Erd-Olla or Earth-Olla – chicks and weeds

Efficient watering system for clay soils – at no cost – the Earth Olla
requires digging – see image for visuals

Water – is the most precious ingredient for gardeners (and all life on earth). We are in a severe drought and have native clay soil, which gets rock hard even during a normal year in the rainless summer months. Looking into alternate ways of watering, there is the Hugel-Kultur, highly recommended, and then there are Ollas.

The word Olla is of Latin origin, it is a vessel, typically a clay pot. For gardeners an olla means an unglazed clay pot with a narrow neck for the most efficient watering around. Better than overhead or drip irrigation. Ollas get pricy however if you either have a very limited budget or a lot of area to cover. They also need to be replaced after about 5 years.

For ONCE, those with clay soil may have an advantage 🙂 Observation: the clay top layers get baked hard here in the summer. Idea: make the Olla, the vessel to hold the water, right into the ground. Is it the same as using a clay pot? no … it is an alternative

Here it goes:

  • choose spot for your clay soil earth olla, get shovel and dig
  • Try to make it larger under ground with a more narrow opening – as best you can
  • do about 2 feet  deep or more if you can
  • gather stalky materials from last year, like sunflower or corn stalks – wood sticks and trimmed branches will work also. Leave enough room for water…but have it so that when you pile the soil on top, it stays on the top to cover the hole. (after you are done, you might need to cover it in case it  rains hard …see how it goes.
  • use a log and some wood chips in center if you have it, then add the stalks
  • use a pipe or stalk as a placeholder to later insert the hose or pour the water into
  • fill the hole with all that and use the dug up clay soil to cover the top
  • when needed for new growth and in the summer, stick hose in the placeholder opening all the way down
  • you can even make a plastic cover to prevent any water loss if needed.

the new plants are planted AROUND the earth olla, not on top of it!!!!

easy and efficient deep watering with basically no evaporation

no cost – except  digging required

use hose or watering can to fill container as needed

…i added some good bacteria and mycelia for good measure

in short


no cost (except the shovel for digging)
efficient deep watering – surrounding plants will take what they need.
soil building in the process.

requires digging
the earth ollas need to be manually filled periodically if you don’t have a pipe system set up.

This is an experiment. The image above shows on the top the first olla- I dug (all filled up) and I made a drawing in photoshop underneath for better illustration. I am convinced it will beat anything  else for watering I have tried and have the means for.

If anyone else is giving this a shot this coming summer: please read up on ollas, their size and the plant spacing and let me know how it went. I’d love to hear from you – and good luck

caution: If you from start seeds – they will still need to be kept moist the usual way till they develop some roots.