A Special Clay Pot Helps Tree Seedlings Survive

Crop production


If you have tried to grow trees in dry areas you know how difficult it can be. Water poured onto plants disappears quickly into the soil or evaporates before the roots are able to use it. Here are two ideas to help young trees survive in dry lands.

An idea from India: jaltripti clay pot The jaltripti pot is a special clay pot that collects and holds water and then gradually releases it around the tree. The jaltripti pot is really two pots put together one small clay pot put inside and attached to the bottom of a larger clay pot. Both pots come up to the same height. A hole is cut through the bottoms of both pots in the centre to let the roots through, but water will collect in the ring around the outside edge between the two pots.

Place the jaltripti in a hole in the ground so that the top of the pot is level with the soil surface. Put soil mixed with compost in the inner clay pot. Add some dry manure or compost as fertilizer. Do not use fresh manure because it can burn the seedling roots. Place a tree seedling in the soil in the inner pot. You can also plant a seed or cutting, but a seedling will probably grow best. Eventually the roots will push down into the soil below the clay pot.

Now pour water into the outer pot. This outer pot has a bottom so it holds the water for the seedling. Add water to this outside pot each day. Rainwater will also collect in the pot. The water will move slowly from the outside pot to the soil in the inside pot. This way the tree roots will not become waterlogged and die.

Gather some leaves and place them around the top of the jaltripti pot. This helps to prevent the water in the outside pot from evaporating.

To make your own jaltripti, mould two flat bottom pots out of clay. It is important to use clay because water can easily move through the tiny holes, also called pores, in clay. The top of the smaller pot should be at the same height as the larger pot but half the distance across. The diameter of the outer pot should be 25 cm at the top and 18 cm at the base. The inner pot diameter is 15 cm at the top and 12 cm at the base. When the clay is almost dry on both pots, break out the bottom of the smaller pot and, using moist clay, attach this smaller inside pot to the bottom of the larger pot. Then break a hole in the bottom of the larger that is the same size as the bottom of the small pot. Smooth out the wet clay to seal the bottoms of the two pots together. Let the jaltripti pot dry completely. The jaltripti pot works best if you make the outside wall watertight to force all the water in towards the tree and not through the outside wall. You can use paint, cement, or local mixtures made from sap or rubber to make the outside watertight.

You may need to practice making the jaltripti pots. But the results of using these clay pots to help trees grow are very worthwhile!

Another idea If you haven’t got time to make a jaltripti pot try this easy idea.

After you plant your tree seedling, push the end of a hollow piece of wood or bamboo into the soil, near the seedling. Then pour water directly into the top of the bamboo. Rainwater will also collect in the piece of bamboo. The water will seep into the soil close to the roots of the seedling. After pouring water into the bamboo, cover its top with a leaf or some grass so that water cannot evaporate into the air.

These ideas can help you to grow trees even in dry areas.


This script was prepared by Helen Hambly Odame, an agroforestry researcher working in Kenya. It was edited by Bob Morikawa, agroforestry consultant, Toronto, Canada, and Jon Eakes, Interface Productions, Montreal, Canada.

Information sources

“Double walled pots boost tree establishment in arid regions” Spore, Issue No. 25, February 1990, (page 10). CTA, Postbus 380, 6700 AJ Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Regional Station, Bikaner 334002, India.

“Neem plantation in desert through jaltripti”, Notes and Comments, June 1991. Agrimissio, c/o I.C.R.A., Palazzo San Calisto, 00120 Vatican City, Rome, Italy.