Also known as Chinese leeks, garlic chives impart oniony flavor with a distinctly garlicky overtone. Young leaves are most tender and work well in egg dishes, soups, marinades and Asian cooking (dumplings, pot stickers, and dipping sauces, for example). White, edible flowers appear in summer, and attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Gather stems for bouquets or deadhead to keep plants from self-sowing. (That kind of growth tends to be aggressive in colder regions.) Give garlic chives full sun for best flowering and upright growth. The strappy-leafed clumps make an attractive edging in herb or vegetable gardens. Tolerates frost.
HOW TO GROW
Consider growing onion chives for cooking. Onion chives, also called common chives, are the most popular variety of the plant. Onion chives are slightly onion flavored and scented (as the name suggests), and are used in salads and as toppings for many cooking dishes for a subtle flavor enhancement. These chives grow anywhere from 8–12 inches (20.3–30.5 cm) in length, and are bright to dark green in color. They have the traditional tube-shaped stem which is hollow at the center.
Look into growing garlic chives for cooking. Sometimes called ‘chinese chives’, garlic chives are another type of chives used in cooking. These chives smell like violets when the stem is crushed, but taste reminiscent of garlic. As a result, they are used in dishes to bring out the garlic flavor. Unlike onion chives, garlic chives have flat stems, and the flower buds can be used in cooking as well (typically in stir-frys). Garlic chives are bright to dark green in hue, and grow to be 12–18 inches (30.5–45.7 cm) in height.
Choose a growing method. There are two ways to grow chives: from a preexisting plant/cutting, or from seeds. Most gardeners recommend growing your chives from a bulb or from a start from another chive plant, because growing chives from seeds takes two full years. If you choose to grow from a preexisting plant (available at nurseries), select a start that is bright green, full, and is at least 3–5 inches (7.6–12.7 cm) in height. These are indicators of a healthy chive plant, and increase the likelihood of it flourishing in your garden.
- Growing from seeds involves starting seeds indoors a few months prior to planting them outdoors, and transplanting in the springtime. The seeds will grow into plants, but they cannot be harvested for 2 years.
- Chive plants grow in bulbs that are divided every 3-4 years, so you can plant a divided bulb from a friend or neighbor’s chive plot, that will grow into an entirely new plant.
- Planting seeds, bulbs, and starts outdoors is the same process. Seeds are the only growing method that take a bit extra work prior to outdoor planting.
Select a garden plot in full sun. Chives are sun-loving plants, and although they will still grow in shade, they will produce the biggest harvest when placed in full sun. Find a plot in your garden that has sunlight most of the day. If your garden is shaded, choose a patch that gets at least 4-6 hours of sunlight, to satisfy the chives’ sun needs
Prepare your garden soil. Although some plants can grow in dense, hard soils, chives need light, loamy, and sandy soils with good drainage. If you’re working with soil that has a lot of clay or is very dense, mix in some sand to loosen it up. Additionally, add in a garden-quality compost mixture to mix nutrients into the soil. If possible, amend the soil 4-6 weeks prior to planting, so that the soil can have time to adjust to the changes.
Balance the pH of the soil before planting. Chives need soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Test the soil, and if it is too low, increase the pH by chopping agricultural lime into the soil using a garden trowel or small shovel. If it is too high, lower the pH by mixing in a fertilizer with urea phosphate or ammonium nitrate, or by adding compost, manure, or plant litter.
- Test the pH using cabbage for an easy DIY method.
- You can test soil pH by using a store-bought test probe for exact measurements
Know when to plant. Chives are summer-blooming plants that should be planted in the early spring. If you are starting your chives as seeds, start them indoors 8-10 weeks prior to your outdoor planting date. Planting outdoors should occur 1-2 weeks after the
Water the soil to prevent transplant shock. Prior to planting your chives, wet the soil with a hose so that it is damp. This will help to prevent transplant shock of the new chive plants in your garden. Make sure that the soil is not muddy, just moist enough to form clumps when squeezed in your hand.
- Transplant shock is a plant’s reaction to being dug up/relocated to a new environment, and is totally normal. It can cause problems if the plant is not cared for post-transplant, though.
- Your plant might have transplant shock if it is wilted-looking and generally sickly in appearance
winter, typically around March or April (depending on your growing zone)
Dig a hole 2–4 inches (5.1–10.2 cm) deep. Chives grow from small bulbs at the base, which need to be covered fully when planted. The bulbs aren’t typically that large, so a hole no bigger than 2–4 inches (5.1–10.2 cm) deep and equally wide should be necessary.
Plant the chives. Place each chive plant into the hole, and replace soil over the top. Make sure that the soil does not go above the base of the stems, as this will slow the growth of the plant
Water the chives every few days. The soil should be moist when you water your chives, so you need not water them again immediately after. Chives don’t require a lot of moisture, so add water only when the soil is completely dry. The frequency of waterings will depend on the weather in your area, but may vary from once every 1-3 days.
Apply a fertilizer once a month. Your chive harvest will prosper with a bit of fertilizer applied once every 3-4 weeks. Choose a 20-20-20 mixture (equal parts nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium), and incorporate it into the soil according to package directions.
Add a layer of mulch to prevent weeds. If you’re concerned about weeds in your garden, adding a layer of mulch will help block them out. Mulch is a type of compost/bark available at most garden supply stores. Add a layer 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) thick over the top of the soil, to block out weeds and to trap in moisture for longer
Keep an eye out for pests and disease. Few pests are interested in chives, but onion pests, like the onion fly, may gravitate toward your chives if you have true onions planted nearby. A few fungal diseases, like rust, may also attack chives on a rare basis. A small amount of pesticide or fungicide can usually restore your chives if these problems do occur.
Wait to harvest your chives when they are at least 7 to 10 inches (17.8 to 25.4 cm) in height. The overall size of your chives will vary depending on the variety you grow, but all varieties are harvestable around 7–10 inches (17.8–25.4 cm). This normally occurs around mid summer, and will continue until the weather cools below freezing. In some areas with light winters, chives will remain evergreen and produce harvestable plants until the following year.
- It is important to give chives consistent watering throughout the growing season for high yields. Moisten the soil thoroughly when watering.
- Use mulch to conserve moisture and keep the weeds down.
- For good production, sidedress with fertilizer in May and July with 1 teaspoon of 21-0-0 per square foot.
- Minimal care is needed for fully grown plants.
- After the flowers bloom, be sure to remove them so that the seeds aren’t spread throughout your garden.
- Plants grow to be 12 to 24 inches tall and may spread a foot across.
- Remember to divide the plants every 3 to 4 years in the spring. Chives are much more productive if divided regularly. Allow divided plants to grow for several weeks before harvesting.
- Bulb rots (caused by soilborne fungi)
- White rot
- Various fungal leaf spots (such as purple blotch and gray mold)
- Onion fly
- The herb is rich in Vitamin C, which prevents from common cold and fever.
- It is rich in riboflavin, potassium, vitamin A, iron, thiamin, and beta carotene. These elements help in blood count increase, maintaining blood pressure, and increasing immunity power.
- It is low in fat, thus is safe for those who suffer from obesity and are restricted from most of the herbs and spices.
- The herb has high content of dietary fiber and protein. It helps in maintaining a healthy and balanced metabolism.
- Cooked garlic chives help in treating digestive, kidney, and liver problems