Winter 2017 Mercantile: Ollas, Seed Storage Solutions, and More
See what our editors are excited about in gardening supplies, from water-saving ollas to seed packet storage and sturdy row cover hoops.
By the Heirloom Gardener Editors
Photo courtesy GrowOya
Whether you live in an arid climate, have limited access to water, or simply want to conserve a precious resource, GrowOya’s assorted ollas (pronounced “oy-yahs”) may be the solution you’ve been looking for. Ollas are terra-cotta vessels that provide an efficient form of plant irrigation that’s been in practice since ancient times. You simply bury the olla up to its neck in the ground, and then fill it with water. The porous terra cotta allows the water inside the vessel to seep out slowly to water your plants at the roots.
Because ollas don’t provide the necessary surface water for seeds to germinate, fewer weeds have the opportunity to sprout. And because you’ll only need to refill your ollas about once a week, you can hit the road for a while without worrying about whether your plants are getting enough water.
GrowOya offers three sizes of olla: small, medium, and large. The small olla works best for planters; the medium olla works well for small raised beds; and the large olla is for bigger garden beds and will water a space up to 4 feet in diameter.
$24.95 to $39.95 from GrowOya.
Photo courtesy Greenhouse Buckets
A mobile way to protect seedlings and sensitive plants, Greenhouse Buckets are clear, 5-gallon containers that shield individual vegetables from late frosts, low temperatures, wind, and insects. Easy to stack and store, the buckets, made with a UV-stabilized translucent material, have a 14-inch-diameter base and are 14 inches tall. On sunny days, the internal temperature of the bucket is 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit higher than its surroundings. A vent ring on the top of the bucket can be adjusted to help regulate the temperature and humidity.
Editor Rebecca Martin appreciates the convenience and mobility of these U.S.-made cloches.
$35.97 for three buckets from Greenhouse Buckets.
Photo Courtesy Storey Publishing
Gardening with Less Water by David A. Bainbridge offers simple, inexpensive, low-tech approaches for watering your garden much more efficiently — using up to 90 percent less water for the same results. With illustrated step-by-step instructions, this resource shows you how to make and install various buried clay pot and pipe systems, wicking systems, and other porous containers that deliver water directly to a plant’s roots with little to no evaporation. These systems are available at or can be made with materials found at hardware stores and garden centers; are easy to set up and use; and work for garden beds, container gardens, and trees.
Photo Courtesy Grow Organic
Is your garden better organized than your seed packets? Here’s a handy way to store your seeds so you can find exactly what you need to start growing on the first warm day of spring. Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply’s basic seed packet storage kit includes a 5-inch-wide by 5-inch-high plastic box with locking handles, which will accommodate most standard seed packets. The kit also comes with 32 laminated index cards to help organize your seeds; each card is printed with a type of plant and helpful growing instructions.
“Before I received this kit, my seeds were jumbled up in a paper bag on the floor of a closet,” says editor Rebecca Martin. “Now, the packets are organized by the pre-labeled glossy index cards. The small plastic box is easily stored in the refrigerator to keep my seeds in the proper cool, dry environment year-round.”
$19.99 from Grow Organic.
Photo Courtesy Gardeners.com
If you like to garden beyond the traditional growing season (that is, summer), you understand the value of row covers. Harvesting from your garden in, say, December is so satisfying when the rest of your gardening neighbors are only dreaming of getting their fingers dirty in April.
But venturing out to the garden after a windstorm or wet snow to find that the hoops supporting your protective row cover have collapsed onto the crops below is terribly disappointing. Happily, the folks at Gardener’s Supply Company have come up with a solution: flop-proof Super Hoops.
Each Super Hoop is made of two lengths of powder-coated flexible steel wire joined by cross braces and has two legs to push into the ground, so there’s no flopping or dropping. Plus, row cover lies perfectly flat on top of the paired wires, which is helpful in windy climates.
“I use Super Hoops in my Zone 6a garden year-round,” says editor Rebecca Martin. “In winter, the hoops support heavy plastic to keep in-ground carrots and greens from freezing. In spring and fall, they hold up row cover to provide light frost protection and, especially in fall, keep out grasshoppers. In summer, I use my hoops to suspend bird netting over blackberry canes and shade cloth above sun-sensitive transplants. They’re easy to move around wherever they’re needed, and also easy to store — just bend the wires straight and stack them.”
In a 3-foot-wide garden bed, they’ll provide 14 inches of headroom for new plantings and low-growing crops. You can stick them into the ground about every 2 feet for optimal row-cover support.
Worried about taller crops, such as kale and chard? Try the Hi-Rise Super Hoops for three times more headroom.
$22.95 for a set of 6 from Gardeners.com.
Is there a garden or kitchen product you can’t live without? Tell us about it! Email a short description to Letters@HeirloomGardener.com, and you may see your top tool featured in an upcoming issue.