Solving irrigation issues with Oyas

Oyas are an effective, ecologically sound way to irrigate your garden. Learn how I use them.

This summer, Vancouver was hit with the worst drought in recent memory. Stage three watering restrictions were enforced for the first time in years. For gardeners like me, this meant that the usual watering methods – like soaker hoses on timers – were now illegal. Hand-watering, or using spring-loaded hose nozzles, were the only options.

That’s why I’m so glad I discovered Oyas. This traditional irrigation system is deceptively simple: just “plant” the unglazed terracotta pots in your beds and fill them with water every five to ten days.

I’ve been testing out my Oyas for three weeks now, enough time to really see how the tender, water-hungry salad greens I grew around them fared during our scorching late summer August heat. I’m very impressed with the results. Instead of constantly worrying about our plants, I was able to confidently leave the bed with just a bit of supplemental hand-watering. Everything stayed happy and healthy.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve found with conventional forms of irrigation, like soaker hoses, hand-watering and sprinklers, is that it’s very difficult to determine how much water is “the right amount”. Oyas take the guesswork out. They let the plants and soil decide how much water to draw. All you have to do is refill them when the water level gets low.

Oyas hold moisture down where it’s actually needed, below the surface. Their porous material slowly distributes water to the roots of your plants. They are attractive and easy to install and have a low-tech, minimalist, plastic-free appeal that I really appreciate. Most impressively, by minimizing evaporation, they can reduce actual water usage by up to 70% over surface irrigation.

Oyas are an effective, ecologically sound way to irrigate your garden. Learn how I use them.
“Planting” my Oyas.

As our climate changes, the likelihood is that dry summers like the one we just had will become a lot more common. The weather has now turned to usual fall fare, but it’s important to take water into account as we design our 2016 gardens. After getting to know the Oya system, here’s what I recommend:

  • Use the Oya sizing chart to determine your needs. I planted three medium-sized Oyas in a three foot by ten foot raised bed.
  • Grow Oya-friendly plants with fibrous roots, like tomatoes and kale. Carrots and other taproot crops don’t work quite as well with this system.
  • Lettuce and other small greens are also a good choice for Oyas (that’s what I used in my trial), but they will also need supplemental overhead watering every couple of days.
  • Oyas aren’t designed to germinate seeds. Newly sown seeds and recent transplants will need regular sprinkling until their root systems are robust.
  • Instead of planting in straight lines, think in terms of circular plantings radiating out from your Oyas.
  • For maximum water savings, try combining your Oyas with mulch.
  • Be sure to remove your Oyas before the first frost sets in – otherwise, they could crack. Clean them up and store them in a relatively warm place.
  • If Oyas are out of your price range or not available where you live, there are lots of DIY instructions for making your own clay pot irrigation systems.

Like the idea of using Oyas in your garden? Shop for your Oyas here and use the code AbundantCity at checkout for a 15% discount.

Note: I was given free product in the course of writing this post and will receive a commission for Oyas purchased with the AbundantCity discount code.

Oyas are an effective, ecologically sound way to irrigate your garden. Learn how I use them.
Oyas in our garden.
Oyas are an effective, ecologically sound way to irrigate your garden. Learn how I use them.

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