Make Yourself an Olla (Oy-Uh!)




Introduction: Make Yourself an Olla (Oy-Uh!)

Let's start by saying that this is not an original idea. Ollas have been around since ancient times and have been used by many cultures.

I am a blogger on a PCR quest. - my goal is Personal Carbon Reduction. I have learned that keeping a garden and striving to eat locally-produced, unprocessed foods are some healthy ways to lessen a person's carbon output. While researching water-wise gardens, I kept finding mentions of ollas, so I decided to try one out. Now I am hooked on olla gardening!

Why use ollas? First, I am a terrible gardener. I get off to a good start, then I forget about the plants for a few days, then they shrivel up and die. It doesn't help that I live in a place where we normally have very little rain. Ollas require very little attention and waste a lot less water than conventional watering.

The idea is very simple. You make a porous clay container (olla), bury it in the ground, plant seedlings around it, fill the olla with water, and let the water seep out slowly to water the plants. Refill the olla as needed. Watch your plants grow!

Ingredients for one olla:

2 identical terra cotta pots (unglazed)

1 terra cotta base plate (to use as a lid)

a piece of plastic (to seal the bottom drain hole)

waterproof caulk adhesive

a funnel (optional)

Tools needed:

a caulking gun

a drill with a small grinding stone (or a little sandpaper)

something to cut the plastic (I used scissors)

a piece of cardboard (to scrape off excess caulk)

Step 1: Prepare Your Pots!

Using the drill and stone, clean up the casting marks on both pots. Use the stone to open up the drain hole on one of the pots. You will use this pot for the top. The larger hole makes it easier to fill the olla with water.

Cut your plastic piece to fit in the bottom of the other (bottom) pot.

Step 2: Glue Your Pots!

Glue the plastic piece in the bottom - be sure to make sure you have enough caulk to prevent water from leaking out of the bottom.

Put a bead of caulk on the lip of the bottom pot, set the top pot on top. Be sure to line it up and make sure that there is enough caulk to seal the two together.

Use the cardboard to smear the excess caulk into the seam evenly.

Leave it alone and let it dry. I try to let mine cure for a few days.

Step 3: Bury That Thing!

I have been placing my ollas in larger pots so that I can keep them on the front porch, but it is okay to place them directly in the ground if that works better for you.

Place a little soil in the bottom of your planter. Then set your olla in the planter. Fill the planter with soil until you are left with 1/2 to 1 inch of the olla left sticking above the soil. (Avoid getting any soil in the olla.)

Fill the olla with water. This is where the optional funnel comes in handy.

Plant your plants.

Watch your seedlings turn into a carbon-munching garden!

Step 4: Make More!

Ollas are better when shared! At less than $5 each, they make great gifts, and your friends will be amazed at how well they keep the plants watered. You don't even have to tell them that you have tricked them into joining your crazy personal carbon reduction scheme!

May you save the world while munching fresh veggies!

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    9 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I have been doing this to provide extra oxygen to my huge cuttings/starter pot... I just didn't know it had a name!

    great instructable and this would be fantastic for hanging baskets (although using very small terracotta pots. Thanks for this!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice `ible! Definetely gonna try this!
    Just had an idea for a fill level indicator; glue a drinking straw to a ping pong ball or a film container, put it in before sealing and let it stick out through the watering hole of the pot on top. Or maybe drill a little extra hole for the straw if you want to keep the large watering hole closed to prevent evaporation.

    Thank you all for your positive comments. I hope your ollas serve you well and that you share your experiences with them.

    Nathanaloysiusbash, from what I have gathered, it looks like my neighbors in New Mexico are the ones who have promoted the term "olla" for an irrigation device in modern times. I have to admit that I know very little about clay and firing techniques.

    Kaboom949, I generally refill mine every 4-7 days. I have found that they drain more quickly as the plants get bigger. I have them on my front porch, so I have a great reminder every day when I come home to check them. I did not mention this in the 'ible, but it's a good idea to keep a stick around to use as a dipstick to measure your water levels. I have read that it is a bad thing to let your ollas dry out completely - it apparently increases your risk of leaks and cracks.

    Thanks again!


    5 years ago

    Great idea and Instructable. My question is about how long does it take for the water to seep out? How often do you have to refill it?

    This looks like it was designed just for me!!!! I'm making one for each of my potted houseplants!!


    It's funny. My spanish is not super perfecto, I'm not a native speaker, but I think 'olla' only means 'self watering planter pot' in English, and that in actual Spanish 'Olla' just means any sort of pot including cooking pot. Maceta means specifically a planting pot but even then in Spanish you'd have to say 'Maceta autorriego' or something like that to specify 'Self watering planter pot'. Your instructable looks great! It is very surprising to me that terra cotta is porous enough to let water pass through. I wonder what type of clay composition they are and temperature they are fired at.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very nicely done! This looks like handy watering trick. Thank you!