It feels a whole lot more like the dead of summer here in Southern California…96 degrees today, and yes, it is still March! This is not the first day we’ve been blasted by 90-plus-degree-weather this fine spring, nor will it be the last…heaven help us this summer here in Los Angeles. Or better yet – heaven help our Gardens!
The past few weeks I have spent a considerable amount of time transforming our front yard: ripped out the lawn, added a couple beautiful boulders:), and planted the new open space with CA native, drought tolerant plants that smell good, don’t get thirsty, and provide (at least I am hoping they will – once they grow up a bit) a beautiful palette to gaze upon, and that invite critters of all sorts to come and eat, flitter about, and be happy. :)
I have also been planting my garden. Another planter box was added this year, bringing us to a total of 5 planters in the backyard – each one hosting a variety of yummy things to eat: lots of tomatoes (9 different heirloom types this summer), lettuces, onions (new for me this year), zuchinni, herbs, strawberries, bell pepper, yellow crook neck squash, corn, and other stuff I am currently forgetting:) Plus our fruit trees: Guava, Avocado, Plum, Peach, and Nectarine, and a brand new Fig Tree!…mmmmmmmmm, I’m getting hungry as I write this:)…
Anyway, to ease up the time that I spend watering every day, I decided to try out an ancient watering system this year that irrigates with Ollas. Ollas (pronounced Oy yahs) are simply unglazed terra cotta pots, and they have been used for centuries. The Olla is buried in the soil beside your plants, and the water slowly seeps out of the pot, into the soil (the pots are porous, since they are not glazed) and the roots of the plants draw toward the buried pots. This is a simple drip irrigation system that happens underground – and because it is underground, the evaporation is drastically reduced so that nearly all the water that leeches into the soil is absorbed by the plants. The Ollas I found online were a bit costly, (they were certainly very pretty, much prettier than mine – but mine will do the trick just as well)…so I decided to make my own. It was easy, and from start to finish (meaning: purchase of materials, building the Ollas, and burying in-the-ground in my garden) was only 3 days. (Mind you, the second day was almost entirely drying time – no work:).
Ollas seem to be a bit of the rage these days, so you will be able to find plenty of tutorials on-line, no problem. They are easy to make, and very inexpensive…my 6 inch Ollas cost me just slightly more than 3$ each, and the 3 inch pots just over 2$. A great way to save time, and by making them yourself – a great money saver as well.
Here’s my step-by-step process:
I bought everything needed from Home Depot: unglazed terra cotta pots, a tube of gorilla glue, and 2 tubes of aquarium silicon gel (which is food safe…can use regular silicone though).
First thing: seal up the drain hole.
You want the water to seep out slowly from the porousness of the pot – no holes allowed! I used gorilla glue to affix the river rock over the drain hole…let it dry overnight. I then flipped the pot upside down and filled the underside of the drain hole with silicone gel and let that dry for a few hours.
The next step was to stack a pot on top of the other, creating the Olla. I created a bead of silicone gel on the rim of the standing pot, and then pressed the other pot on top of the beaded rim. I pressed down for a minute or two and then let it stand overnight to ensure a deep seal. Do make sure to also run another bead of silicone along the outside seam of the two pots…smooth the silicone along the seam with your fingers and then clean hands with paint thinner, and wash with soap and water.
After drying over-night, ensuring the silicone seal was dry and could hold water, I buried the Ollas in my garden! Each bed has 4 Ollas, with approx. 4 plants surrounding each Olla. Once the Ollas are placed in the soil with about an inch or two showing, fill the pots with water! After filling, I cover up the open hole with another river rock to keep mosquitoes out, and to help alleviate evaporation. And that’s it! Super easy, incredibly inexpensive (many of the Ollas I found online were $60+ each!) and will hopefully, save me lots of time without having to water by hand this summer!
Happy Gardening All :)