Chives (Allium spp.) feature in the top five of most chefs’ culinary list of herbs to use in the kitchen. They are also popular with gardeners because they are attractive and an easy plant to fit into small spots just about anywhere in the garden.
How to buy
Chives can be grown from seed or purchased as punnets of seedlings or as clumps of mature plants. The two most popular types of chives are the common tubular-leaved onion chive (A. schoenoprasum) and the flat-leaved garlic chive (A. tuberosum), a milder, more aromatic variety.
Where to plant
Chives grow well in sun or semi-shade, both in the garden or in pots. Their pretty purple pompom flowers brighten up the vegetable patch and they make decorative edging plants for potagers and herb gardens. They prefer a neutral pH, so if your soil is very acidic, apply some lime a couple of weeks in advance of planting. The addition of Searles® Garden & Vegetable Plant Food is also desirable at this stage. Seeds should be sown to a depth of 10mm and will germinate about 7-10 days after planting in spring, summer and autumn. Seedlings will mature after about six months to a height of approximately 20cm and can be grown in clumps or in rows.
How to maintain
Chives need little maintenance apart from watering in hot, dry or windy weather. A monthly application of SeaMax™ Fish & Kelp, (diluted at the recommended rate) will improve their growth. Keep them free of weeds, particularly grasses which are sometimes hard to distinguish within a clump of similar-looking chive foliage. Large, well established clumps can be dug up, divided and replanted in spring and autumn. In colder areas, plants may die back completely in winter before reshooting in spring.
Pests and diseases
Chives are relatively problem-free, although garlic chives may be attacked by black aphids. In this case, the clumps may be cut completely to the ground and old foliage and insects removed. Regrowth should be unaffected. Yellow tips on old clumps indicate nutrient deficiencies and the end of a productive life. This is the time to remove the flower heads. Divide and replant small clumps of newer growth in enriched soil.
When to pick
Chives can be harvested as soon as the plants are mature enough to make picking worthwhile. Continuous harvesting encourages abundant new growth.
Chives are reputed to make good companion plants to roses and fruit trees such as apples, apricots and peaches. They are delicious in stews, salads, soups and sauces.
Chives in pots
Chives are very suited to pot culture. Use a good quality growing medium such as Searles® Herb & Vegetable Specialty Mix. Any container will do but remember that smaller pots dry out faster and will need more frequent watering. Chives also grow happily in large tubs with other herbs.