Chives are an easy to grow herb that will come back year after year. Once you get chives started, you won’t have to do much to keep them around. They can even be divided and transplanted for additional chives in your garden. Check out this great guide for planting, growing and harvesting chives in your garden.
How to Plant and Grow Chives
Chives are perennial herbs that are part of the allium family, with grass like leaves and bright, beautiful purple flowers. These low maintenance plants are used in the kitchen, similarly to green onions, giving an onion like flavor both raw and cooked. Some species even have a garlic-like taste.
Types of Chives
There are many types of chives and you can choose which plants works best for you before planting.
- Common Chives – These are the traditional chives that have the purple flowers and the onion flavor; Although there are more color varieties in the flowers. Common chives are great for cold and hardy climates.
- Garlic Chives – These chives have a broader leaf to them and offer an onion like flavor. These include: Nira, Chinese Chives, and Lions Mane. They have white flowers and are commonly used on baked potatoes.
- Siberian Chives – Also known as blue chives, these less common chives have large, broad leaves with a blue/green color to them. The flowers on siberian chives are pale pink. They taste similarly to common chives but are a bit harder to find.
How to Plant Chives
Chives are considered a cold weather crop and do well in both spring and fall. In some areas, winter may be the best time to grow them. Warmer weather will cause them to go dormant until it gets cool again.
These perennial herbs can be planted in gardening zone 3-10, and like to have a pH of 6.0-7.0. Plant your chives in a sunny spot, although they can tolerate partial shade.
Loamy, well drained soil will give them the best chance for success. When planting outdoors, be sure that your soil is fertile. Organic compost is a great option for adding nutrients to your soil. You can also add additional soil amendments to ensure the soil is healthy for planting.
Growing Chives from Seeds
If you are in a cold area, and have decided to grow from seed, be sure to give your chives a head start by starting your seeds indoors. Chives should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost for the best success.
Transplant your seedlings outdoors after the last frost has passed. Be sure to harden off your seedlings before transplanting. Plants should be planted 4-6 inches apart.
If you are directly sowing seeds into the soil, this should be done as soon as your soil becomes workable in the spring. The germination on chive seeds can be up to 14 days, so be patient with your chive seeds. The soil temperature needs to be between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Caring for Chive Plants
Well established chive plants need little to thrive. Although they tolerate drought conditions well, consistent watering will allow them to grow and produce so that you can harvest more.
Young plants and seedlings need consistent water in order to grow to maturity. Keep soil moist but well drained for the best, about 1 inch of water a week.
Chives grow small bulbs at the base of the plant, keep your chives mulched to protect the bulbs from the sun and to retain moisture in the soil.
These herbs benefit from a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the spring or early summer. This is necessary if your plants are established and need additional soil amendments to thrive.
Once these plants are 3-4 years old, they should be divided. Chives tend to be healthier and produce more when they are divided at full maturity. Separate the divided portion into the small bulbs and plant once again, 4-6 inches apart in a new location.
Trim the flowers once they have bloomed. Flowers are edible and can be added to salads. This also prevents the chive from going to seed, preventing the herb from spreading to too large of an area.
Companion Planting with Chives
Chives are a great addition to your garden and have a number of plants that benefit from being planted near them. The best plants to plant with chives include: tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, celery, cabbage and strawberries. Chives have strong odor and do a great job repelling aphids and Japanese beetles.
Don’t plant your chives next to peas and beans.
Pests and Diseases
Chives are extremely hardy and don’t suffer from too many pests or problems.
Some of the diseases chives suffer from include: bulb rot, white rot, mildew, rust, smut and fungal leaf spots. Most of these issues can be resolved by allowing air circulation and not overwatering. As soon as any of these issues arise, remove and dispose of any affected leaves.
Some of the pests chives summer from include: onion flies and thrips. Keep these away by sprinkling diatomaceous earth to on the soil in your garden bed.
Harvesting and Storing Chive Plants
Chives can be harvested at any time, but make sure that the plant is well established before you begin harvesting. Usually, it’s important to wait until at least 60 days from growth the first year and then every month of growth in subsequent years.
Cut the herb at the base of the plant, leaving about an inch or two of growth near the soil. The plant should flower all season long and the flowers are edible too.
This herb can be used as needed and clipped to add as a garnish or cooked into a meal. For larger harvests, you can freeze herbs for later use. Or use a dehydrator to dry out the chives and use them later. Dried chives lose a lot of their flavor however.
Planting and growing chives and other herbs are a great way to provide your own food for your family. Chives are a great option before they are so easy to grow, and the flowers attract pollinators to the garden.
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