in an arid climate this could be a need to know technique.

How Ollas work

The clay pot is buried in the ground, with its neck protruding out. There are many small holes doted around the pot due its particular firing method of construction. As it is filled up, it evenly distributes water to the surrounding soil. However the water does not simply empty as it is filled, it only flows out into dry soil. When the soil is sufficiently saturated, water is unable to flow out.

Eventually, the roots of plants will be drawn to the pot, feeding water directly to the plants. Compared to surface watering, this method is far more efficient as water is directly injected into the ground and is not subject to evaporation or run-off.

By keeping water away from the surface layer of soil, you also go a long way in preventing weed growth. You can also, as usual, surround the pots with mulch to further suppress weeds, making sure that all the water is directed to the plants that really need it.

In this video, Will Geusz takes you through the methods and techniques he has experimented with, taking a look at the science and construction of Olla pots. Take a look at Ollas in the wider context of responsible attitudes to water and also where to buy or how to make them. 

More information

Maddy Harland attempts a modern interpretation of Olla pot irrigation in her greenhouse at home.

Patrick Whitefield on the art of watering seedlings and slug preventation

20 ways to control slugs in a permaculture garden or allotment

Clay pot irrigation - a simple adaptation of an ancient technique

Polyculture - higher yields, less water

Tim Cummins |
Mon, 20/04/2015 - 20:09

Does anyone know of anyone making Ollas in the UK?