Chives are members of the alliums or onion genus. They belong in the lily family as a consequence. Widely considered to be a valuable culinary herb, chives also has many of the medicinal and health properties of the other alliums. Growing chives isn’t at all difficult and in fact it grows wild through much of North America, Asia and Europe. It is also native to these areas.
Normally, these plants are grown for their leaves. The roots are small and tend to be flattened, while the blossoms don’t have the robust flavor than the leaves have. The flowers are pretty, though, which make them suitable for flowerbeds. They even grow well in pots.
There are two main species of chives; garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) and onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Onion chives have beautiful purple flowers and garlic chives have white ones. The leaves of garlic chives are also flat, rather than round and hollow like onion chives.
Chives will grow in most soil, from poor to rich. Though they do best and grow fastest in good soil like that found in most gardens and flowerbeds, they aren’t particularly picky. The soil should drain well, so if the dirt is primarily clay, it is a good idea to dig in some finished compost and/or sphagnum moss.
Fertilizer for chives
For the best crop of chives, they can be fertilized every month throughout the growing season with either liquid fish fertilizer or a diluted solution of 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer. Bonnie’s Plants has a wonderful fertilizer that works well for this and fish fertilizer can be made at home, if you have access to fish or fish parts.
Sunlight for chives
Chives love sunshine, however unlike many kinds of garden plants, they will tolerate some shade. This also makes them quite suitable for indoor pots, since the pots can be moved to whichever window is getting the most sunshine.
Chives don’t need frequent watering. However, they should be watered deeply. Applying two inches of water once a week is usually enough, though you might want to water them twice a week during the heat of summer.
Every few years, it is a good idea to separate the chive bulbs. This should be easy to do by digging up the clump and separating the bulbs by hand under flowing water. Once separated, they can be again planted with the bulbs covered by about a half-inch to an inch of soil and enough room between the bulbs that they have room to expand. Chives multiply both by setting new bulbs and from large quantities of seeds, if the plants are allowed to bloom. If the conditions are right, this is a plant that can spread substantially within a few years.
Chives can be harvested as soon as the leaves are a few inches tall and since the bulb isn’t used, the leaves can merely be snipped or cut off. This encourages more growth, too. The leaves are best when used fresh, but they can be air-dried out of direct sunlight. The oils that give chives their flavor are volatile and are easily destroyed by heat or sunlight, once the leaves are harvested. For this reason, the dried leaves have much less flavor than fresh ones, too. If the plants are allowed to bloom, the flavor of the leaves can become a little less, so some people prefer to clip off the flower buds when they form.
Chives are great herbs to grow and it takes little time or effort on your part. In fact, they really aren’t any more difficult to grow than any other member of the onion family. They usually do need to be separated every few years, but this is a good thing because it will usually leave you with enough bulbs to start new patches of chives.
Do you ever cook with chives? If so, do you grow your own?
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