Growing chives in your backyard garden is one of the simplest things you can do. You will find growing chives are carefree and if treated right they will last for years in the same spot!
Chives are a perennial herb that can be tucked into any small corner of your garden. They make an attractive border plant and have beautiful purple or white flower that blooms in May, in most parts of the country.
Chives are hardy in zones 3-10 so they can be grown in most parts of the world. To learn your hardiness zone check out this post.
There are two types of chives, onion or garlic. Onion chives are the most common and are the variety you will see in the photos of this post. They have a mild onion flavor and both the flowers and the foliage are eatable. All the onion chives I have ever seen have a purple flower.
Garlic chives are grown the same. They have a mild garlic-like flavor and a white flower. These are less common.
Chives like a nice sunny spot with fertile well-drained soil. But I have had chives do really well in part shade and less than ideal soil. Since they are perennial choose a spot where they can stay for a long time! Growing chives will slowly get larger and spread so make sure that have some space (or plan on dividing them every few years.)
You can start chives 3 ways.
- They can be started from seed either directly planted outside or by starting indoors. If you start them indoors plant the seeds 8 weeks or more before your last frost.
- Many nurseries offer chive plants that you can plant directly into your garden. This method will get you the quickest harvest.
- If you have a friend that grows chives, ask them if you can have a division from their plant.
Over the years I have planted chives indoors from seed and also planted divisions. Both methods were equally successful. (Dividing chives is explained in more detail below)
Growing Chives also do well when planted in pots.
Care of Growing Chives
I will be honest, most years my chives are one of my most neglected plants. But despite being ignored most of the year they still do well!
Mulch around the plants to help keep weeds down and moisture in (compost is great for this). Water weekly, keep the soil moist but not soaking.
If you feel the need you could side dress the plants with a little organic fertilizer in May and July. But if your garden soil is fertile and healthy this isn’t really necessary.
Growing chives are susceptible to aphids. This can be prevented by covering the plants with a light fabric row cover or by spraying with organic insecticidal soap.
Disease problems with chives are very rare.
Remove any flowers before the seeds begin to drop to prevent seeds from sprouting all over your garden.
In the fall after the first few heavy touches of frost have damaged the leaves, you should cut back the foliage to within an inch or so of the soil surface. Don’t worry your chives will grow back next season!!
Every 3 or 4 years your chive plants will need to be divided. This is an easy process that breaks up the size of your plant and allows the plant more room to grow.
When you feel like your plant has gotten large enough carefully cut out two or three sections of the plant with a garden trowel. The sections you remove ought to be roughly the size of your fist and you should leave at least half of the original plant behind.
You can make divisions in the late fall or early spring. These divisions can be transplanted anywhere in your garden, or given to friends!
Another great use for divisions is to make the divisions a little earlier in the fall before the plant has gone dormant. Plant the divisions in a 6-inch pot and bring them inside for the winter. Place the pots in a sunny window and you will have fresh chives all winter long! The plant can then be transplanted back outdoors in the early spring.
You can begin harvesting the leaves from your growing chives 60 days after you transplant them out into the garden. Go easy on the harvesting for the first summer, be sure to leave plenty of leaves so the plant can get established.
Remember that both the flowers and leaves are eatable and have a pleasant mild onion (or garlic) flavor. The flowers are great for flavoring oils or bottles of vinegar. In the fall if you cut down what’s left of the leaves before the frost damages them, they can be hung and dried for winter use.
Growing chives is a great addition to any herb garden. They are easy to grow and care for, one or two chives plants tucked away in a flower bed or a corner of your garden will provide tons of leaves and require only a few minutes of care all year!