Olla Bath Bed

So yesterday I posted on making some olla from old terracotta pipe. I built the three in that post specifically for a bath bed I wanted to build.

When our good friends next door moved out they offered us a few items which included an old bath. Two of us struggled with the old caste iron bath and decided a semi shaded spot on the south side of the house was far enough to haul that chunk of caste iron we were carrying.

It is in a spot down the side that is easily accessible but lacks early sun but gets good sun though out the rest of the day so I was working on the micro climate idea of using it for salad greens which will grow well in semi shade and actually seem to enjoy the slightly cooler aspect of the south side of the house.

The first thing I did was to put a spirit level across the bath and level it out. I then started putting about an inch of crushed rock in the bottom to allow for a bit of drainage if required, I was not concerned as the water was planned to be provided by the osmosis from the olla but some drainage would help if we had heavy rains and the soil got too saturated.

I then put in a coarse mix of well broken down mulch, soil and compost layer until the olla sat about an inch above the lip of the bath.

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I put the three olla in and an in bed worm farm (more on that tomorrow) made from an old cracked pot.

As luck would have it I had a nice crop of green manure I was about to cut back into another in ground bed so I grabbed some of this and created a good layer and then filled the rest of the bed with good soil and compost.

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So the bed is now done I have used it for over 18 months now and it has had a feed of comfrey tea twice and the good work of the worms other than it no other fertilizer has been applied.

The olla get filled about once a week or maybe a bit more on those solid weeks of near 40 degree days other than it does not get watered on top (apart from rain obviously).

We grow most of our lettuce, rocket, spinach, some dandelion and other salad greens and few herbs like basil mint and mint that need to be a bit contained in it.

I also tried tomato in it this year and they went ok but I think I will stick with salad greens. It is nice to have to rarely buy them as the waste for what you get from commercial packages horrifies me. Over the next year I am going to increase the diversity of salad greens and grow miner’s lettuce, fat hen and other less common salad greens and see how they go.

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3 thoughts on “Olla Bath Bed

  1. I loved this when I first saw your posts. Olla are a fantastic method for keeping water up in veg gardens here in Melbourne, where summer rain is scarce. They are also perfect for young fruit trees in their first summer or two. To deal with the seed germination issue in summer, I use drills of coir (coconut fibre – sustainable plantations of course!) in the beds and also use this in our salad boxes and for any cuttings. I’ve found that this year, even over a 2 week period of very hot windy weather and no watering at all, that cuttings and seedlings not just survived but grew well. Combine an olla and the coir and you’re in business 🙂

    PS – Birdsland MiniBeast Festival, Birdsland Reserve, Belgrave Heights on 21st April 10-2pm. We have a local lady coming to install an olla system in the sloped community garden and answer questions. You might be interested and the kids will love being citizen scientists and joining in all the experiments and investigation of mini beasts over the day. Maybe we’ll see you guys there 🙂

  2. Love to come along to the day if we are free it sounds great. Olla for young trees are a great idea as you say even if over time their root break the olla you can get them off to a great start. They work very well with rhubarb which can a bit thirsty in summer as well.

    Will have to give the coir drills ago might be a solution for the first weeks of growth in the community garden bed I have as I am only visiting it a few days a week to water them.

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