Amigatech and Tk,
And just for clarification: garlic seeds
are the individual cloves of garlic. Each clove will grow into a bulb (with multiple cloves) in one year (fall in '06 to late summer '07 for example). Now most garlic will produce a scape or garlic flower
. As the garlic matures, baby garlic will appear at the top of the scape. If you plant
these bublets (as I like to call them), the first year will yield a garlic ball, and 2nd year will produce a bulb with multiple cloves. It takes time, but you can really increase your garlic crop without spending a lot of money. The bublets are edible, so I just use them as fresh garlic since you can pick them before the bulb is ready to be dug up.
As far as garlic "seed
stock" goes, if you order from a catalog, they will always ship in the fall since garlic is harvested in the late summer time frame, cured and then planted in the mid to late fall. I like to plant
mine in October. If you have a farmer's market, they will probably have fresh garlic in the fall, and its the perfect place to pick up some flavorful garlic for your garden.
To help you pick here are some very basic descriptions:
Hard neck varieties are easier to peel, very strong flavored, but don't keep well (up to 6 months depending on variety.)
Soft neck varieties are what you make those garlic braids out of. Their flavor isn't as rich as hard neck varieties, but they still have a place because they will keep for up to a year. They are also hard to peel.
What you typically buy in the grocery store is a variety of soft neck known as silverskin. So you can grow the garlic you buy in the store, and like I said in a previous post, it's a cheap way to learn how to grow garlic, as speciality garlic is much more expensive.