Authors Posts by PeterD



16: 125+ Year Old Rhododendron “Tree” In Canada


This huge 125-year-oldold rhododendron is technically not a tree – most are considered to be shrubs. You can find out more about it here. (Image credits: reddit)


Olla Irrigation

Burying ollas (“oy-yahs”) or clay pots filled with water in the ground is a technique used by early farmers in Northern Africa to irrigate their crops. There is also evidence that the method was also used in early China.

The pots used are made from low fire terra cotta clay and are porous enough to let water pass through when buried. Water flow rate depends on various factors including the amount of plant available water in the soil and the rate at which the plants’ roots absorb water.

The olla irrigation system is so practical that it is still being used today particularly in places like India, Iran and Brazil. It is perhaps the wisest way to water a garden.

Basically, the olla is buried in the ground with only the opening showing above soil level, it is then filled with water. The plants adjacent to the clay pot will then get water from it whenever they need it.

Use Only Unglazed Clay Pots

To make this work, use only unglazed clay pots. The microporous walls of the olla do not allow water to freely flow out. Water will flow outward only when the soil surrounding the clay is less saturated with water. When the soil is fully saturated and there is plant available moisture, the water in the olla will stop flowing outward.

You can check if a clay pot is porous enough. Fill it with water and observe if the surface becomes moist or damp. If it does, then you can use that pot to irrigate your garden plants from under the soil.

Clay pots with bottle or tapered shapes are commonly used.

Tapered Olla (Source:
Tapered Olla (Source:

But you can also use other unglazed clay pots like two planter pots glued together at the mouth.

DIY olla or clay capsule
DIY olla or clay capsule

Eventually, the roots of adjacent plants will find their way to the olla surface and attach themselves to it. They will then draw water from it whenever they are thirsty. When this happens, even less water is wasted due to evaporation because it will go directly to the plants.

When ollas are dug up, they are usually covered in a cluster of roots.

Roots cover a dug up olla. (Source:
Roots cover a dug up olla. (Source:

Advantages of Using Ollas

The main advantage of using ollas to irrigate your garden is: less water is used. It uses only half as much water as surface watering which loses a lot of water through run offs and evaporation.

Ollas save even more water than drip irrigation. With drip irrigation systems, some water can still be lost through evaporation. And a drip system is more likely to clog than ollas. Olla irrigation is so effective that it enables adjacent plants to use almost 100% of the applied irrigation water.

Irrigating the garden with the use of ollas solves many problems for gardeners. If you cannot irrigate frequently, that is not a problem. Simply install the clay pots where needed and keep them filled. The plants will be provided with all the water they need when they need it. This method is also perfect for plants that should not be watered frequently.

Ollas are also more environmentally friendly. It is a sustainable way to keep your plants irrigated.

And since the surface soil is kept dry, the growth of weeds is deterred, so less weeding is necessary. But because of this, plants that are being grown directly from seeds cannot benefit from the ollas. You can plant seeds but you have to surface water them until the plants’ roots have grown enough to draw water from the ollas. Transplanted seedlings with established roots will be fine though.

You can add compost tea or liquid fertilizer to the water in the olla and it will be distributed to the plants. Be careful of particles though because they might clog the pores. Also, if you are using greywater or rain water, make sure you filter it first before filling the ollas.

Ollas can be used on raised beds and containers. Just choose clay pots with smaller diameters.+

Irrigating container plants with ollas (Source:
Irrigating container plants with ollas (Source:

Size and Spacing

The size of ollas to use will depend on the size of your garden as well as the water needs of your plants. Use deeper ollas for deep rooting plants and use shallow ollas for shallow rooting crops.

An olla can water outwards a distance that is approximately the same as its radius.

wate rspread

So the water spread diameter or the maximum outward distance that water seeping out of the clay jar can reach is approximately two times the diameter of the jar.

Based on this, the space between ollas should be equal to the water spread diameter.


Add water daily or every couple of days depending on the size of the clay pots and on how much water your plants use. Do not let the water level drop too low to avoid mineral buildup on the sides of the ollas that can clog the pores.

Put a lid on the opening of each olla to prevent evaporation and to keep insects like mosquitoes from breeding. Also, mulching around the ollas will further lessen the risk of water evaporation.

Depending on the type of clay the olla is made out of and the quality of water being put in it, an olla should be usable for up to 2 years at least.

Ollas are best used to water herbaceous plants. Woody plants have thicker and stronger roots that might break the clay pot.

You can buy ollas from your local gardening stores or online. If you are handy with the wheel, you can even make your own.

Some Important Notes

  • Dig up ollas in the winter. Freezing temperatures can crack and damage buried ollas.
  • Do not situate ollas near shrubs or trees or any woody plant with roots that could crack the clay.

Featured image credit:

Gardening can be tough sometimes. You will commit a lot of mistakes along the way, making you want to quit. Mistakes can be avoided or corrected if you know the right things to do.

Here is a list of the common gardening mistakes.

