What Are Chives?
Chives are perennial herbs and part of the onion family. Even though chives are onions, they regularly flower and can even help deter pests! Chives if not thinned and maintained can also take over your entire garden. After the chives flower, the wind can help them scatter their seeds around the garden invading and soaking up valuable nutrients from your other vegetables or flowers. The most popular types of chives are the common chive and garlic chive. Garlic chives are also known as Chinese chives.
How to Grow Chives
Sow your seeds a few inches apart and not much deeper than a quarter inch. As the chives begin to sprout, thin the seedlings so they have about 4-6 inches between each plant. Chives require constant moisture, but well drained soil. So, frequent waterings are recommended but do not over water. Mulch can be added over the top of the chives to minimalize weeds and conserve moisture.
Chives prefer soil to be between 60F to 70F (15-21C), so it is best to plant during early Spring.
Chives take on average 60 days to grow from seed and 30 days to grow from transplants. They prefer full sun to partial shade and a balanced nitrogen-rich soil. Each year when the chives go dormant during cooler weather, it is important that you divide the chives to allow ample spacing between each plant. Divide each clump into 10-12 smaller bulb clusters. This will ensure each plant successfully grows each year.
While transplanting or planting outside, be sure to include a healthy amount of nutrient dense organic matter or compost.
How to Harvest Chives
Chives can be harvested multiple times throughout each season; typically they are harvested 3-4 times. During harvest, cut the chives down to the base, leaving about 1 inch of the plant remaining. The flowers produced by the chives are edible and are best enjoyed a few days after blooming.
Freshly chopped chives last a week to about nine days if kept in a refrigerator but can last a few weeks if frozen. One tip we recommend is freezing them in little trays so you can take out a small cluster and toss it into your food while cooking. The heat while cooking will quickly thaw the chives so they can impart their flavor into the food. Chives can also be dried, but they tend to lose a lot of flavors this way, so we do not recommend it.
Chives Pests and Diseases
Onion flies are the most common pest that can wreak havoc on your chives. The onion fly will lay eggs at the base of your plants, which hatch into maggots that will start feasting on the onion bulbs. To protect against onion flies we recommend utilizing a crop cover with an insect mesh layer and applying predatory soil nematodes to eat the maggots after the eggs hatch.
Allium leaf miners bore into the membranes of the leaves then destroy the chives root system. These can easily be detected by the translucent trails left in the leaves. Regular crop rotations and insect-proof crop cover meshes are your best defense against allium leaf miners.
Thrips suck the sap out of the leaves of your chives. They can sometimes swarm the plant making it quite unsightly and inedible. We recommend using insecticidal soap or neem oil to keep thrips at bay.
Downy mildew is a very common fungal disease that affects many different plants. This disease is identifiable by it causing the chive leaves to wilt and turn yellow brown. Most copper-based fungicides or neem oils should be applied on first sight.
Onion white rot is the most devastating disease your chives can get. This fungal disease is identified by yellow leaves, wilt, rotting roots, and a white and black fluffy fungus. Attempting to eradicate onion white rot is near impossible, so we recommend fungal prevention. If any of your plants are contaminated with onion white rot, throw them out and do not plant any new crops in the contaminated area for a few months and apply thorough crop rotation.
Chives Garden Planning
Any successful garden starts with a plan, and Garden Savvy’s Hortisketch Garden Planner is the easiest way for you to start and plan your chives garden. Easily utilize its drag-and-drop user interface to plan and build your garden today!
Fun Chive Facts
- Chives give off an odor that can deter pests, such as aphids and Japanese beetles.
- Using chives companion planting near beets, carrots, and peas can help repel common pests that affect them.
- Garlic chives get their name from their unmistakable flavor – they taste almost identical to garlic!
Q: What are chives used in?
A: Chives are commonly used in soups, salads, dips, stir-fry, and noodle dishes.
Q: Can chives be eaten raw?
A: Yes! Chives can be eaten raw. But beware of their intense flavor.
Q: Do chives grow back after harvesting?
A: Chives are perennial and will grow back each season.
Q: How long will chives last in the refrigerator?
A: Chives can last 7-9 days in the fridge and over two to three weeks in the freezer.
Q: What is the difference between chives and garlic chives?
A: While both are considered onions, common chives taste similar to white onions, while garlic chives taste like garlic.
Cover image source by Sarah R: Garlic Chives