There are a lot of reasons to plant chives in your garden. Chives are easy to cut so you can have instant access to this flavorful herb and they are a hardy perennial that will keep growing in your garden. To find out when to plant chives and how to grow them, keep reading.
When to plant chives: In order to get a decent first harvest, you should plant your chives in early spring. They prefer cool weather and will be ready to harvest in both early summer and if you live in the right climate, mid-fall. Chives like sunlight and moist soil and if your summers are too hot, you will need to plant them in dappled shade to protect them from the hot afternoon sun.
Planting Chives in Different Climates
Chives will not do well in a tropical climate. They prefer cooler weather and while they like full sun, they don’t want constant heat. The humidity of a tropical climate won’t allow your chives to grow as they want to.
Chives are a cool-weather crop and prefer moist soil. While they are susceptible to root rot, they don’t do well in a dry climate as you will need to be constantly watering them for the plant to grow.
A temperate climate is perfect for chives. The natural precipitation in the spring and fall will allow your chives to grow and the warmth of the summer will help the chives and their flowers bloom.
You will also have a longer harvest period as the spring will stay cooler and the summer won’t be stifling hot.
While chives can definitely grow in a continental climate, you should expect a shorter growing period. Summers can turn hot fast, so be sure to harvest your chives before the weather heats up and pushes the plant into dormancy.
Even though chives prefer cooler weather, it might be too cold in a polar climate. However, if you have a chive plant on your balcony, you can leave it outside in the summer and bring it indoors during the cold winters, which won’t survive.
Choosing Chive Seeds
Chives are a member of the allium family, which also includes garlic and onions. There are two main types that you can choose to plant.
As you may guess from their name, common chives are the most obvious choice for your garden. Their stems are thin and tube-like and their flowers can be pink, white, or red.
Both the stems and the flowers are edible. The stems have a subtle taste to them and make for an excellent garnish or addition to a salad while the flowers can add texture and flavor to a dish.
While this type is similar to common chives, they have flatter leaves and will grow to be about 20 inches tall. You can expect a mild garlic flavor to these types of chives. Finally, the flowers are edible but the plant is not as cold and hardy so you need to be more selective about where you plant them.
How to Plant Chives Seeds
The timing of when you plant your chives will depend on whether you want to taste the herb in the first season of growth or if you are okay with waiting until it is established.
Chives are a cool-season plant and thus are best for harvesting in late spring to early summer. To take advantage of this early harvest, you should plant your chives in early to mid-spring. You can start with seeds or young plants.
Chive seeds are quite small so it is best to scatter them in the area you want them to grow and then thin them out once they grow. They only need a thin layer of dirt over top.
If you want to ensure your chives are growing right away, starting with seedlings is a better option as they are widely available in any local gardening center.
The best place to plant chives is in areas that receive full sun. However, in a pinch, they can still grow in partial shade; just expect a slower rate of growth.
Chives have a subtle odor to humans but to pests, they can be quite overwhelming. You can use chives as companion plants, especially next to carrots and beets in order to deter aphids and Japanese beetles.
The soil that you plant your chives in should be nice and full of nutrients. Before planting, dig the area up and add in organic matter such as compost.
Digging the area up before planting will also ensure the soil isn’t too compact. You should also choose a location that is moist but still drains well.
How to Water Chives
How much water your chives need can best be determined by the soil they grow in. Moist soil is what you want to aim for so you can use a finger to check if the soil is too dry or too wet and amend your watering accordingly.
As long as your soil drains well, you won’t have to worry too much about pooling water. However, chives don’t like to stand in too much water and when there is excess water in the soil, it can quickly lead to the bulbs and the roots rotting.
How to Grow Chives
To help keep the soil moist, you can add a thin layer of mulch around your chives. This will also help protect the roots of chives from any extra heat as they grow close to the surface and are therefore more vulnerable.
Chives are a perennial herb and will keep growing each year. As such, they will continue to take nutrients out of the soil which you will then need to replace.
Each spring you can add a layer of compost around your chives. You can also add a fertilizer that is rich in nutrients every spring.
The tops of chives will start to grow flowers and if these flowers are not removed, they will turn to seed. Chive seeds will then fall to the ground and will self-sow themselves.
While some people want a proliferation of chives, this plant can quickly take over your garden if they aren’t contained. If you only want a few chive plants, then be sure to remove the flowers once they bloom. Remember that they are edible, so you can add the flowers to a salad to prevent waste.
In order to get the most out of your chives, you will want to get in the habit of dividing them every three or four years. Underground you will find tiny bulbs and these should be easy to separate.
Make sure you leave at least 10 bulbs in a clump to promote healthy new growth. Furthermore, you should divide your chives in the spring for the best results.
How to harvest chives?
As a fragrant herb, you will definitely want to get in the habit of regularly harvesting your chives. Doing so is simple and you should have a steady supply of chives in your garden.
The key to harvesting your chives is to start early. You can actually gather chives from your garden within 30 days of planting.
To harvest, take a pair of clean scissors and cut the stems right to the base, leaving only an inch above the ground. Clean scissors are key as you don’t want to inadvertently spread diseases or bacteria.
In the first year after you plant your chives, you can harvest about three to four times, although if you only want a few chives stems at a time, this can turn into a steadier operation.
Once your chive plant is fully established, you can get in the habit of harvesting every month. The plant will continue to grow back, even after you cut it down to the ground.
For those that want to harvest chive flowers, wait until early summer when they start to bloom. The best-tasting flowers will be those that have just opened, so pay attention to the flowering and harvest accordingly. The flowers should have a full appearance to them and should be bright in color.
After harvesting, you can store your chives in the fridge for a few days but they will lose their flavor over time.
You can also freeze your chives in an airtight container so that you can have a fresh supply when your chive plant becomes dormant.
How long do chives take to grow?
Chives grow quite quickly and whether you start from seeds or seedlings, you should have some edible chives in the first summer after you plant them. Chives are a perennial plant and they will continue to grow back each year, usually spreading out as they grow.
Having a chive plant in your backyard means you can snip off the stems whenever you need an accent for a dish. Plant your chives in early spring and expect a steady availability of chives through the early summer.