Unglazed Terracotta 2 Gallon Olla - Highly Efficient Irrigation Device

Unglazed Terracotta 2 Gallon Olla - Highly Efficient Irrigation Device

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Ollas (pronounced “oy-yahs”) are unglazed clay/terra-cotta pots with a bottle or tapered shape that are buried in the ground with the top/neck exposed above the soil surface and filled with water for subsurface irrigation of plants. 

David A. Bainbridge, author of Gardening With Less Water,  identifies buried clay pot irrigation as “one of the most efficient [irrigation] systems known”:

“Because the rate at which water seeps through the pot wall is determined partly by how much water the plant is drawing from the soil, the system is up to ten times more efficient than conventional surface irrigation.”

Based on his 30 years of research at places like the Dry Lands Research Institute at the University of California, Riverside, and the practical experience of many projects in arid environments all over the world, the use of ollas has proven to be very successful with a wide range of perennial plants, including citrus, fruit and nut trees, and vegetables such as melons, squash and corn.

Bill Mollison, co-founder of permaculture, called ollas “the most efficient irrigation system in the world”. This irrigation technology is an ancient method, thought to have originated in North Africa with evidence of use in China for over 4000 years and still practiced today in hot dry climates around the world.

Ollas are so efficient because of the unglazed walls. The plant roots grow around the pot and literally suck out the water they need. No runoff, no evaporation and no weeds. Ollas are buried in the ground up to their necks, with the top just sticking out. They are then filled with water and the opening is capped.

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