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Chive Growing and Harvest Information

by chuck.mcmullan
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Chives are virtually foolproof because they suffer no diseases or pests, are extremely hardy, and can grow almost anywhere.

With a milder flavor compared to onions, chives are usually snipped raw as a finishing touch for salads, soups, sauces, vegetable and fish dishes. Chives also work well in egg dishes such as quiche and omelets.

Where to Grow Chives

Chives are a perennial warm-season herb, hardy to frost and light freezes and the earliest to appear in the spring. They also thrive in a cool greenhouse or on a kitchen windowsill.

Soil for Chives

This herb likes rich and well-drained soil, but can be found growing wild in dry, rocky places in northern Europe and in the northeastern United States and Canada. Chives prefer sandy soil with plenty of organic matter (this is important for perennial herbs in general) and good drainage. When you’re preparing the soil, dig in a low nitrogen (5-10-10) fertilizer at a rate of 1/2 pound for 100 square feet.

Planting Chives

When –

Chives are hardy and will grow practically anywhere in the united states. They do well in cool weather but can survive almost any extreme temperature swings. Plant either seeds or divisions about 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date. A late frost won’t hurt them.

How –

You can grow chives from seed or divisions of small bulbs separated from clumps. The seeds take a long time to germinate and need a very cool temperature, less than 60F. After their slow start, they grow quickly. Plant seeds 1/2″ deep in rows spaced 12″ apart. The plants can be fairly close together; small clumps (25 plants can be set out 6-8 inches apart in rows. They’ll fill in and make an attractive array.

Cultivating Chives

Chives will take care of themselves without much help from you, but there are a few things you can do to keep them healthy, happy, and productive. Chives will bloom midsummer and offer an attractive ornamental addition to the garden; if allowed to bloom, cut them back after flowering so new shoots will come up in spring. As with any plant, watering is important for good growth. The plants will survive neglect, but if you let the soil dry out, the tips of the leaves —the part you want to eat—will become brown and unappetizing. Thick, overgrown clumps can be divided; split the clumps from time to time. After several years, you can divide them for expansion or renewal. In the fall, dig up a cluster to pot indoors for continuous winter cutting. If you grow chives indoors, grow several pots so you can take turns clipping from them when you need chives for cooking and flavoring.

Temperature
Germination60 - 70 F
For GrowthHot
Soil and Water
FertilizerLight Feeder
pH5.5 - 7.0
WaterAverage
Measurements
Planting Depth1/4" - 1/2"
Root DepthBulb Clumps
Height6 - 18"
Width6 - 8"
Space between plants
In beds6"
in rows5 - 8"
space between rows12"
Companions
CompanionsCarrots, Celery, Grapes, Peas, Rose, Tomatoes
IncompatiblesBeans, Peas
Harvest
After the plant is 6" tall, cut some of the blades down to 2" above the ground to encourage plant production. Herbs should be cut in the morning after the dew has dried. Cut near the base of the greenery, not the chive tips, to encourage new tender shoots to emerge. Do not wash the cuttings or aromatic oils will be lost.

How Chives Grow

Chives are a hardy perennial relative of the onion with tufts of thin hollow leaves 6-10 inches long. When planted in the garden, they will produce for years once established. Chives have a hollow, grass-like, onion-flavored foliage that can be snipped for salads, soups, and egg and cheese dishes. Chive flowers are strikingly beautiful, rounded globes of soft purple that appear in late spring or summer. The chive blossom appears, dried or fresh, in many Japanese dishes.

Pots of chives are often sold in supermarkets during winter months. Since these chives may be infested with onion root maggots, which cause them to fail in a short time, remove the young plants from the sandy soil, wash the roots carefully, and replant in fresh, sterilized soil. These pots will grow nicely on a sunny window sill.

Storage Requirements
Chives are best used fresh or frozen, but can also be dried. Tie them in bunches and hand in a dry, well-ventilated area. Store them whole if possible, do not crush them until ready to use.
MethodTaste
FreshExcellent
DriedFair-good
FrozenExcellent

Harvesting Chives

You can start snipping chives after 90 days from seed or 60 days from transplanted divisions. Either way, the plants will produce much better the second year. To harvest, it’s usual to just snip the tops off the leaves, but if you harvest from the base, you’ll avoid unattractive stubble. If you’re growing chives on the windowsill or the border of your flowerbed, you may not need to store any — you’ve got a regular supply right there. However, chives can be satisfactorily frozen or dried.

To dry, tie them in small bunches and hang them upside down in a warm, dry, dark place. Do not crush or cut them until ready to use. Store the stem whole if possible. If harvested with the flower, chives can be stored whole in white vinegar to make a pretty, light-lavender flavored vinegar for gifts. Another storage method is to alternately layer 1″ of kosher salt and with 1″ of chives in a glass jar. Pack down each layer with a spoon. Use these chives in any dish, just as you would fresh chives. They’re said to be especially tasty in soups. As a bonus, the brine can also be used to flavor soups and other dishes.

Chive Pests

Chives are trouble-free. Onion thrips may be a problem in a commercial onion-producing area, but they shouldn’t bother plants with enough water.

Chive Disease

Chives have no serious disease problems.

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