Chives are a great herb for the windowsill and love full sun to partial shade, so they are perfect for British weather! Perfect in a quiche or salad, they are versatile and have that gentle flavor your family will enjoy.
Although we more commonly eat the stems of chives chopped with potatoes or eggs the purple/pink flowers are also edible. A member of the allium family, chives offer a softer flavor and aroma. Perfect for younger family members and easy to grow from seed. Chives have proven to be one of the UK’s top herbs to grow at home.
Growing Chives From Seed
- From March through April chives can be sown indoors to avoid frosts. Sow into small pots filled with a rich compost. A good mix of mature homemade compost is ideal as you want a moist soil that does not remain water logged. Avoid peat though and go for a homemade manure instead. You can plant them into biodegradable pots to save disturbing roots when you intend to plant into the ground at a later date.
- Moisten the soil and thinly sow a few of the chives seeds across the tops of the compost.
- Cover with vermiculite or a very fine dusting of soil. Chives do not need to be covered completely at all and the vermiculite is to hold moisture to the seeds, so you could substitute perlite here.
- Put into a heated propagator and wait for your chives to germinate. This will be between 3-4 weeks.
- Remove from the propagator and move to a warm, sunny spot. Acclimatize to the weather by bringing indoors overnight for the first few weeks. Then leave out once the fear of frost has passed. Alternatively keep growing them indoors!
- Alternatively you can buy chives in the supermarket, in the living herbs section. They are easy to pot on and will keep on growing forever, but do repot as they are too tightly spaced in soil with little to no drainage.
- Plants grow to be around a foot tall and will clump together nicely, if you keep cutting back and harvesting. You can let them flower and then cut back afterwards for a second and third harvest.
Planting Chives Outside
- Choose a sunny spot or partial shade, either is fine, but avoid a really exposed spot with lots of wind.
- Dig in some homemade manure and if you have sandy soil, really go for well rotted organic material. We use a green manure to prepare beds as this is an easy way to dig through and ensure adequate drainage.
- Water well over hot summer days. Remember when there is a lot of wind around to water to the base of the plant. This avoids any damage that the sun and wind can cause to wet shoots.
- Chives are a perfect clumping perennial and you can propagate by division and a sharp spade. If they are direct in the ground, simply leave half of the root ball, if you are growing chives in pots then use a knife to divide the root ball and move into two pots.
- To harvest chives cut down to around 4-5 inches to allow new growth. It is essential to keep harvesting your plants as this encourages new, healthy growth.
- If you are allowing to flower then you can harvest after the first bloom is spent, this way the bees get their fair share of the bounty too! Use in cocktails instead of an olive or in salads to give a real burst of color and flavor.
- As a perennial chives will grow on quite happily forever, although a little bit of care is required to overwinter them. In autumn remove any fallen stems and cut back quite heavily. Allow the base to be debris free as this will deer slugs and snails from making this their home!
- If you have grown the chives in pots, remove to a more sheltered spot. If they are in the ground directly, you can cover with a fleece or cloche to protect against the worst of the rains and winds.
- In Spring release the chives and allow them to have an organic liquid feed. Something simple using a borage tea will be ideal.
- Chives are pretty hardy. They will thank you for being protected from frosts when they are young.
- Too much rain and sitting in wet soil can really affect their chances of contracting and surviving a fungal disease called leek rust. You will notice it as bright yellow spots on the leaves. Possible to control, but not eradicate. Remove affected leaves and ensure there is as little over crowding as possible. If it continues you may have to dig up the plants and remove them. The fungus lives in the soil for up to three years, so avoid alliums in this area moving forward.
- Aphids can really invade young chives and their new growth can be seriously damaged as a result. You may even find that the local ants move in to help farm the aphids for their sweet sticky honeydew. This can compound the problem. Simply removing with your finger tips will not clear up the problem long term and we encourage ladybirds in our garden. They will feast on the aphids and are very eye catching for the kids too!
Chives are an excellent source of calcium, phosphorous and potassium. Meaning that a serving as a garnish or in potato salad can be a sneaky way to get healthy food into your kids diet. We are also at the stage of getting them more involved with cooking, so we use chives in cooking in the place of onions. This is because of all the tears with cutting an onion. Make sue to add the chives much later into any dish and you have a very light onion like flavor. It’s not a perfect solution but is certainly a great idea for anyone wanting to avoid onion slicing!
Hopefully you will be inspired to get started and grow some of your own from seed.