When it rains, it pours! Remember, Waterpot Ollas are self-regulating irrigation!
Rain, hail or shine Waterpot Ollas have an amazing way of naturally regulating your garden’s hydration level. If the soil is dry, water will seep out into the surrounding area. If the soil is moist from recent rain, the water inside an olla will remain there until the soil dries out.
↔️ Because ollas are porous, they work in two directions ↔️ When water is on the OUTSIDE of an olla, when there is an extended period of rain, some water will seep back INTO the olla due to gravity. This decreases the splitting of tomatoes, melons, etc. The olla needs to be partially empty for this to work best since the excess groundwater needs someplace to go. It is nice to know, however, that the time invested in setting up this ancient watering system is never wasted, rain or no rain.
Even more incredible is how plants respond to being watered this way. Roots grow in the direction where they are most needed. As time goes on, they will surround an olla and draw water directly from its walls, making this irrigation technique’s efficiency unmatched.Mary Kathryn Dunston, in Countryside Magazine (2019) related the experience of Randall Isherwood, owner of Garden Outposts Nursery in Columbia, South Carolina who said of his Tomato patch using olla pots, “Last year we had a deluge of rain every week, tomatoes were splitting all over the state. My tomato plants that I had installed with Ollas averted this splitting issue 100 percent of the time, in all types of locations in-ground, containers, and raised beds.” Mary comments that "even if 100 percent isn’t a guaranteed success rate, Mr. Isherwood is not far off the norm, which is closer to 75 percent. In addition, the root base of plants grown around ollas is larger and happier, since consistent water grows a larger root, which grows a better (happier) plant." I could not agree more! You can see how Waterpot Ollas have produced a thriving and productive garden on my own Balcony farm here.
Water-restrictions are still in place in many regions of our nation so whilst the easing of restrictions may have taken place in some places, water-saving practices should still continue as the predictions of irregular rain patterns into the future should be heeded
(Some sciency explanation if you have a cuppa and your feet up)
Remember, the movement of the water across the olla wall is stimulated by a water concentration gradient. A concentration gradient describes how much of a substance is on one side of a barrier compared to the other side. The soil water potential determines how strong the gradient is. If the soil is very dry, it has a high soil water potential and a more extreme gradient, which will pull more water from the olla.
The concentration gradient of the water of the soil vs. the olla powers water movement due to the desire to reach equilibrium. Nature strives to be in equilibrium, meaning that everything is balanced. All in all, the soil outside the olla sucks at the water so that it seeps through the olla wall and into the soil.
The olla naturally operates under atmospheric pressure, meaning that it works under that natural conditions of the surrounding air and environment, and does not need any man-made forces. Because only forces of nature are regulating the olla’s water release, it is a very delicate and sensitive system.
Water will only be drawn from the olla until the olla has reached its field capacity. This means the soil has sufficient water for the plants, but there is still plenty of space in the soil pores. Traditional surface irrigation can result in saturation when the soil is overwatered and no soil pores with air space
remain. This causes anaerobic conditions and is detrimental to the soil. Use of ollas also prevents soil from reaching its wilting point, where there is too little water in the soil for the plants to survive.
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Some simple words of truth about maximising your space in a small space garden situation. Sharing the love of small space growing with the clients of APIA Australia recently talking about how to build a thriving garden on your balcony. The most common gardening myth is that you need space to build a garden - let's bust that myth!