Being too organic

Gardening organically means using resources from Mother Nature. But you cannot just let nature take care of your garden itself. Your organic garden needs pest control and fertilizer. Remember you need these things in your garden, but make sure to use organic pesticides and fertilizers only.

Harvesting at the wrong time

Some gardeners harvest too early or too late. To avoid committing this mistake you have to know the right time to harvest your plants. You should know what the veggies looks like when they are ready to harvest.

Not cleaning the garden

It is important to keep your garden clean to avoid the growth of pests and diseases. Clean your garden at least twice a week. Always check your garden, if you see fallen foliage and infected leaves pick them up. If you see weeds in the garden pull them out by your hands, make sure to pull the roots out too.

Not composting

Some gardeners do not use compost in their garden. There are a lot of reasons why you should use compost. When you use compost you will not only reduce the waste from your home or in your garden, compost can also help improve your garden soil. When you have a healthy garden soil your plants will also become healthy.

Not taking care of the soil

Take care of your garden soil and enrich it. Add compost or mulch to enrich your garden soil.

Enrich your garden soil so that your plants will get the right nutrients that they need.

Not solving garden problems immediately

Weeds and insects are the main problems in the garden. Get rid of them before they destroy your garden.


Overcrowding or planting too much in your garden is one of the most common mistakes committed by gardeners. When you plant too many in the garden, your plants will not grow properly. Plants need different amount of space for them to be able to grow properly.

Make sure to provide your plants the right amount of space they need so that they will not compete with each other for light, water, and nutrients.

Planting food producing plants only

It is also important to plant flowers in your vegetable garden. Some flowers can attract beneficial insects that can help your garden grow.

Planting in the wrong area of the garden

Some plants require full sun, full shade, or part shade to be able to grow. Tomatoes needs full sun to be able to grow, while cabbage, lettuce, and spinach need full shade or filtered sunlight to grow. You have to find the right area to place your plants.

Be knowledgeable about how much sun does a plant need to be able to grow.

Planting the wrong vegetables

Make sure that you do some research about the vegetables or plants that are likely to grow in your area. Make sure also that you know your zone area. Planting the wrong vegetables or plants in your garden will result to waste of time, waste of money, and waste of produce.

Using too much fertilizer

Even plants need a balanced diet or nutrients. When you feed your plants with too much fertilizer your plants will get sick or they will die. Sometimes applying too much fertilizer in your garden can burn the young and tender roots of your plants.

Watering incorrectly

Do not water your plants often, water them deeply. Water your plants regularly if and only if it is needed. Avoid getting your plants’ leaves wet when watering. Water your plants near the soil.

What are your top garden mistakes? Share them in the comments!

Join the Organic Gardening Club to get access to Fresh Organic Gardening’s BESTSELLING EBOOKS, monthly NEWSLETTER with gardening tips, techniques & ideas, exclusive INTERVIEWS with organic gardening experts, our latest book for FREE every month and more. Click here to join.

This video shows you how you can use diapers to keep your plants watered. From 1 adult sized diaper, you can makre 12 cups or more hydrogel which when mixed with potting soil can create a super-absorbent soil that releases water to plants as they need it. With this method, you can save time and water and make your plants last twice as long between waterings. The gel is non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Cool right?

Watch the video:

Is this something that is new and innovative?

Not really.

Diaper contains Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP) which is a biodegradable, non-toxic and environment friendly material used in agriculture and horticulture. The use of this super absorbent material can be traced back to the early 1960s though it was originally referred to as “Super Slurper”.

The technique shown in the above video is excellent for container plants and small sized raised beds.

Join the Organic Gardening Club to get access to Fresh Organic Gardening’s BESTSELLING EBOOKS, monthly NEWSLETTER with gardening tips, techniques & ideas, exclusive INTERVIEWS with organic gardening experts, our latest book for FREE every month and more. Click here to join.

Share Because You Care!

One way of getting rid of pests in the garden is to attract beneficial insects. How to attract beneficial insects? The best way to attract beneficial insects is by planting flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar. Beneficial insects help your garden grow by controlling pests and pollinating your plants.

Here is a list of some beneficial insects in the garden.

Ground beetles

Ground beetles are large insects that have long legs and you can find them under rocks and logs during the day. These beneficial insects eat Colorado potato beetle larvae, cutworms, root maggots, snails, and slugs. To attract ground beetles you have to provide them with stones, logs, or perennial ground covers. [Image Source]

Hover flies

Hover flies are also known as Flower flies or Syrphid flies. The adult hover flies have striped abdomens and they look like a small bee, while the greenish or grayish slug-like hover fly larvae have pointed heads. These beneficial insects are attracted to flowers and they feed on the flower nectar and pollen. The hover fly larvae are very helpful in early spring; they eat aphids that are on tight places where other beneficial insects can’t go.

