If you want to know how to grow chives, you will be pleased to know that they are easy to plant and to harvest, and growing them poses few problems. There are two species, chives, and garlic chives, the latter is sometimes known as Chinese chives or Chinese leeks. The cultivation rules are the same for both.
Chives (which we rated one of our 5 best herbs) are perennials, which means that they die back in fall and regrow in spring. They are classed as herbs, and so need a moist, but well-drained soil well-endowed with hummus. Herbs dislike heavy clay soils, so you are best with a good loam. Ideally, the soil would be well-tilled and have a good crumb structure. Choose a situation in full sun and keep them well-watered.
Chives are tough guys, and so they will grow in less than optimal conditions, such as in a dry garden. They will grow in the ground, in raised beds or containers, and they do not need great depth of soil.
You can begin by planting chive seeds. You can do this in early to mid spring, but reliable germination requires a temperature of 18°C (64°F) Plant the seeds in plugs, which are small modules, and plant out the seedlings in groups of three so as to allow for failure in one. Planting seeds in the soil, which can be too cool, is not always reliable.
Alternatively, you can purchase plants from a nursery or garden centre and plant them out in April or May, depending on your climate zone. Using a trowel, create a hole and place the chives in up to the top of the root. Refill the hole and firm in the plant. Next give an initial watering, keep them well-watered, though not over-watered.
A third way is propagation by division. Dig up a clump of chives and using your hands tear the root clump apart into two pieces. You do the plant no harm in doing this, and it will gain refreshed vigour. Replant both halves in different places. You need to do this every three years with a chive plant.
Cultivation is quite simple. Keep them well-watered, which means not letting the soil dry out. A bed of chives can be given a top dressing of a balanced fertiliser. Any fertiliser suitable for onions will suit chives, as chives and onions are related.
Keeping chives weed free is essential. Large weeds such as dock and nettles will shade them out. Bindweed (convolvulus) will twine around them and be difficult to get out. Grass, also, can get mixed up with the chives and extracting it is not easy.
Pests are not a significant problem with chives, except occasional thrips, an insect pest which can be brushed or gently shaken off. Combined with sticky traps, this technique works well. Insecticidal soap kills them.
Any part of the chive growing above ground is edible. Harvest the green stems by cutting the chives with sharp scissors. The flowers, purple for chives, white for garlic chives, can be snipped off and used in salads. Some people use the flower buds in salads.
Considerations for Chives
There is excellent flexibility in chive growing, for you can grow them in a pot on the window sill or as a full sized bed in a garden. They are an important element in a herb garden, in which the fact that they are perennials means that you do not need to plant the bed anew every year. They would be a significant element in a permaculture garden, which is based on perennial vegetables rather than on annuals, which have to be replanted yearly.
Furthermore, the purple flower heads make chives attractive as an ornamental, where they are or can be contributory to a flower bed along with a range of other plants.
Chives have a role in companion planting. They’re good to plant near carrots, as their scent deters the troublesome carrot root fly. This makes chives great for an organic garden, which deters pests by using their natural enemies rather than artificial, chemically based fertilizers.
Hopefully you’ve found this post useful, and now know how to grow chives. Don’t forget to share it with your friends!
- The Complete Herb Garden, John Stevens, The Readers’ Digest,1996
- The Ultimate Book of Herbs, Deni Brown, The Reader’ Digest, 2009