Chives are perennials and belong to the Amaryllis Family , are a very close relative to garlic, shallots and leeks and are easy to grow.
You are able to grow chives outdoors directly in your garden or in a Container but also inside for Winter harvest.
When growing chives in your garden you must know that it will take over and expand very quickly since the pink flowers will spread the Seeds very easily with a light breeze. I would suggest to either have it in a place where you may not mind it to go “wild” (like the boarder of you treeline or a spot you are generally not using). If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to move it, don’t worry it is easy to dig up and move.
Also, when planting chives in your garden you should know this:
Chives are good when planted with carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant and squash as well as strawberries. They are all doing much better when in its company.
Beans and Peas on the other hand do not like the company of chives.
For example Carrots may increase in flavor and size, other vegetables and fruits increase their yields and not to forget Chives repel numerous insects like onion and carrot flies and Japanese beetles
for more on companion gardening read here.
Where , When and How to plant
Chives like the full sun but are also growing well in light shade (for example under a tree or on the side of your house). The soil should be well drained but moist and rich on organic matter. I usually use some kitchen scraps that would end up in my Compost and work them about 6 to 8 inches in to the soil before putting in my seeds.
When their is no more danger of frost you can put in your seeds. Sow about 2″ apart or disperse the seeds in a small circle, cover with a thin layer of soil, just enough so the seeds are covered.
Seedlings will sprout 2-3 weeks after seeding and will need regular watering, so the small bulbs under the soil layer don’t dry out. You can add mulch to preserve the moisture and keep weed growth down.
How to Care for
Chives are in very little need of care when they are fully grown.
Make sure you consitantly water them throughout the growing season to assure good yields for harvest. Mulch them to keep the small bulbs protected and preserve the moisture as well as keep the weeds down. If you are looking for a high yield make sure you add some organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen in late spring and early Summer.
Unless you want your chive to go “wild” make sure you cut the pink flowers which have the Seeds in them and throw them into your Compost .
Every 3 to 4 Years you should divide your chives to assure they are consistently producing, you can do so by digging up clumps of at least 15 bulbs and either share with your garden friends or place them into the next spot you like.
When you divide your chive plants give them a couple weeks of rest before harvesting them again.
When do you harvest chives and how
Chives can be harvested starting in early spring but if you have newly planted your chives or recently moved them you need to make sure the leaves are at least 6 inches high.
When your plants are one year of age you can harvest them at least 4 times a year. Chives that have been well-established over at least 3 years can be harvested monthly.
When harvesting chives you want to cut them with a sharp kitchen sheer about 2inches above the soil.
Cut from the outside of the plant. I usually grab the plant with one hand so I have a bushel in my palm, cut that bushel and let the plant be. This is less stressful for your chives than cutting one leave after another.
Make sure you stop harvesting about 3 weeks before the first frost, this will allow the plant to bloom and the bulb to extend.
Now is also the time if you like to grow your chive indoors over the winter, to get your bulbs.
Dig up enough chive bulbs to plant in a 6-inch Container. I would also suggest to plant at least 3 containers so the harvest can be rotated and contuinesly be done.
Storing Chives and how to use them.
First off you should not dry chives because they lose their flavor.
Best practice is to keep them in your freezer. I chop fresh cut chives and keep them in a container in the freezer for easy access. You can get the amount you want at any time without having to defrost.
Chives have a milder flavor than onions and therefor are great in any recipe that calls for green onions as the flavor is much more suddle.
You can add chive to salads, sprinkle on your baked potato or add it to your soups.
It pairs great with basil, dill, oregano, rosemary and sage.
Since the whole plant is edible you can also use the pink flowers as a nice edible decoration on omelets or sandwiches.
When adding chives to any meal that is being cooked make sure you add them at the end to get the full aroma.
Chives also have some medicinal use:
Chives contain sulfide, antibacterial, and anti fungal compounds that can help with upset Stomach or digestion problems.
Chives can help lower blood pressure, Cholesterol and promotes Heart health as they contain allicin like other onion families.
Chives can help boost your Immune system because of the wide variety of vitamins and mineral that chive contains, including vitamin C.
How to harvest your own Chive Seeds
Start by cutting the stem which the pink flowers (sharp kitchen sheers will do the trick). The flowers are little balls that are created out of many little flowers and are holding the seeds. When the flower opens the very small seeds are being blown all around your garden.
Now cut on the bottom of the flower to harvest the seeds. You will end up with alll those little flowers so make sure you catch your cuttings in a small container. Some of the little black seeds may be falling out already, but don’t worry, there are many more in just one round ball. .
In order to store the seeds for the comming year I suggest to keep those little flowers in a small paperbag and store in a dry area. Moisture will create mold on the flower leaves and that will kill the seeds.
When you are ready to put your seets in the ground sprinkle the seeds out of the little paperbag by gently tapping the side of the bag.
You are off to your next Season.