Strawberries and raspberries that are pollinated by hover flies produce larger fruits and higher yields. [Image Source]

Hunting and parasitic wasps

You can find hundreds of wasp species around the globe, there are wasps that are too small that they are almost invisible to the naked eye. These small wasps are the ones that attack the eggs of insect pests. These parasitic wasps are also among the most important insects when it comes to controlling pests in the garden. Grow pollen and nectar plants to attract these beneficial insects. [Image Source]


Ladybugs are one of the most common beneficial insects that you can find in the garden. The adult lady bugs and larvae eat aphids that destroy plants like tomatoes and brassicas; they also eat soft-bodied insects. The nectar and pollen of a flower is attractive to adult lady bugs, they eat these before they can reproduce. [Image Source]


The adult pale green or brown lacewings have large, veined wings. These insects usually eat the nectar or a flower. The lacewing larvae are a voracious predator that eats aphid, caterpillars, mites, moth eggs, scales, and thrips. [Image Source]

Predatory Bugs

Predatory bugs such as ambush bugs, assassin bugs, and pirate bugs eat insects like tomato hornworms, thrips, spider mites, insect eggs, leafhopper nymphs, corn earworms, and other small caterpillars. Willows, buckwheat, corn, and nectar and pollen of many flowers are attractive to pirate bugs. Bunch grasses, shrubs, and other permanent plantings are attractive to predatory bugs. These plants provide shelter to these predatory bugs. [Assassin Bug Image Source]


Spiders eat a lot of insects, which make them a very helpful insect when it comes to controlling pests in the garden. Spiders that are found in the garden do not move indoors and they are not poisonous.

You can find spiders sheltering on permanent perennial plants and straw mulches. [Image Source]

Tachinid flies

Tachinid flies are similar in appearance with house flies. These beneficial insects eat army worms, cutworms, cabbage loopers, gypsy moths, Japanese beetles, sawflies, squash bugs, sow bugs, and tent caterpillars. They are attracted to pollen and nectar plants. [Image Source]

And here are the plants that attract beneficial insects which you can start planting in your garden – if you haven’t done so yet.

Annual Plants

Alyssum ‘Carpet of Snow’

These masses of tiny flowers can attract hoverflies and parasitic mini-wasps.


This herb has flowers that can attract bees and other beneficial insects. It can also repel aphids and tomato hornworms.


This flower can attract bees and hoverflies.


This flower can attract a lot of beneficial insects such as bees, lacewings, ladybugs, hoverflies and parasitic wasps.


Lacewings, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps are all attracted to this flower.


The flower of this herb can attract ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies and parasitic mini-wasps. You can also use to as a trap crop for aphids.


Marigold attracts bees and hoverflies. The roots of this flower produce a secretion that can kill root-eating nematodes in the soil. The flower petals of Marigold are edible.

Morning Glory

Plant Morning Glory to attract syrphid flies and ladybugs.


This plant is a quick-blooming and self-sowing annual that can attract bees. The seeds of Nigella damascena and Nigella sativa are edible.


This flower is best for attracting bumblebees.


Zinnia flowers can attract bees, ladybugs, hoverflies, parasitic wasps and other beneficial insects.

Perennial Plants


The flowers of this herb are attractive to bees and other beneficial insects. This herb blooms the first year from seed; you can use its leaves to make a tea.

Alyssum saxatile

Also known as the ‘Basket of Gold’ because of its bright yellow flowers that bloom in May. This is also a good source of food for ladybugs and hoverflies.

Bronze Fennel

The leaves and seeds of this plant are edible. This plant can attract a lot of beneficial insects such as bees, hoverflies, lacewings, ladybugs, syrphid flies, tachinid flies, and parasitic wasps.

Common Chives

The flowers of this plant are attractive to bees, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps. You can add the leaves and flowers to your recipes.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea)

Praying mantis, bees, and parasitic wasps are all attracted to the flowers of this plant, while birds are attracted to the seed heads.


This herb has white daisy-like flowers that are attractive to hoverflies. You can use this herb to treat migraine and headaches.

Garlic Chives

This plant attracts bees and other beneficial insects. The leaves of this plant have a strong garlic odor that repels aphids. This is also a good companion plant for roses.


This plant attracts assassin bugs, big-eyed bugs, bees, ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, praying mantis, and parasitic wasps. Plant this from late summer to fall.

HesperisMatronalis (Dame’s Rocket)

The flowers of this plant attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. You can add the young leaves to for dishes.

Lavender ‘Lady’ (LavandulaAngustifolia)

Hoverflies and bees are attracted to its flowers.

Lemon Balm

The leaves of this plant have a lemon flavor, which you can use for making tea. Tachinid flies, hoverflies, and parasitic mini-wasps are attracted to its small flowers.


The flowers of this herb are attractive to beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, tachinid flies, and parasitic mini-wasps.

PenstemonStrictus (Rocky Mountain Penstemon)

Its vivid blue flowers attract ladybugs, bees, and hoverflies.

Black-Eyed Susan (RudbeckiaHirta)

This plant has daisy-like flowers with a golden-yellow color that are attractive to bees and lacewings.


Salvia attracts pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.


The tiny flowers of thyme are attractive to hoverflies.