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Using Your Two Dollar Ollas

A few weeks ago, it was Winter down under. I made my two dollar ollas! I hope you’ve had a chance to make some too. In this post, I’ll show you how I use ollas in my garden.


My kids wrapped up term three and we enjoyed a few weeks of school holidays. The temperatures were coolish and my garden was lush and green.

Now, mere weeks later, it is like a switch has been flicked and hello Summer!



I need more Springtime.

But, I’m a realist and a stoic. So my Spring seedling plans have been scuttled. I’ve switched straight to the Summer seedling plan.

I’m working on double speed. All those potted trees that I bought, that I thought I had a few more weeks to get in the ground, have to be in by this weekend. No time for dilly-dallying.

Summer is on the advancing march!

Last month, I planted my apple trees into their new bed. And from now on, each tree planted gets an olla companion.

How to Use Your Two-Dollar Ollas.

I started by digging a hole approximately double the size of the olla and plant.

This bed is on a bit of a slope, so I placed the olla on the upper side of the slope. (This is just common sense, water flows down a slope, so I put the apple tree directly in the path of the moisture.)

I then placed the apple tree and the olla in the hole and carefully backfilled the soil.

Using ollas is simple, very much like planting a tree!

Many garden books from the northern hemisphere advise to “hill up” when planting trees, ensuring all that excess rainfall can freely drain away from rich, clay-based soils. But if you live in dry, sandy-soiled regions as I do, you want to do the exact opposite.

I always plant my trees in a “crater” to be sure that all available water funnels directly to the roots of the plant.

As you can see, this olla sits in the same crater. But while I make sure the roots of the tree are covered, the olla sits just proud of the surface. This makes for easy refilling and makes sure it doesn’t fill with the surrounding soil.

I used a pot saucer as a lid, to prevent further evaporation, also to keep mosquitoes and other debris out. You can see my freshly appointed olla bed below, with the terracotta capping marking their position in the garden bed…

In summer, I fill my ollas every morning.

In winter, I don’t fill them at all, my garden doesn’t need it.

Ideally, you would fill your ollas before they got less than half empty to ensure mineral deposits do not build up. Unfortunately, my thirsty soil drains a three-litre olla in about 24 hours. When filling my ollas, I give the soil surrounding the olla a soak as well.

Soaking the surrounding soil puts a bit of a brake on the osmosis effect. If the surrounding soil is moist, the olla will not release its water as fast.

Using soluble fertilisers in your Ollas.

You can even use fertilisers in ollas, ensuring slow-release delivery of nutrient. However, refrain from using fish-based emulsions in your ollas, the oiliness of the preparations will apparently seal the inside of your terracotta olla, eventually making it waterproof and rendering it useless. Worm wee or compost tea is suitable for use with your ollas.

I use the water from the kids wading pool too.

Before and After Ollas!

The bed that I have my trial ollas in gets the most hours of direct sun of all of the surrounding beds in the garden.

As you can see in the picture above, a month after I put the ollas in the bed, I couldn’t be more thrilled!

My apple-olla bed is the lushest bed in the garden. The trees are flush with fresh growth, the surrounding garlic chives and ground cherries are flourishing. I have added lupin seedlings, with the intent to provide nitrogen to the soil, and its’ hardy growth will shade the other more vulnerable plants as the mercury rises. A volunteer watermelon and Malabar spinach have also joined the party.

Even more exciting is the fact that this bed has received the least volume of water compared to my other raised beds.

The difference is, the water is delivered exactly to where it needs to go.

Ollas are awesome!

I’m going to use them in every raised bed. Watering directly and slowly to the plant’s roots ensures not a drop of precious water is wasted to evaporation or runoff.

My only issue has been crows. Those clever birds have observed me filling the ollas and have managed to figure out that by flipping off the saucer “lid” they can score a free drink. It’s not really a problem with the tree-ollas.

But where I have planted more delicate seedlings around ollas, they get crushed by the displaced lids. So I have left them off until the plants grow larger. In the meantime, perhaps a purposed bird-bath is long overdue anyway…

I leave my ollas in place year-round. If your soil freezes, you might wish to lift them before winter to ensure they don’t crack.

Each season, I move the ollas about with my annual plantings.

Thanks to my very warm climate, my ollas are in use for about 9 months of each year.

Of course, if you are renting, ollas are the perfect addition to your garden! Ollas can easily be removed and travel with you. With care, an olla should last for decades.

If you have ever had traditional reticulation, you will also know how high maintenance and expensive they can be! Plus, once traditional reticulation is in the ground, you are stuck with its configuration, not very flexible!

If you have not made some two-dollar ollas for your garden, I urge you to give them a go! Such a huge result for a small investment of time and money.

If the summer heat has landed in your garden, be sure to download my Heatwave Garden Checklist from our Subscriber Resource Library. I share how you can minimise the impact of even the hottest days by applying a few strategies and keep your plants alive.

If you have put your ollas in your garden, I would love to hear about your results, please leave me a comment below or tag me on your social media post!