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October in the Desert: It's Garlic Planting Time

Dave L HeadshotAutumn is here in the desert and it’s time to plant garlic again. We’re closing the windows on our straw bale house to keep warmth in rather than encouraging those cool summer evening breezes in the high desert. This is the time of year for hot and zesty meals and the time of year that garlic really comes into its own here at the Bear Cave, for cooking and for planting next year’s crop of tasty and healthy bulbs.

            Garlicky Beans in Slow Cooker

Garlic and onion added to slow cooked pinto beans is a staple here. Spicy bean burros for lunch can happen pretty regularly and make me a happy guy.  Adding garlic to stir fry, marinara sauce made from our garden produce, and salad dressings are just a few of the many ways we enjoy our garlic. Because we use garlic nearly every day, certainly every week, we keep a good supply on hand and make sure we plant and preserve enough to carry through the year. Apart from our belief that garlic contributes to good health, we know it contributes to good eating.

     Hanging Garlic

To ensure we have a plentiful supply of garlic, we always overplant. Last year, we went a bit too far overboard and planted 120 cloves of four varieties. Our garlic loving neighbors thank us on a regular basis. This year, we chose the best three of the four varieties and are planting 90 cloves. Should be more than enough for our use and sharing with friends and neighbors.

     Digging in Compost

Preparing the bed for garlic planting is pretty straightforward. We spread strained compost over a new bed. We like to rotate beds for planting all our varieties. In this case, we are putting our garlic in last season’s green bean bed.

Recently, there have been larger numbers of earthworms evident in our garden beds. YEA!  To keep from damaging even one of those welcome little critters so rare in the desert, we quit using a tiller and turn our compost in with a spading fork.

     Garlic Bulbs

When the bed is prepared, the best of last season’s crop is selected for replanting. Only the largest and healthiest bulbs are chosen.

       Separating Garlic Bulbs

Bulbs are separated into cloves until we have 90 of each kind. Care is taken to leave the skin on the cloves intact as they are separated from the bulb.

      Planting Garlic

Barbara lays out the bed for planting by running masonry string down the middle and laying out a steel measuring tape between the about-to-be-planted rows. She plants our garlic in rows by variety with one row in the center, on the masonry string and the outlying rows midway to the edge of the bed. The cloves are planted 2” deep and 6” apart in the row with 12” between rows.

     Frozen Garlic

In addition to hanging our garlic for preservation, as shown earlier, we also freeze sacks of prepeeled garlic cloves. That’s it, just peel the cloves, put them in freezer bags, and they are ready to add zest to your cooking all year long.  For more on planting garlic in the desert, please visit us at and learn how one of our favorite “bean friends” fares here at the Bear Cave.

8/16/2015 5:37:51 AM

It's interesting to note, that Barbara recommends covering the garlic with a thick mulch to protect from frost and snow. As I'm sure I read somewhere that garlic needs a six week period of frost in order to activate the growing.

dave larson
10/14/2011 9:04:45 PM

Hi N Dave, Barbara suggests that planting your garlic in the next week or so and then, before heavy freeze and snow and all those wintery kinds of things happen, to put on some pretty heavy mulch on them until spring. Good luck with it. We sure love our garlic here and enjoy sharing it with friends and neighbors. Have a great autumn. Bye the way, are you in the sandhill crane migration route. We get the cranes that stop over in Nebraska down here for wintering. They are with us from about now (saw a flock yesterday) through the end of Feb and into March, depending on the season. Enjoy the fall in Nebraska.

nebraska dave
10/14/2011 3:08:11 PM

Dave, I like garlic and do cook with garlic powder but have never tried to raise garlic. My history with raising onions has been anything but successful so I haven't moved on to the garlic phase yet. Maybe garlic would be easier as I've hear they are to be planted in the fall in my area of the country. It don't think that garlic is plagued by any bugs or animal damage. Have a great garlic day in the garden.