Showing posts with label Xeriscape Gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Xeriscape Gardening. Show all posts

Monday, 6 April 2015

How to make a watersaving olla

by Nanna Chel @ Going Grey and Slightly Green

I first heard about Ollas when I was reading Tania's blog a while back and was quite intrigued by them and keen to make some. Tania had a link to The Suburban Farm where there is an easy step-by-step tutorial for making an Olla which apparently is pronounced oh-yah but I watched a couple of YouTube videos and the presenters seem to pronounce it more like oi-yah. Tania used Liquid Nails Ceramic to fill in the hole in the bottom pot and to glue both pots together but when I went to the hardware store there was none there so I asked what would be a suitable non- toxic glue which would do the job and the very helpful salesman spent some time going through the different glues and reading the labels and thought that the Silaflex-11FC should do the trick. It is drinking water safe as well as potable water safe.

I bought some unglazed 17cm terracotta pots, put a small flat rock in the drainage hole of one of the pots then glued it in so that it would create a waterproof seal. I had a bit of trouble managing the caulking gun so my husband had to come to the rescue. He put glue around the top of the second pot….

…and then glued both pots together. 

 To make sure it sealed properly he spread the glue around both openings. Then it was left to dry for 24 hours.

The next day I filled the Olla with water to make sure that no water was leaking out around the glue before putting each one in a bucket of water for a while as had been suggested in an online tutorial. They were then ready to be buried in the vegetable patch and holes were dug deep enough to put them in so that only the tops were sticking out. Once in the ground they were filled with water through the hole in the top and a small rock was put over the hole of each one to prevent soil from getting inside.

To prevent evaporation some people paint the top of their pots so I experimented with a couple of them. I can’t say for sure if this helped as I had a painted one in the same section of the garden as an unpainted Olla but I did notice that they really came into their own during the hot days we had in spring and summer and feel they are a valuable addition to the garden. Mine had been in the ground for eight months and when I dug them up this week while digging over the vegetable patch they were still in good nick so I moved them to another area.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Making Leaf Mold

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I was out riding my bicycle around a quiet neighborhood of one-acre lots. As I rode past one house, with lots of lawn surrounded by big trees, an elderly couple was tossing puffy-full trash bags over their fence onto a huge pile on the side of the road. That looked like something I could use. I turned around and pedaled back to them.

"Are those leaves by any chance?" I asked. "May I have them?"

"Either you or the trash pickup, whichever gets here first," they replied.

"I'll be back with the truck. Oh, did you spray your trees with anything this year?"

Assured that the bags held only leaves, and that I'd be bringing no noxious chemicals back to my garden, I rode home smiling. Returning with the truck, I managed to get the entire pile, at least 25 big black trash bags, into the truck bed, piling them up, mashing and wedging bags in against the sides so as not to lose any as I drove home. What a treasure!

leaf mold bin in foreground, Aries & compost bin beyond
We're already making compost with our garden cleanup, the leaves from our trees, and the manure from cleaning out the chicken coop. I had something else in mind for these leaves - a batch of leaf mold.

Leaf mold is just leaves - piled up and left to decompose. To help them break down faster, we ran them through the shredder first. I made a round bin, about 3' tall and 3' across (it's best to have a pile at least 3' x 3'), with a length of wire fencing, lining it with some of the trash bags to keep the bits of leaves from falling through. First raking, then closing up the circle and shoveling, we filled the bin to the top. Using a small step ladder, I got into the bin, stomping round and round, packing the leaves down as Aries kept shoveling. With a bit of work, we got an entire piled-high truckload of leaves packed into the bin.

I got the hose, and soaked it all down, until water just started to run out the bottom. I live in the high desert, so to keep the leaves from drying out I covered them with more of the trash bags weighed down with bit of carpet and a slab of wood (winter storms can come through here with 60 mph winds). Last item was then to use a pitchfork to poke small holes in the plastic lining the bin. Some oxygen is necessary for the decomposition process.

Unlike the pathogen and weed seed killing heat of a properly made compost pile, making leaf mold is a cold process. Even so, a week later, the contents of my bin, six inches below the surface, pegged out a 125F thermometer. Left alone, leaf mold bins can take up to three years to break down to a dark, crumbly texture - a much slower process than composting. But by shredding the leaves and wetting them down well this bin might be ready by next summer.. And leaf mold, being made of only leaves, doesn't have the multitude of minerals and plant nutrients of compost either. But dug into a garden bed or used as mulch, it's great at retaining water. That's a necessity for my sandy soil and hot, dry growing season, but it can also soak up and hold the water in too-wet soils as well. It's also a great additive to a container potting mix. If you have or can get the leaves, have the room for a bin or two, and the time to let it break down, leaf mold can be a valuable addition to any garden.