Ollas for Irrigation

Chris and I have written about our plans for trying an innovative dry season garden this year. Currently, we are in month 3 of the annual 8 month drought. What the gardeners in our community do is dig wells (hand-dug) for watering their plants. The challenge with this is A. Sometimes they dry up before the rains begin B. Digging wells is a huge (and sometimes risky) task. This just won’t do for widows, small scale gardeners, or certain people who are lacking muscle mass these days 👀.

Enter the Ollas method. Ollas are clay pots with funny shaped necks. What you do is dig a hole in your garden for each of the pots where you can bury them with the nozzle poking out. You paint the neck to avoid evaporation and place a rock on the top opening.

After researching these babies we decided not only will we employ them in our garden this year, but if all goes will use them in the future as well (they seem that good).

Here are 7 reasons why ollas are  a wonderful irrigation system for your home garden:
1. You use 30-70% less water (PERFECT for all of the States experiencing droughts-plus really wouldn’t it be good if we all could find ways to conserve water). –The ollas eliminate all of the water you lose through evaporation and run-off.
2. You only have to fill the pots every 3-5 days (low maintenance win).
3. It reduces the amount of weeds that will grow in your garden (another low maintenance win). This is because they water the roots of your plants not the surface so the shallow weeds to get an opportunity to grow.
4. You have healthier plants because they are being watered at the root level. They also have a constant water reservoir which will flow when needed (when the soil is saturated the water won’t leave the pots).
5. You can’t over or under water your plants (can I get a “yes!” from my black thumb friends).
6. They collect rainwater (water saving again!).

7. They will keep your backyard chickens from digging around your plants since the top soil won’t be cool and moist.

So as you can see, ollas are a fantastic irrigation method. I am sure you are all running to your local potter now.
Another interesting find, which probably won’t be of much use to our folks in America, but was hugely wonderful to us, is that charcoal ash (ultimately wood ash) is a fantastic fertilizer.Who would have known?! Our compost requires a lot of water these days because it’s so incredibly dry out. We utilize our grey water (water from dishes, washing hands, doing laundry, cooking) for our bucket flush toilet. In order to keep our compost moist we would need to fetch from the precious borehole. We couldn’t rationalize that so we looked into other options. It turns out our solution was right under our feet. Everyoneee cooks over coal pots here. We just walked around with a shovel and a bucket and collected a few pounds of fertilizer within ten minutes. We are interested to see how using it goes.
Another fun tidbit is that we are using neem leaves and twigs as well which will double as mulch and insect repellant. We have a giant tree right by our house which is always dropping leaves so it should work out nicely.
^^ I get excited about these things because we are using local materials which has taken almost a year of living here for us to get to this level of knowing what local resources are available (and we are just at the tip of the ice berg)! -We were talking with a lady today about something they call “bitter leaves.” They use them as local medicine for all sorts of ailments. We are going to look at her plant in a few days to see if we can identify it. I’m always amazed at how it seems that every plant and tree here has some nutritional or medicinal properties. I so wish there was some type of Northern Ghana guide to wild plants and edibles. I am keeping a record of what I’m learning, but it’s a short list.

Did I mention we were growing hibiscus in our garden last season and didn’t know it! We plucked it to cook before it fruited. We only knew it by its Kasem name and didn’t recognize it, so we just assumed it was something that didn’t grow in America. We were kicking ourselves after. Luckily we found a woman who sells the dried flowers in the market, so we have been making loads of tea!

Finally, we are also trying a vertical garden as another way to garden with limited water. We will post pics when everything pops. Sorry for the plant rant (and writing the way I think. I’m sure you are all about cross-eyed by now). This is just a really fun topic for me😍

Peace, Love,& Plants,



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