3 Ways to Make a DIY Olla Self-Watering Gardening System

A gardening olla is a simple, inexpensive way to make watering your garden or raised beds easier and less time-consuming. We have three methods for making clay-pot ollas to help you find the one that’s right for your garden.

Outdoor More 2022 Self Watering

Photo by: SHAIN RIEVLEY

SHAIN RIEVLEY

Keep your garden watered even when you’re away from home by creating an olla self-watering system. We have three ways to make an olla system. The first uses a single terra-cotta pot and tray, the second method uses two terra-cotta pots, and the third method incorporates drip-irrigation hoses. All methods are fairly inexpensive and easy to make. You can even make a small olla for indoor houseplants.

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DIY Watering System
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Method 1: Single-Pot Olla With Tray Top

This method uses a single pot with a cache tray. It's perfect for small- to mid-sized container gardens.

1. Seal Drainage Hole

Apply waterproof sealant around the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. Put a little sealant around the perimeter of a stamping blank. Press stamping blank over the hole, making sure the sealant is adhering to the pot. Allow the sealant to dry.

2. Test the Pot

Pour water into the pot to make sure the drainage hole is not leaking. If it is leaking, apply more sealant around the metal blank inside the pot. You will see the porous pot become dark with moisture. This is how the water will seep out and slowly water the roots of a plant.

Outdoor More 2022 Self Watering

Photo by: SHAIN RIEVLEY

SHAIN RIEVLEY

3. Bury the Pot

Dig a hole in the center of your garden or raised bed. Make it deep enough that the rim of the pot sits just above the soil line.

4. Fill Pot With Water

Fill the pot to the top with water. Cover the pot with a terra-cotta saucer to serve as a lid. Check the moisture level in the soil with a meter. Roots should be getting water after one day. Refill the pot as needed.

Method 2: Double-Stack Olla Pots

This method uses two pots to hold more water. Make this size for larger container gardens.

1. Seal Drainage Hole in One Pot

Apply waterproof sealant around the drainage hole at the bottom of one of the pots. Put a little sealant around the perimeter of a stamping blank. Press the stamping blank over the hole, making sure the sealant is adhering to the pot. Allow the sealant to dry.

2. Test the Pot

Pour water into the pot to make sure the drainage hole is not leaking. If it is leaking, apply more sealant around the metal blank inside the pot. You will see the porous pot become dark with moisture. This is how the water will seep out and slowly water the roots of a plant.

Outdoor More 2022 Self Watering

Photo by: SHAIN RIEVLEY

SHAIN RIEVLEY

3. Stack + Glue Pots

Place a bead of waterproof sealant along the rim of the pot with the sealed drainage hole. Place the pot without the sealed drainage hole on top — upside down so the two pot rims are meeting and will be sealed together. Use painter’s tape to hold the pots in place while the sealant dries. Let dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Bury the Pots

Dig a hole in the center of your garden or raised bed. Make it deep enough that the rim of the top pot sits just above the soil line. Fill the pot with water.

5. Cork It

Use a cork to plug the top drainage hole. This will keep pests out and water in. Check the moisture level in the soil with a meter. Roots should be getting water after one day. Refill the pot as needed.

Method 3: Olla Pots With Drip Irrigation

This method uses double-stack olla pots and drip-irrigation hoses. This method is perfect for gardens and raised beds.

1. Seal Drainage Hole in One Pot

With this method, we used several double-stack pots. Build the double-stack pots the same way as explained in method 2. For each set of pots, apply waterproof sealant around the drainage hole at the bottom of one of the pots. Put a little sealant around the perimeter of a stamping blank. Press stamping blank over the hole, making sure the sealant is adhering to the pot. Allow the sealant to dry.

2. Test the Pot

Pour water into the pot to make sure the drainage hole is not leaking. If it is leaking, apply more sealant around the metal blank inside the pot. You will see the porous pot become dark with moisture. This is how the water will seep out and slowly water the roots of a plant.

Outdoor More 2022 Self Watering

Photo by: SHAIN RIEVLEY

SHAIN RIEVLEY

3. Stack + Glue Pots

Place a bead of waterproof sealant along the rim of the pot with the sealed drainage hole. Place the pot without the sealed drainage hole on top — upside down so the two pot rims are meeting and will be sealed together. Use painter’s tape to hold the pots in place while the sealant dries. Let dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Prep Hose Attachment

Connect 1/2" plastic pipe to an end cap and a hose attachment.

5. Cut + Connect Irrigation Tubing

Determine how far apart you’re going to place your olla pots; you’ll want them evenly spaced. Cut the flexible black tubing so that they can connect to the top of each pot; we made ours about 18 inches long. Attach the tubing together with tee fittings.

6. Attach to Source

Punch a hole in the 1/2" pipe that is attached to the adaptors. Connect the 1/4" flexible tubing into the hole using barb coupling.

7. Cover Drainage Holes With Washers

Use the waterproof sealant to glue a rubber washer over the top drainage hole on your double-stack pots. This will hold the 1/4" flexible tubing snug and prevent it from slipping out of the pot.

8. Bury the Pots

Dig a hole to bury each double-stack pot. Fill in with dirt around the pot. Leave the top accessible just above the soil line.

9. Connect Water Lines

Carefully insert vertical drip lines into the top hole of each pot. Connect the adaptor to the water hose and allow the drip to fill up all pots. To make it easier, set a daily timer to ensure your pots stay full all season long.

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