October in the Desert: It's Garlic Planting Time

Autumn 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 www.grow-cook-eat-beans.com and learn how one of our favorite “bean friends” fares here at the Bear Cave.

Published on Oct 12, 2011

Grit Magazine

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