Ollas or Oyas - Ancient Watering System, the Simple Way

Here come Spring and with it the unextinguishable desire to plant seeds and watch them growing in your garden !

In the mean time, you want to keep water consumption as low as possible or at least get maximum of the water used consummed by your plants.

In this tutorial I will show you how to easily make an ancient watering system by using recyclable and affordable materials.

This system is known as Ollas or Oyas which is a spanish word for pot or cooking pot and as been used for thousand of years.

Principle is based on auto-regulation between the inside of pot (water) and soil through the wall of the pot.

When soil is sufficiently watered, water will not drip through the wall but when soil is in need of water, automatically water will flow through the wall to regulate humidity.

Supplies:

Step 1: What You Will Need

Here is the list of material and tools you will need to proceed:

- clay pot (10 liters volume)

- clay underplate

- cork (from wine or champagne bottles)

- rasp (optionnal)

- some fellow companeros to support you

- that's all...

Step 2: Selecting Your Materials

When choosing your pot, either in your local garden store or by recycling them from friends or acquaintances, make sure it is made from natural clay.

Pot should be porous (leaving orange powder on your fingers) and get no varnish one any point of the pot (it would not allow the pot wall to "communicate" with soil)

For the cork, the easiest way is to share one (or severals depending of the amount of ollas you plan to make) bottle of wine or champagne with your friends and keep aside the cork.

Diameter you will need depends of the diameter of the hole in bottom of the clay pot.

Step 3: Making the Ollas

Grab your pot and find the cork that will suit the hole naturally.

Make sure you have to force it a little bit to ensure proper sealing.

If the corks you have are too big, grab a rasp and gloves and try to fit the cork to the hole.

Step 4: Water Testing Before Burying

Before getting the Ollas in your garden, you must water test first to make sure the cork allow proper waterproofness at bottom of the bottom.

Fill with water, leave for 12h or 24h on pavement and check for leaks. Naturally cork will slightly swell with water.

If every thing is Ok, you are ready to dig a hole for it.

Step 5: Setting the Ollas in Place

As your Ollas is ready for service, you must define the right place for it.

In my experience, Ollas with a volume from 5 to 10 liters, are able to irrigate sprouts within a radius of 1 meter around the Ollas.

You should place the Ollas in center place with plants around.

Also functionnement of Ollas may depend of soil you have.

Then cover it with you clay underplate to avoid evaporation.

Refill with fresh water when needed and watch your plants growing !

Step 6: Improvements

- For level checking, you could also drill a hole in underplate and place a bambou stem so you can easily and quickly check which Ollas is getting empty.

- For greater irrigating volumes, you could fit 2 pots on top of each other and seal edges with some tile adhesive

- When gardening, reuse grass mowings, shredded branches to cover your soil and avoid evaporation

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