The unsung heroes of perennial herb gardens, chives (Allium schoenoprasum) do double duty: not only are they lovely to look at, they're a versatile and delicious perennial herb. Learn how to grow chives and you can add fresh-cut chive stalks to your potato salad or sprinkle their pretty purple flowers onto a light garden salad for added flavor and pizzazz. Looking for a unique homemade gift? Try making your own chive-flavored vinegar.
How Easy Is it to Grow Chives?
Incredibly easy. It's so easy to grow chives, in fact, that you may wonder why more people don't keep this fantastic herb in their vegetable gardens—or flower gardens. A low-growing herb that works incredibly well as a border flower (and is related to the onion), chives are easy to sprout, cultivate and harvest. Chives can be grown from seed, bulbs or plants (and it's usually quite easy to find all three). When planting your chives, keep the following in mind:
- Allow 2-3 weeks for shoots to emerge from seed.
- Chives prefer moderately rich, well-drained soil.
- Plant in spring, about 9 inches apart.
- For added benefit, plant your chives around the perimeter of your vegetable garden. Their strong smell helps ward off common garden pests like birds and rabbits.
- For something a little different, try garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). Their white, garlic-flavored flowers bloom in late summer and make a nice addition to Asian dishes and salads.
Caring for Chives in Your Garden
Treat your garden chives well and they'll take care of you—and your bees and butterflies. These funky onion cousins are actually quite easy to care for (since they're usually pest free and rather hardy), so for the most part you just need to remember to:
- Divide every 2-3 years (in spring or fall).
- Deadhead to keep them from reseeding and spreading.
- Place your chives in a sunny spot with well-drained soil.
- Cut stalks to about an inch from the ground after flowering if you need to stimulate new growth.
How to Harvest and Store Chives
Harvesting and saving chives from your garden is almost as easy as growing them. Unless you’re saving them for their pretty display, harvest and keep garden chives by doing the following:
- Harvest by cutting leaves after plants are at least 6 inches tall. (Don’t shear off entire plant however; harvest in batches.)
- Pick chive blossoms at peak for homemade vinegars and garden salads (separating flowers into individual florets).
- Chop and lay out chives to dry. (Yes, it’s really that easy.)
For growing specifications for growing chives (like preferred soil pH, planting depths and germination rates), check out the Gardening Guides page.
(Images courtesy of sloopjohnb, redster and vikush. Thanks!)