Chives are one of the most versatile plants out there. Beautiful as well as functional, they are a low maintenance option for all gardeners. The bright, green leaves of these hardy perennial herbs are a sure sign that spring is coming. You may know how to grow many plants in your garden, like broccoli, runner beans, spring onions or even sweet potatoes. But do you know how to grow chives?
Not only the leaves but the flowers of this plant are edible as well. You can add the chive flowers to any salad as a tasty, stunning garnish. If you don’t plan on eating the flowers, you can create attractive flower arrangements out of them. Upgrade your herb garden and make room for chives – trust us, you won’t regret it. Read on to find out how to grow these plants in your garden successfully.
Table of Contents
The most common types of chives to grow
There are two species that are commonly grown by people in their home gardens.
- Common Chives – Botanical Name: Allium Schoenoprasum
- Garlic Chives – Botanical Name: Allium Tuberosum
This species consists of clumps of tiny, slender bulbs. It produces tubular, thin, blue-green leaves that reach about 25-40cm in height. The flowers are edible and may be red, pink, white flowers or purple flowers. They are strong and hardy plants and can bear harsh conditions.
This kind is also known as Chinese chives. They look similar to the chives. However, their leaves are relatively flat and greener. Plus, the leaves grow about 50cm in height.
As the name suggests, the leaves of these plants have a slight garlic flavour, but the bulbs have a stronger and more intense flavour. They are not as hardy as the common chives. Among other chives, varieties are the Staroand Fine Leaved (mild onion flavour) and Forescate (mild garlic flavour with pale, pink flowers).
Sowing chives the right way
When it comes to planting these plants, you can’t simply throw some seeds in the ground and expect them to grow up perfectly. Let’s see how you can sow them the right way.
Chives are a cool-season crop. This means that they grow well in the fall and spring. In harsh summers, they go dormant and wait for cool weather to arrive again. In colder regions, if you are planting the seeds indoors, you should start about 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last frost.
If you are going to sow seeds outdoors, wait till the soil is workable in the spring. The seeds can take a couple of weeks to germinate so you shouldn’t panic.
Preparing the Planting Area
They grow best in direct sunlight and can grow well in partial shade as well. Before you plant, add 10-15cm of compost to the soil and mix it well. The soil needs to be well-draining, rich, fertile, and moist.
Sowing & Planting Chives
Sow the seeds at a distance of 5cm from each other. Make sure that you don’t sow them deeper than 1cm. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost-rich soil. Once the seedlings start to emerge, root them out till the plants are spaced about 10-15cm apart from each other to ensure optimal growth.
If you are sowing the plant indoors, you can do so from March to June in pots that are filled with compost. Keep the seeds covered with compost and keep the soil moist.
How to care for your chives
Chives are hardy, tough plants that adapt to most weather conditions. Once the plants are fully grown, they require minimal maintenance. However, to ensure that your plants remain healthy and productive, you have to take care of the following things.
Chives grow well in full sun. Therefore, if possible, select a place where the plant will receive at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. You can grow them in partial sunlight as well if direct sunlight isn’t an option.
When it comes to soil, well-draining, fertile soil is the best option. To encourage excellent plant growth, keep adding organic compost. If you are growing the chives in a pot or container, you should use potting soil for better drainage. If you use 100% compost or topsoil for container plantings, it will result in weak plants due to poor drainage.
You need to use organic, all-natural fertilizer. It is better if you add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil before you plant the seed and then add fertilizer over the soil after planting
Watering plants the right way is always important. Water the seeds often until they are well established. For better yield, keep watering your plants regularly, particularly during hot summer months. Once established, the plants will survive easily even in dry soil.
If the leaf tips are getting brown and papery, it means that the plant is drying out and you need to add more water.
Mulch with organic matter such as pine straw, wood chips, or compost, helps to suppress weeds, add nutrients to the soil, and retain moisture.
All you need to know about harvesting and storing
When to Harvest Chives
Monitor the plant growth. Almost 5 weeks after transplanting, the chives should be at least 15cm tall. If this is the case, you can continuously harvest fresh, green, new leaves till fall from early spring.
We recommend that you harvest the leaves early in the morning before the sun dehydrates them. Once your plants are about a year old, you can harvest them regularly. Stop harvesting almost 3 weeks before the tentative first frost date so that the chives can flower and the clump can expand.
How to Harvest Chives
Use scissors or a garden knife to snip the leaves, cutting the outer leaves first. Cut the leaves as close to the base of the plant as possible. The more regularly you cut the leaves, the more new growth you will see as a result.
Leave almost 5cm of the leaf blade so that the leaves can regrow. Make sure that you leave some top growth to preserve the small bulbs and to keep them strong. Chives usually flower in early summer or late spring. The flowers taste the best right after they bloom.
Chives are best if you use them as soon as you pick them. You can definitely store them by refrigerating, freezing, or drying but the chives will lose some flavour.
You can refrigerate them for up to 7 days. Wash the leaves and wrap the base in a wet paper towel. Place them in a plastic bag and twist the top before you store them in the refrigerator.
You can freeze chopped their leaves. Cut the fresh leaves into small pieces and place them into plastic bags before freezing them.
For drying the leaves, simply set the leaves in a warm, sunny spot that has plenty of air circulation. Once the leaves dry up, you can store them in airtight containers. However, you should know that dried chives lose their flavour a bit.
Common pests and diseases
Chives are one of those culinary herbs that are generally pest-free. However, some pests may attack your plants. Let’s learn a bit more about this.
Usually, onion thrips can attack your plants if they are growing in an area near loads of onions. However, if you water the plants regularly, the thrips will not bother the plants.
Keep an eye out for colonies of these insects on the tips of plants or the leaves. Aphids will suck the plant sap and excrete sticky honeydew. They encourage the growth of black moulds. You can squash the insects colonies with your fingers or can use a natural pesticide.
Similarly, chives don’t suffer from major diseases as well. However, in areas with high humidity, and if the plants are crowded, fungal diseases can occur such as bulb rots (soil-borne fungi), white rot, fungal leaf spots, smut, mildew, rust, etc.
This fungal disease causes bright, yellow spots on the chive leaves. This disease gets worse if there are long, wet spells. In case of a mild attack, the plant will not be harmed. However, in case of serious infections, the leaves will start to shrivel and the yield will be affected.
Ensure that the plants are not crowded since this will increase the likelihood of fungal infection. Get rid of any badly infected plant immediately.
Chives are easy-to-grow plants that are not only beautiful but can also be used in various recipes. So what’s keeping you from growing this versatile, alluring plant in your vegetable garden? Follow the easy DIY steps that we have mentioned above and you will be on your way to growing chives in your home garden.
Happy Gardening, Folks!