Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Clay Pot Irrigation

This is another thing that looks very interesting, and easy.

I first saw it on the Dervae family's PathToFreedom site. I can get lost in that site, anyway, it's so inspiring! Here is the link for the clay pot irrigation page http://www.pathtofreedom.com/journal/archives/2006/09/sizzling_septem.html.

They've utilized long-necked unglazed pots buried at different depths in the garden as an economical revival of an ancient form of time-release irrigation. The principle operates along the lines of a slow-release of moisture from clay pots filled with water that slowly leaches through the porous material (the unglazed clay) to the surrounding plants.

Here's a bit more on the concept: http://www.ecocomposite.org/restoration/claypot.htm

The prices of the long-necked vase-shaped pots range from about $18 to $25 and up, plus shipping. I need something more economical than that, at this point.

From the looks of things, as long as a good portion of the clay is below ground and is filled with water, the slow-release irrigation commences. The other concern is that the open top, where you pour the water in, needs to remain covered or sealed in order to prevent it becoming a mosquito farm...or stepping in it inadvertently.

Looking at different websites, there are varying heights, shapes, and sizes of pots that have been experimented with, with differing success rates. Some of these are long cylindrical clay tubes that stick out of the ground quite a way. Others are the aforementioned oblong vase-shaped ones with narrow lipped top openings which, when buried, extend only a few inches above-ground. Others are similar, but sit almost like chimeneas nearly at surface level. The simplest, though, are simply clay flowerpots.

It seems you can take a good-sized clay pot (unglazed), and plug the bottom drainage hole with something non-porous, then bury this in soil up to the under lip of the top pot rim, and then fill it with water. You're essentially putting this in an advantageous location in your raised bed or garden, where you'll surround it with plants at close proximity.

I'm guessing you then plunk a flat object on top of the water-filled pot to keep out the critters and skeeters. Then you refill it as it absorbs slowly into the surrounding ground.

The way I'm thinking of trying it would be to dig a hole where I want it to go, place it there at the correct level (snugly, no gaps in the soil around it), pour a dab of cement where the drainage hole is, and let that harden. Then fill with water, plant the surrounding area, and tuck a clay dish (the sorts they sell with pots to be set on to catch the drainoff) upside down over the top.

Then you refill when it starts getting low, I'm guessing.

The little flat area where the dish covers the hole could be weighted down a little by placing a mossy pot of herbs, a pot of trailing flowers, or a decorative shallow dish of water for birds and butterflies. Or it could just be a nice platform for a few scattered seeds for the birds...UNLESS you have the raccoon problem we do, and then that would be just inviting trouble. But a nice shallow dish of water for bird splashing would be fun to watch. The imagination's the limit.

OK, and now to try some of these things. I don't have a digital camera, but I'm going to take instamatic shots as we go and see if I can get some of these experiments off the ground. It'll spice things up here visually a tad, too, if I can post some pics.

If you've had experience with pot irrigation, I'd love to hear your tips and advice!


farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

I am going to use some milk jugs with pin holes in the bottom around my tomatoes this year (I get some cracks and in late august can get end rot from water fluctuations so I am going to try and beat that this time)
I do want to try the clay pot idea too though---just not for 60 tomato plants. But i was thinking for the few zuchinni and eggplants it might work. The idea of the saucer over the top---good one. I wonder if you buried the whole thing flipped over then filled if you could use the drainage hole to fill instead of plugging it---kind of small though.

Robbyn said...

That's a terrific idea with the milk jugs...wish I'd been saving mine (oops!)

I'd thought of the upside-down pot thing but reckoned I could either do two pots (one as the top upside down) or the flat top idea, but they'd have to be sealed around the crack and lower drainage hole (at least here) because of our sandy soil...the water would be gone overnight if not. My husband thought it would be possible to seal the edge with either clay (left out to dry a day or so) or cement.

That's when I thought it became too expensive. I need to try your water jug idea!

Anonymous said...

How did you go with the clay pots?
Any success with using them for watering?

Anonymous said...

Did you ever get to try the clay pot irrigation idea? And if so, how did it all go??

Bonnie said...

I bought two large clay pots at the 99 cent store. Then I used some epoxy -- the kind that looks like two kinds of playdough that you mix together in your fingers -- then plugged the hole in one pot with it. I used some cheap outdoor window silicone sealer to glue the two pots together (the plugged hole on the bottom, and the second pot upside down on top of the first). I found some cheap corks at OSH to plug up the top hole after filling the jug. Total cost is less than $3 per olla.