Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Using the Olla to Beat the Summer Heat by Brandee Gruener
Keeping the vegetable garden hydrated during the heat of the summer is a challenge in the South, where the sun beats down for weeks, the rain barrels run dry and even heat-loving crops wilt under summer’s fiery breath. Water restrictions have even become commonplace in many parts of the region, making watering the garden even more difficult.
Water-efficient systems such as drip-line irrigation can make a big difference. But Durham, N.C., gardener Scott Belan found a cheaper and simpler solution by building an olla out of a humble clay pot. This watering solution satisfied Belan’s personal philosophy in gardening: Look to the cultures and climates that make the most sense for your surroundings.
FROM: July 2011 - State-by-State Gardening eNewsletter
Because water seeps through the walls of an unglazed olla, these vessels can be used to irrigate plants. The olla is buried in the ground next to the roots of the plant to be irrigated, with the neck of the olla extending above the soil. The olla is filled with water, which gradually seeps into the soil to water the roots of the plant. It is an efficient method, since no water is lost to evaporation or run-off.
This irrigation technique was introduced to the Americas by Spanish settlers in colonial times. Agriculture and gardening specialists are teaching it, and olla use is making a comeback in New Mexico and the American West. The state's master gardening program is spreading the word. An olla factory has been founded in Albuquerque to produce the pots. It can be effective for homeowners to use in the desert climate.