Install Instructions: Hand-fill a bucket to fill cotta cups

 Tools you'll need:

  • Gloves (recommended but not required)
  • Something to cut 1/4" tubing with: heavy duty scissors, pruning shears, combination pliers etc.
  • Trowel - hand shovel
  • Spade



Step 1: Attach to your water source

 (Hand-fill a 5-gal bucket with hose)

Place your included 5 gallon bucket at the edge of the bed, level with the soil or up to 6" above it if placed on the bed's lip. Face the 1/4" push-to-connect (PTC) fitting at the bottom of the bucket towards your growing area.
  • Cut a short length of 1/4" tubing (approx 3") and plug that into the 1/4" PTC bulkhead. On the remaining exposed end, plug the 1/4" tubing into the provided push-to-connect shut off.

  • From the 1/4" PTC shut off, plumb your bed according to your selected layout.

  • Set your 1/4" PTC shut off to the off setting.

  • Fill the bucket by hand using a garden hose.

layout example garden watering system

Step 2: Install your Cotta Cups

Your Thirsty Earth Cotta Cups come ready to be put into the ground. Our auger drill attachment makes this even simpler as the hole it drills perfectly fits the cup.

 But you can use a trowel, no problem.

  • Dig a hole deep enough so that the rim of the terra cotta part of the cup is level with the soil. Place the cup, then fill in the hole around it with the soil you just dug. The soil level should come up to the seam between the plastic lid and terra cotta cup, showing no more than a sliver of terra cotta if any. 

  • There will be a short length of 1/4" tubing sticking out of the center of the cap. Install the appropriate 1/4" push-to-connect (PTC) fitting.
  • Be sure to cut tubing with sharp scissors, shears, box cutter or razor knife. Cut quick for a straight cut. Cutting with a sharp box cutter or razor knife and cutting board gets the cleanest cut. The cut needs to be smooth, round, and flat. If it is jagged, pinched out of round, or slanted, that will cause a leak. And make sure to press down firmly to fully seat the tubing within the fitting in order to prevent leaks. 

  • Each cup takes a 3 way T fitting on top of it, except the cups that end each row. The bottom/center of the T faces downward to plug into the Cotta Cup. The cup that ends a row takes a 90* elbow. The number of rows depends on which bed layout you've selected for your kit.
  • To air purge the lines, remove the drainage screw from the top of each cup with a phillips head screwdriver and turn your water on at the reservoir. Water flowing from the drainage hole indicates the olla cup is full.
  • When all the cups are full, turn off your 1/4" PTC shut/off, replace the screws, and turn it on again. Water will now seep through the walls of the cups and into your soil. It may take up to a full week before the water plumes expand to their full diameter and are ready for planting.
  • Plant!


Layout and planting tips:

Here's some tips and tricks for how to lay out your garden. Our spacing is based on square foot gardening with a twist. Cotta Cups emit approximately 1.5' - 2' water plumes in ideal loamy soils.

Utilizing a grid layout like this (Diagram 1 overhead 4'x8' with 1.5' spacing) will get excellent coverage. While your bed size may vary, this is the general way to go about it. Adjust as needed.

For even higher efficiency when growing in temperate regions with ideal soils, 2' spacing is possible. If you have clay or sandy soils, the water plume may not reach as far as in ideal loam and so you may benefit from a denser layout with cups placed every square foot. The layouts we've provided are the most universal we could offer. They're generic and they work.

Depending on how you intend to plant your garden you might want to make a few adjustments. Planting around the cotta cup should be done within a 12" diameter in order to establish a robust and healthy root system with easy access to the water. The closer the better.

This holds especially true for directly sowing seeds into the soil. If you were to plant a squash or tomato, you might want to place one cotta cup in a 4 square foot space. The mature plant's foliage will cover that space, while the roots draw water directly from the cup.

Thirsty Earth Cotta Cups are engineered to deliver precise amounts of water to meet each plant's needs.

If you are planting higher density plants such as carrots, raddish, or lettuce, you may wish to move your cups closer together for maximum coverage. You might even purchase additional cups and fittings to supplement your kit. Follow square foot gardening guidelines for recommendations on how to space each plant.