Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Oh Boy Oh Olla

I recently "planted" two ollas in my vegetable garden. If you are wondering what an olla is, you may need to know that the pronunciation of the word is oy-ya. It is a Spanish word that means pot.

Ollas are an ancient means of irrigation. An olla is a clay pot that is buried in the soil about halfway up the neck and filled with water. The water slowly leaches from the pot and irrigates the soil around the pot. They hold a couple of gallons of water and need to be refilled a couple of times a week. The ollas have covers to slow evaporation of water from the pot and, most importantly, keep mosquitoes out. 

Here is an olla in my squash bed. Each olla is supposed to water the soil 18 inches out from the center, so I planted four seeds around the perimeter of the olla. It was necessary to water the seeds as they began to grow because the roots of the seedling would not reach deep enough to hit the moist soil. I think the plants are now large enough to see if the water in the olla can sustain them without additional surface watering.

This is a view of the squash bed from the other direction. The plants on this end are not as healthy due to pill bugs munching on the stems. The smaller plants allow you to see how the olla is buried and how the plants are oriented around it.  

Ollas are supposed to last several years. Any freezing and thawing during the cold winter months will probably be the hardest on them. As cold temperatures approach, I will stop refilling them and leave them the ground through the winter. 

For your viewing pleasure, here is a clip from Central Texas Gardener about ollas.

And here is another clip showing how to make your own olla. If you search the internet, you can find several plans for making your own ollas.

Elsewhere in the vegetable garden, I have a patch of black eyed peas growing on my homemade cattle panel arch. The taller plant among the black eyed peas is my only surviving green bean plant. I planted green beans before I planted black eyed peas and the pill bugs mowed down all of the others within a couple of days. Fortunately, they do not seem to care for black eyed peas.  I hope that one bean plant produces a lot of beans. There are a few more squash plants to the right of the beans.

I am growing tatume squash on the other side of the cattle panel arch. I did not grow any squash in the spring because the squash bugs and squash vine borers were so bad last year. Maybe the pests have moved on and will not come looking for squash plants this fall?

This is one of my surviving tomato plants. It is still green on top and starting to produce fruit. That is the ferny foliage of asparagus in the background.

A few horn worms are chowing down on the leaves. They will eventually turn into hawk moths.

Looking away from the vegetable garden, color is beginning to return to the garden. Clammy weed, eryngo, flame acanthus, scarlet sage, autumn sage, zexmenia, pitcher sage and bee brush are all in bloom in this picture. I should have more on the fall flowers in the next posts. 


  1. For a self proclaimed lazy guy you have been pretty busy. I rarely try to grow veggies here any longer - I don't have many areas with enough hours of sun so I content myself with sticking a few pepper plants in amongst the flowers. They are kicking back into high gear and setting fruit as well though - a sure sign of cooler nights back in the picture. I'll be interested in seeing how your ollas work out!

    1. Lazy may not be the right word because I often feel that the candle is burning at both ends. I just lack the motivation to start any new projects right now because they always seem to grow into bigger projects that originally intended. After several years of garden projects, it is nice to be "finished" for a while.

  2. Great info about ollas. I only knew the word from crossword puzzles. Hope to hear more about your results with them.

    1. I will be sure to post my results. They seem to be emptying faster now. I suppose the roots are getting closer.

  3. Your prairie is looking gorgeous in the fall light. Those vegs are looking pretty healthy too. I like the idea of the ollas but they are a pretty expensive item. the substitute olla is a great idea though.

    1. Thanks Rock rose. I thought the price on these ollas was pretty reasonable. $10 each at a nearby nursery. I have seen the same ones for twice that amount online and at other locations.

  4. Thank you for the olla shoutout! Do keep us posted on how they do for you. And your garden is really lovely, hornworm moths and all!


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