Ollas: Ceramics Used in Agriculture

Ceramic ollas (pronounced oh-yahs) have been used for thousands of years as an efficient irrigation system in arid lands agriculture. They are making somewhat of a comeback in small-scale gardens because they are easy to make as DIY projects and they’re effective. In honor of Earth Day 2021, I thought I’d provide some information on this water-saving technique.

One source I found stated:

Chinese texts that are well over 2,000 years old mention clay pot irrigation. The Romans used ollas. Olla irrigation can be found in the Middle East, India, and Central and South America.

I found some information about ollas being introduced to the American Southwest cultures by Spanish conquistadors. There’s not a lot of information on ollas around the world, but I didn’t search extensively. But it makes intuitive sense that these things were used in agriculture at different times and in different places.

Below are a few instructional videos about ollas, including how ollas work, how to use ollas as small-scale irrigation systems (i.e., garden plots), and instructions on several ways to make ollas out of wet clay (on the wheel, coil building, and slip casting techniques) and how to construct ollas out of commercially available clay garden pots.

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