Self Watering Garden Bed...!?

We know about self watering containers, but how about self watering garden beds?

This concept is simple, was used by ancient peoples, and is extremely efficient. It's called an olla.  Pronounced "oy-yah", it is a vase shaped unglazed clay terra cotta vessel with a slender neck and a lid.  Beautiful yet simple, the idea is to bury the vessel in the garden bed, fill it with water periodically, and plant around it.  Because the vessel is porous, it slowly releases water into the surrounding soil as plant roots need it, and because the pot is buried, evaporation is severely reduced.

I'd been reading about ollas and was interested in trying them, but hadn't acted on it.  As luck would have it, I was at at the Plant and Pottery Outlet in Sunol, and there they were...for $10 each!  I couldn't resist, so I took a couple of them home to try in my vegetable beds.

Ollas before they were buried, placed about 4 or 4-1/2' apart in my beds.

I placed my two ollas about 4-1/2' apart in my tomato/pepper bed.  
Buried up to their chins and filled with water. Now just waiting to see how the plants like it!
The History
From what I've read, olla irrigation has been traced back as far as 4000 years in China, and is thought to originate in Africa. It is and has been used by cultures all over the world.

Water Savings
Water tends to seep through the wide, bulbous part of the pot which is deeper in the soil, not through the neck, so the surface soil stays on the dry side.  The surface soil would act like mulch, reducing evaporation.  With the surface soil dry, it is said that fewer weeds will germinate.  I will still mulch deeply, to keep as much moisture in the soil as possible, and keep the soil life happy and thriving. 

I love to experiment in the garden and I love this concept.  It's so elegant and simple.  I'm excited to see how the tomatoes and peppers do.  I'll post pictures and an update as the season progresses.