Monday, April 25, 2016

Self-Filling Ollas: Nice to Be Experimenting Again

It's hard to go to long without cooking up some sort of new experiment in the garden. I get antsy without something new to tinker with. Happily, I've got a big new experiment brewing this spring: self-filling ollas.

Anyone who's read my blog before knows I love my ollas. They do have a big down side though: Keeping them filled--particularly if you have a lot of them in the garden. Right now, I've got twelve of them in the garden, and filling them all by hand every couple of days would be a major hassle.

I was 44 when I started this task

So with the help of my hubby, we rigged a system where they (mostly) fill them themselves. Here's how it works: The ollas are all planted as usual in the garden, but instead of having removable tops that we take off to fill them, we glued on tops so they can't overflow. Those tops have tubing fed into them, and the tubing is connected to an old 55 gallon rain barrel. (I had two 55 gallon rain barrels lying around because I had replaced them with a behemoth 855 rain tank.) Six ollas are connected to the rain barrel, and I fill the rain barrel about once a week (instead of filling six ollas every couple of days). I've got two of these systems set up. They look like this:

And here's a close up:

It's not completely self-sustaining--I still have to fill the rain barrels once a week--but it's a whole heckuva lot easier than filling twelve individual ollas all the time. And it enables me to take advantage of the rain water from my mammoth 855 gallon rain tank, which I pump into the 55 gallon water barrels with a cheapo little pump:

I love this monster

Even better, I can go on a trip for a week or so and not worry that my plants will all die.

I'm hoping that as the plants get bigger, the ollas will actually require refilling less often. "Huh?" you might be thinking. "Shouldn't bigger plants need more water?" As the plants get bigger, the roots get bigger and completely adhere to the surface of the olla--no water gets lost in the soil. If that's the case, I might be able to drag out refilling those rain barrels to every 8 to 10 days. I'll let you know.

If you want details on how to set up a system like this, I recommend Gardening With Less Water by David Bainbridge. That's where I got the idea for my system.

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