Chives are a wonderfully flavorful perennial herb to grow in your garden, containers, or even indoors. As a member of the onion family, chives have a distinct flavor that provides a top-notch flavor to pasta salads, soups, stews, butter, and flavored bottles of vinegar. Their mild onion flavor is a staple in many cuisines.
As plants, chives make good neighbors in the garden and produce chemicals that work to repel garden pests, like aphids. They also have lovely, edible pom poms of flowers in purple, pink, and white hues, which attract beneficial pollinators to the garden.
Check out these tips for growing chives so that you can enjoy the benefits of growing and harvesting an abundance of chives this season and beyond.
Ideal Soil Composition & pH for Growing Chives
Growing chives is most successful in soil that is rich in nutrients and is moist but well-draining. Amend soil with organic matter, well-decomposed compost, and worm castings for optimal growing results.
Like many culinary herbs, chives prefer soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 7. If you are unsure of your soil pH or what your soil needs to be amended with, visit your local extension office with a soil sample or obtain a simple soil test from your local garden center or nursery.
Where to Grow Chives
Grow chives in an area of the garden that receives full sun. Chives are a cool-season crop, making them fantastic candidates to grow in the spring and fall when soil temperature range between 60- and 70- degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Grow Chives
Chives can be started with seeds planted directly into the garden bed, started indoors, or they can be purchased for transplanting.
Growing Chives From Seed: Direct Sowing
Sprinkle seeds on the surface of prepared soil and sprinkle with 1/4 inch of soil after soil is workable and temperatures are above freezing. Keep soil moist throughout the germination process and water as needed to keep the soil moist as seedlings mature.
Growing Chives From Seed: Seed Starting
Start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost date in your area.
- Plant seeds two inches apart at a depth of 1/4 inch.
- Seeds germinate in 7-10 days when the light and soil temperature are appropriate.
- Thin seedlings to stand 6 inches apart.
- Harden seedlings off about two weeks before planting outdoors and plant in their permanent growing space two to three weeks after all danger of frost has passed.
Chives are readily available at garden centers, nurseries and can often be found as plants in the produce aisle of grocery stores. So, if you are eager to get started and simply cannot wait for seed starting, buying an already growing chive plant is a great option.
How Far Apart Should You Plant Chives?
How far apart should you plant chives? It’s vital to give chives room to grow, especially since they are perennials and will grow more abundant with each passing year. Ideally, plants should be spaced about 6-12 inches apart with equal space between rows. Although, they can be more densely planted in containers and raised beds.
- Plants should be divided every three years in the springtime for best growth and more abundant harvests.
The Best Locations for Growing Chives
Chives can be grown in the ground, in raised beds, and in containers. Raised beds and containers allow gardeners to best control the soil quality. In-ground planting is also a viable option, as long as you amend the soil with compost to enrich the soil and improve the soil structure.
When to Water Chives
Chives are drought-tolerant plants, but you will enjoy a more plentiful yield if you keep these plants hydrated. Mulching around plants can help protect their bulb-like roots that form just below the soil surface, keep root systems cool for optimal growing, and help retain moisture levels.
Nutrients Needed for Growing Chives
Prepare your soil with organic matter before planting to ensure the best nutritional start for your growing chives. Plants are pretty low maintenance and will thrive without fertilization, but they will enjoy a boost of nutrients with a side dressing of compost or fertilization monthly.
How Long Do Chives Take to Grow?
Approximately 30 days after transplanting seedlings, you can begin harvesting your chives. If you buy plants that are already established, you can usually start gathering herbs right away.
How to Harvest Chives
To harvest, simply snip leaf stalks off about one inch from the base whenever you need to use the herb. You can pinch them off easily enough or use pruning scissors to keep your hands from smelling like onions. Leaves will replenish themselves as the plant matures.
Chive plants will flower in late spring or early summer and produce pom poms of purple, white or pink blooms that are also edible! After blooming, its flowers self-seed, so cut back the flower heads after bloom time if you are adamant about not wanting more plants.
Growing Chives as Companion Plants
When addressing how to grow chives, including companion planting for this crop. Companion planting is a gardening method that enhances nearby crops’ growth and flavor and protects vulnerable plants against pests.
Chives have a distinct odor and beautiful blooms. Interplanting them with other crops in your garden can deter pests, attract beneficial insects, and boost some crops’ flavor and texture. Chives are an excellent companion plant in the garden, especially when allowed to flower.
Try planting chives near some of these crops:
- Carrots – Growing chives near carrots can improve the texture and flavor of carrots.
- Tomatoes – Chives have a scent that deters aphids that feed on tomato plants.
- Grapes – Chives repel aphids which can be a problem for grapes.
- Roses – Not only do the pretty lavender, pink or white blooms of chive plants compliment the beauty of roses, but they repel aphids which are a nemesis for rose plants.
Common Chive Pests & Diseases
While garden pests tend to steer clear of chives in the garden, some diseases can affect chive plants, though they are not common.
Some of these problems can include:
- Bulb Root Rot
- White Rot
- Onion Flies