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Ollas to beat Water Restrictions

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

Cate and Carlo have been getting creative now that the garden is contending with further water restrictions. While we still have the drip irrigations in the bed running, they've found an ancient way to keep their plants topped up with water. Read on for details of their experiment, or click here for details of the current restrictions in Sydney.

Experiments with saving water

The introduction of level 2 water restrictions spurred us to try some experiments in water efficient watering techniques. This is one of our current experiments.

Olla (pronouced oy-yah) is an unglazed wide-bodied bottle shaped terracotta pot that is buried in a garden and filled with water. The water slowly seeps through the porous pot wall to water the surrounding part of the garden. They can be found on the internet for about $40. There are also a number of videos showing how they can be made for about $5 from standard pots. We decided to try this technique as we wanted about 10 of them. The olla is constructed by “gluing” two pots together to make a chamber. After some experiments regarding pot size this is what we did.

We purchased 16cm pots from the hardware shop around the corner for about $2 each (Photo1). One pot in the pair has the drain plug sealed with silicone sealant (Photo2). The top of the pot is then covered with a bead of silicone sealant. The other pot is placed to top to make the olla and silicone left to cure. Ollas usually have a wide mouth for easy filling. The constructed ollas only have a small drain hole as an opening so a length of irrigation pipe is inserted to facilitate watering under a layer of mulch (Photo3).

We decided to put 2 ollas in our bed (Photo 4). A hole is dug in the bed to fit the olla (Photo6). Make sure you have a chicken on hand to supervise and inspect the soil for bugs (Photo 5). Place the olla in hole (Photo7). Pack soil around the olla so water can wick through the bed. Use a funnel to fill the olla from a watering can (Photo8). Wait to see how it affects soil moisture.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Advantages: Much cheaper than a purchased olla

Disadvantages: More difficult to fill with a narrow mouth.

If you're inspired by Cate and Carlo's efforts let us know - send a line to!


Gardening Australia featured DIY Ollas in one of their February 2020 episodes. For a video showing the process have a look at their page here.

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