Water Conservation – Mother Of Invention – Terracotta pots

If you haven’t noticed, I’m off on one of my whinny postings again. This time it’s about what do I do to plant and care for what I hope will be a productive dry-land summer garden.

terracotta-pots Terracotta pots (Unglazed, unfired) in my garden. DIY – To reduce your garden’s water usage this summer (and low maintenance watering), buried clay pot irrigation might just be the trick. It’s a new concept to me but this method has apparently been around for centuries yet still offers value to today’s gardener.

Here’s how they work. Bury unglazed terracotta clay pots in the ground keeping the mouth level with or just above the soil surface and then fill them with water.

As the soil dries, suction develops and the water slowly seeps out from inside the pot and into the soil around it, the suction force is created by soil moisture tension and plant roots. This is a naturally automatic system, if it’s been raining, the soil is wet so there is no moisture tension and the pots don’t release any water. The soil gets just what it needs, right when it needs it with no gadgets or sensors required!

How many do you need? Each pot will water the plants within its immediate area. The larger the pot you use, the larger the area it covers and the less often you have to refill it up with water.

Since the pots are buried, water is delivered more efficiently at root level rather than above the soil surface with water needing to travel only a few inches to reach your plants roots system. To keep the system working optimally, add more water to the pots as needed and avoid letting them dry out completely.
Dig the pots up at the end of the growing season to prevent breakage over cold winter months and to allow you to easily till your garden plot.
This method can be used in container gardening as well, you’ll just need to use smaller clay pots that will fit inside the containers or planter boxes leaving enough room for the plants to thrive.

What kind of pots do I use?. They need to be unglazed clay pots and can have a wide or narrow mouth. Select pots that don’t have a long or fragile neck so they’ll withstand being buried without breaking. You can use regular terracotta flower pots but make sure to seal the pot drainage hole. Keep the mouth of the jar covered to prevent insects and debris from getting inside and to help reduce water loss through evaporation. If there are no fitted lids for the jars, you can use a inverted pot of the same size, flat rocks, shells or ceramic tiles depending on the size of the pot opening.

Hint To test whether a pot will work or not, fill it with water and watch if the outside surface becomes damp. If it does, it’s porous enough to work as a plant watering device.

Useful Tip Because the soil is kept moist inches below the soil surface, this helps reduce the growth of weeds this also means less water consumption and less maintenance.

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19 responses to “Water Conservation – Mother Of Invention – Terracotta pots

  1. Fascinating! I will have to try this–Happy Nesting!


  2. What a smart idea! This is something I have never heard of before. I have a couple of banana boxes in the basement with terra cottapots in all sizes that I don’t use. You gave me food for thought. I like the fact that it helps cut down on work as well.


    • Having unused pots on hand makes this an almost free or at least low cost experiment in slow watering project
      Good luck


      • I would like to try it in my flower beds. The roof extends ovr the flower beds so they don’t get as much rain on them. It could save time on my watering them. I guess I could leave a few uncovered for my frogs. I figure my dogs will think they are for them to drink out of though LOL. Our neighbors dogs used my bird bath as an extra drinking bowl. Our dogs were trained to leave it alone. Hmm now is the time to dig them into the beds because the flowers are full size. Thanks for the tip!


        • Not knowing your flower bed arrangement, I would still tend to look at and consider a system using a drip line or maybe a leaky pipe(hose) on a simple cheap timer.
          Good luck


          • Thanks Pobept I will discuss it with my Husband. I think the terracota potts would be easiest for this year and see if we like it.Then decide to change it to drip line next year.


  3. Great idea! This would work for dry microclimates too !


  4. Sounds a great idea… Might try it at some future point on the allotment, as I might not be able to get there often enough to water if we have a dry summer.


  5. Hi Robert, I’m also interested in this terracotta pot method of watering cultivars this summer. I have a location in the very back part of my yard where the hose won’t reach. I usually just lug water out to the location. Or sloppily and ineffectually spray water in a giant arc from the end of the hose, neither method is great for watering. Maybe the terrracotta method would be ideal for that location in my yard. If you implement this method, please keep us posted as to the effectiveness. My only concern would be the rate of water seepage and if the seepage would be sufficient to sustain the plants. You try first..he he. 😉


    • Re gnine2014 Thanks for visiting my humble little blog and for your comment(s)
      Stand by for what maybe a better option for your problem planting area.
      🙂 Watch for my PVC deep pipe watering gadget posting.
      I will post that in a day or so.
      Happy successful summer gardening


  6. may have to try this on a container garden that I had problems with last year…. never seemed to water if enough


    • Re jolynnpowers -Thanks for visiting my little blog and for your comment(s)
      I have the same problem with my container plants. I must water at least 2 times a day and sometime as many as 3 times a day.
      This year I am going to try adding 1 or 2 inches of good mulch after my transplants are in and see if this will help keep the containers from drying out so quickly. Happy productive container gardening


  7. I haven’t heard of that, I just mulch, mulch & more mulch. Trying to work into hugelculture beds.


    • Re – Thanks for your useful comment9s)
      I think that a heavy layer of mulch would be very helpful in preventing the soil drying our to quickly
      Happy healthy mulching


  8. This is a great idea with the right soil composition…thanks


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