Sunday, March 29, 2015

Make and Use an Olla for Happy Tomatoes

What is an olla?
An olla is an excellent old-fashioned way to keep the soil moist around thirsty plants when you can't be with them every day.  Since we are only out at the lake on weekends, last year I made a couple of ollas to keep my tomatoes happy.

Here is what they look like - two unglazed ceramic pots sealed to each other with Gorilla Glue.
One drainage hole is left open, and the other is sealed closed with a piece of broken tile.
Ollas are always unglazed because they must be porous to work.

I have two ollas and three tomato plants going into this space in the herb garden.
Step one - the ollas are buried so that the tops are level with the soil.
Then the open drainage hole is covered with a stone.

Next the plants are settled into place. My tomatoes have basil and marigolds as neighbors.

Then comes the mulch and a thorough watering.
Finally I removed the stone from the top of the olla, used the hose to fill it with water, and put the stone back on top.

Now the ollas porous surface will either release or hold water, depending on the moisture level in the soil. The plant roots will grow towards the olla, sometimes wrapping around the pot!
I used these ollas last year with great success. Sometimes they were completely empty after five days, and other times if we had had some rain, they were still half full. The tomatoes were very grateful!

The showiest place in the garden this weekend was the trellis supporting our Lady Banks rose.

Lady Banks only blooms in the spring and is a wild crazy girl the rest of the season, sprouting long arms and climbing up through the studio balcony. But it's so pretty I find it worth the effort to continually super prune it just to have this display for a few weeks!

One of my other exuberant plants is purple verbena. Highly colorful, but as aggressive as mint!

Here's a spot in the strong sun and drying wind that I thought would tame it somewhat.
 Not a chance - I have to hack it back or move everything in its path. Still it's hard to dislike a plant that wants to grow.

Notice our rising waters?! Let there be boating this year!

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