Olla Bowl – Watering System

Olla Bowl (s) have been used in Africa and China for 4000 years. I only discovered them in 2021 while trying to keep a hard to water potentilla transplant alive during a record breaking hot Calgary summer. A proper Olla Bowl is pictured below.

Picture from permaculturenews.org

I did not have access to one of these. A little hard to find in this part of the world on short notice. However, there is an alternative to this, that works. I was in need of something in a hurry, so I decided to try out the alternative for someone who doesn’t know how to make pottery (yet). Enter the clay pot!

The unglazed clay pot with saucer (not shown) to be precise.

The premise is that the water in the pot permeates through the unglazed clay. Allowing the roots to get the water from the underground reservoir. Clay pots generally come with a hole in the bottom. This has to be plugged. A little cement in the bottom works the best, but any thing that plugs the hole works. For a longer lasting reservoir, the water needs to go through the sides, not out the bottom.

Olla Bowl Installation – The Bowl (pot)

olla bowl

The Potentilla in question is on the side of a steep hill. The owner likes the Potentilla, but is unable to water it regularly to establish the transplant. I dug into the side of the hill to place the olla bowl beside the Potentilla roots, on the uphill side. It being a side hill made it easy to install it without disturbing the grass that is actually beside the Potentilla and above the Olla Bowl.

– The Plant

olla bowl

The installation is pretty easy. I kept the lid on while burying the pot and planting the Potentilla. Once everything was settled the pot is filled with water and the lid is put back on. Because this one is in such a side hill, the lid has been covered partially in soil. When watering happens I am careful not to disturb the soil collected on the lid (saucer). I lift the lid just enough to get the water jug lip over the pot lip, and slide it back in place when I’m done.

– The Water

olla bowl

There is wood mulch around the base of the plant, and when it is put back in place after watering, the Olla Bowl is not in the sun at all. Nothing lost to evaporation.

olla bowl

See what I mean about the hill! The bowl is filled weekly, during regular property maintenance visits. Once the little plant is established, it may not need it as much (the Potentilla are pretty drought tolerant), but good to have for super dry spells. So far, a successful!

Contact me to learn more!