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Water Irrigation in the Garden ~ Repurposing Milk Jugs as Olla’s ~ Water Conservation


An olla is a ceramic jar, often unglazed, used for cooking stews or soups, for the storage of water or dry foods, or for other purposes. Ollas have a short wide neck and a wider belly, resembling beanpots or handis.

Because water seeps through the walls of an unglazed olla, these vessels can be used to irrigate plants. The olla is buried in the ground next to the roots of the plant to be irrigated, with the neck of the olla extending above the soil. The olla is filled with water, which gradually seeps into the soil to water the roots of the plant. It is an efficient method, since no water is lost to evaporation or run-off.

This irrigation technique was introduced to the Americas by Spanish settlers in colonial times. Agriculture and gardening specialists are teaching it, and olla use is making a comeback in New Mexico and the American West. The state’s master gardening program is spreading the word. An olla factory has been founded in Albuquerque at Growing Awareness Urban Farm to produce the pots. It can be effective for homeowners to use in the desert climate. It has also been put to use by the Global Buckets project.

In their September 2013 newsletter, Ecology Action ( describes using five 5-gallon ollas for a 100-square-foot garden plot. The test plot is using 1.25 gallons per olla every four days. The ollas are fitted with caps that reduce evaporation and collect rain.

Make a “poor man’s” olla!

This should help water my veggies this summer. I especially want to put them next to my melons and cucumbers so they can get the water needed (more than some of my other plants).

I water my garden with a watering can, so this little creation should help direct the water to the plant roots, instead of running off into mulch and pathways.



10 responses

  1. A really great idea! Now I just have to wait till our parched soil is soaked a bit before I can dig out all of the rocks to bury a few but this really is a great idea with lots of promise πŸ™‚

    March 3, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    • i think a friend told me he used old 2 liter style soda bottles with narrow neck and wider bottom, so there is another idea for substitute of expensive ollas πŸ˜€

      March 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      • I wonder how long they would last in the ground? I know that they degrade quickly out in the sun. I am trying to find a way to irrigate below the soil surface that won’t mean regularly having to try and dig our extremely rocky soil

        March 3, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      • exactly and i think the soda bottles are more sturdy, i repurposed old milk jugs for feed “shovels” before and they are kind of thin, they do work well for seedlings though

        March 3, 2014 at 5:34 pm

      • Are your soda bottles PET?

        March 3, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      • good question … don’t know actually

        March 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      • Ours are all the same…PET.

        March 3, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      • Our long hot and very dry summers are a bit of a worry here and Ollas show real promise for irrigating our vegetables using tank water collected in our winters.

        March 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      • i have to pay for my water if not enough rain so i want to conserve and make sure it gets where it needs to be and this seems like good idea, also the soaker hoses i like

        March 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      • We have to pay for our water as well and as we last had rain at the beginning of December last year (not counting the 3 spits we had the other day before they hit the parched earth…) it looks like we are going to have to learn how to conserve our water and harvest as much as we can from our winter rains. This holds a lot of promise for future Serendipity Farm irrigation purposes. Cheers for the excellent share πŸ™‚

        March 3, 2014 at 5:51 pm

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