Planting Garlic

Garlic is one of the great things that you can plant in October in Santa Fe.  The colder climates can have garlic growing over the winter.  Most people plant after the first frost, which is usually October 10 in northern New Mexico.  Plant by Halloween as an easy date to remember and you will harvest by the Fourth of July.

What is garlic?

Garlic is in the Alium Family that also includes onions, shallots and leeks.  It reproduces from itself so find a garlic that you enjoy.  You can also plant shallots and onion sets in the fall.  Local nurseries will have these dried items to start.

Why the plant in the fall?

Garlic is hard to start in warm weather.  It does not compete well with weeds so fall is a better time to plant once it freezes and weeds are gone.  The taste is also improved with the cold winter and the hot summer before it is harvested in July.


The seed is a clove of garlic.  This can be from a head of garlic.  Be careful where you buy the head of garlic.  I have seen a statistic that 75% of garlic is imported and will be a soft neck variety with mild flavor.  I love garlic and want to plant some interesting varieties.  There are two main types of garlic, hard neck and soft neck.

Hard Neck Garlic- Large cloves, fewer on each head

Soft Neck Garlic- Smaller cloves, more on each head and has a longer storage life

Purchase your garlic from a trusted grower that either uses organic methods or a no-chemical approach like biodynamic farming.  You can also purchase seed garlic from a nursery that has picked the larger cloves of garlic to produce a larger yeild.  Check with your favorite nursery to get local garlic.  In Santa Fe, Plants of the Southwest has a wide variety of different hard neck and soft neck garlic.

Where to Plant?

  • The space will be planted until July, so make sure that you can provide that much space in your garden.  You will not be able to plant spring crops there.
  • The cloves will be 6″ apart.  Measure the space with your hand spread out to estimate.
  • Companion Plants- cabbage, beets, lettuce (deters aphids) and squash (may deter squash bugs)
  • Not Companion Plants- Beans, peas and potatoes
Garlic needs well-drained soil.  Till it with a broad fork or garden fork.  Add compost at a higher rate than for the warm weather vegetables.
Plant the largest cloves of the head of garlic.  If you purchased seed garlic, they all should be large enough to plant.  The clove faces up at a depth of at least 2″.  Water your garlic until the ground freezes around mid-December in Northern New Mexico.
Once the ground freezes in mid-December, cover your garlic bed with 4″-6″ of straw.
When the top leaves are drooping and brown it is time to harvest the garlic.  The Fourth of July is a good date for your harvesting calendar.

8 responses to “Planting Garlic

  1. I planted garlic from the grocery store last fall. it produced well but I did get lots of little cloves per head. I didn’t know about soft vs hard necked varieties and wouldn’t have thought to go to Plants of the Southwest. Thanks for an information packed post.


    • It will also open a whole new world of flavor. The varieties of garlic all have different tastes. They also have descriptions to read so be prepared for a longer shopping day. Let us know how it turns out on the blog next July.


  2. I see that you stop watering around December. Do you start watering again in the spring?


  3. Can I still plant garlic in February? If so, about when would I expect to harvest?


    • Vickie,
      Do you live in Santa Fe or a warmer climate? If your ground is not frozen and you live in a warmer climate, you could plant garlic in February, but I am not sure when to harvest. I would contact your county extension office or the Master Gardeners in your area to learn. I know in New Mexico we plant in October to have softer ground and have the garlic begin to grow before the winter. Once the ground is frozen, the garlic will wait until spring to begin growing again. Let me know if you have additional questions.


  4. I’ve mis-planted some garlic this past early May, alongside some cherry tomatoes in my small (60 sq feet) “kitchen garden” in Ojo Caliente. I’ve since learned that the more logical planting is “soon before Halloween; and harvest soon after July 4th” I’ve been watering sufficient to keep the tomatoes thriving; and the common flow also waters the garlic. The garlic (above ground) seems very healthy. So what makes sense now?

    (1) Do I trash the current garlic and prepare for “Proper planting” this October with fresh newly-purchased cloves??

    (2) Do I “harvest” the apparently healthy garlic now; dry it in the sun until October; and then replant the prepared harvested cloves at the “proper time” this late October?

    (3) Do I leave this apparently healthy garlic in the ground; and harvest it next July?

    All observations and suggestions are appreciated.


    • Mosca,
      In a small garden, I would try to harvest your garlic next month to see what has grown. The reason that we plant in the fall is for the cold winter weather. Your garlic may have grown well and will just be smaller. We have a garlic planting class at Milagro Community Garden on Saturday, Sept 15 at 10am if you want to come and see us plant for the fall. I normally plant by Halloween so you still have time. Let me know how it turns out with your garlic.

      Amy Hetager
      Home Grown New Mexico


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