Olla use for high density fruit tree planting?

txdurkApril 6, 2014


I'm 35 or so miles NW of Houston in zone 8b. I ordered three apple trees (Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady) all on M7 rootstock that should ship this week from a northern nursery. I m considering planting the three in the same hole ~24" apart in a triangle shape. I use ollas for my potted berries and the plants seem to enjoy them (so do the fire ants). Since the trees will be in a triangle shape an olla centrally located seems to me to be a logical way to keep them hydrated through a typical Texas summer. One olla maker suggests it is only appropriate for vegetables & such and not for trees. They don't explain why though so I am asking the forum. Does anyone know if the use of an olla for fruit trees is a bad idea?

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I have an olla with my 1 yr old Pom tree. After planting it I kind of regretted not having at least one more. My tree is fine so far but I think that maintaining moisture around the tree evenly might be the issue.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 2:33PM
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Thanks NachtSprite. I'm convinced now that three trees competing for the same limited water resource wouldn't be a good idea and it may influence tree roots to grow unnaturally in one direction thereby compromising the ability for the tree to remain upright. Cheers.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 3:12PM
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What is an olla?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 12:30AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

A big ceramic pot that sweats water.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 12:42AM
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An olla pot is an ancient form of drip irrigation. They are a litle pricey but work very well. Here in Texas I am able to water my plants at oot level without wasting the water to evaporation.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 8:42AM
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You can make your own affordably by gorilla gluing two terracota pots together (don't forget to plug one of the holes).

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 10:11AM
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An olla system will work for trees BUT you need more than one (at least two on opposite sides located outside the canopy) and it will only work well on sandy soil in the arid southwest.


You want to water trees down 3 feet to drive the salts down below the vast majority of the roots. Or you will eventually kill the tree and poison the ground with salt. I doubt an olla can reach that depth unless the soil is very sandy. If it is the wet spot will be very small in diameter (the water won't spread out on the way down).

On shrubs, your target depth is 2 feet. Since the olla is mostly buried it already is around the first foot of depth so a somewhat loamier soil can exist and still likely reach that depth.

The other problem with two spots in the roots of the tree will only exist in the area(s) where there is water. No water, no roots. That makes them very susceptible to winds toppling, low nutrient uptake and drought.

In other parts of the nation where rainfall is plentiful at least some time of the year and the soil is therefor acidic ollas could work to get anything through the drought areas without causing long-term salt buildup past the next big rain. After all, 70% of tree roots are in the first foot of soil depth.

Ollas are covered/screened to prevent mosquito habitat or BTI added.

Here is a link that might be useful: ollas

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 10:47AM
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Thank you for the information. I have not used one of these. I have seen a neighbor make something like this from old plastic gallon jugs. She planted a number of smaller crepe myrtles and turks cap. The jugs of water kept the plants going that first year.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 10:44PM
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One reason the ollas are not recommended for use with trees is that the roots may eventually break the pot. I have started some fruit trees with ollas because I like the constant source of water but, you do want to encourage the root growth to be more expansive. Also, when used in the vegetable garden I surface water very little. Trees will usually need a pretty deep soaking occasionally along with the olla.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 1:18PM
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