Keeping plants watered is one of the most tedious parts of a garden. Instagram gardener Monica Chavez (@house.of.esperanza) is using a blast from the past to help her avid gardener followers keep their beds moist and viable.
In a recent reel, Chavez shares that she uses terra-cotta pots as a “passive watering in-ground or a raised bed.” She constructs an olla by burying unglazed pots in the ground near the plants. When the pots are filled with water, it slowly seeps out of the porous clay container and into the surrounding soil and plant roots.
“This method dates back thousands of years, and traditionally, ollas have a long tapered neck,” Chavez explains. Instead of this design, Chavez simplifies things by gluing the lips of two standard terra-cotta pots on top of one another with a waterproof sealant. Not only is this hack easy to DIY because the pots are widely available at gardening stores, but it is also cheap to build.
“If you want to have a low-maintenance garden and are in an area with little to no rain during your growing season, consider adding ollas to help with irrigation,” Chavez says. “It’s basically ancient drip irrigation without the need for fancy electronics and controls.”
As any gardener knows, having an effective irrigation method is vital to keep summer veggies growing strong. Drip irrigation tends to water the roots of the plants, which decreases the amount of water lost to evapotranspiration — water moving from the ground to the atmosphere. These systems, used in tandem with regular mulching, can help reduce water loss and keep water use efficient.
Not only does this reduce the amount of time homeowners are spending watering their individual sprouts, but it also reduces the need to arbitrarily waste water, which will evaporate back into the atmosphere anyway. Less water expended can mean less money shelled out by gardeners and healthier, more vibrant gardens.
These ollas are super low maintenance, too. Chavez notes that the olla must only be filled about once a week (depending on the climate, sunlight, and ambient temperature). The olla she constructed can hold about a gallon-and-a-half of water and irrigates a 4-foot radius around the pot. It’s good news for gardeners who aren’t always on top of watering their plants.
Chavez’s tip enthralled viewers. “Still can’t get over how cool this concept is,” one viewer commented.
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