Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Low Budget Irrigation

The rats' destruction of the garden wasn't all bad; it did enable me to make some amendments to the raised beds that I should have taken care of before the plants went in, i.e., irrigation. Should have been a top priority seeings as we are dry as dead leaf come summertime.

My dream was to purchase a slew of ollas from the Dervaes family this year, but financially we couldn't swing it with all the other backyard costs. I decided to go super low tech with the plastic milk jugs I have been saving. Basically I took all the containers

and used a push pin to poke a load of holes in them with a fervor I might use to stick a voodoo doll of Dick Cheney. The little pin was easy to get through the plastic, which enabled me to finish all seven jugs in under 10 minutes. (If they would have been voodoo dolls, Dick would have certainly met his demise. Muuuuahahahahah!!!)  I then buried the containers about three feet apart in the veggie beds.

For some reason I thought that the earth pressing against the jugs would slow the water drainage down and I grossly overestimated the number of holes that I needed. After I filled the bottles, the water ran out faster than it took to fill them. Crap. Not what I was hoping to achieve here. I guess next time I won't get so zealous with the push pin.

That's the cool thing about the clay ollas, they slowly release water through their walls, which encourages the roots of plants to hug the sides of the pot and suck up all the moisture. Maybe I'll pick some up the next time we are in SoCal.


  1. This is such a great idea Heidi. We use our dishwater to irrigate our vegetable garden.

  2. I've been told that you can make your own ollas by taking two terra cotta pots and caulking them together, top rim to top rim, to form a large, closed container. Then you seal up one of the drainage holes and use the other drainage hole for filling. I have one I made like this last year, but I can't say whether or not it would really work (as in, whether the caulk would hold them together) because it's still sitting in my house, waiting for me to bury it in a veggie bed.
    : )

  3. I was thinking about the terra cotta pot thing, but decided to wait on getting the ollas as to avoid using glue. Let me know if you ever put the pot in the ground and if it works :)

  4. Have you tried to put the caps back on the jugs to slow the flow of water on the bottom? Might be worth a try. You may have to put a tiny hole in the cap to keep the jug from collapsing.

  5. I did put the caps on, but that didn't slow it down much. I've just got too many holes. On the bright side, I'm not out a whole bunch of cash and I can water deeply :) Thanks for the tip though. I'll use it when I put in my updated jugs that will have maybe 10 holes instead of a 100.

  6. Will do. Another thing I'm thinking might work is actually using more terra cotta clay to attach them together. I know craft stores carry it (or at least I think I remember seeing it) but I don't know how water-tight an air dried clay would be.

    Not that I'm against supporting the Dervaes -- I love them and try to order my seeds from them but the ollas always sell out before I can afford them. : )

  7. I did this on a smaller scale with old 20 oz bottles that my neighbors donated. I found that if I poke a hole ever 2 inches(+/-) and add fabric to the inside it slows down the water distribution rate. Keep the opening above ground so you can add water if it gets too dry out.
    The fabric (clean socks and natural fabrics) holds the water, but also lets it be released into the soil as the plants need it.
    You do have to change it out seasonally or when you change plants so as to not cross-contaminate; should any bad micro-bugs (or what-have-you) decide to hang on in the fabric.
    It works pretty well over here in Berkeley =)

  8. Did you stick with this, or pull them out? I'm worried that any variation on this system would become a breeding ground for slugs and snails.

  9. I left them in and keep caps on them. i don't have a snail problem because of my chickens and electric fence. i wouldn't imagine that they would be breeding grounds for the slimers unless you got a lot of foliage that is staying wet. these underground watering things are strictly for roots.