Chives belong to the onion plant family but unlike most onions, they are not harvested for their bulbs. Chives are harvested for their leaves instead of the bulb itself. Compared to the usual onions, the chives have a much milder taste to it. They are a perfect combination to add to soup, salads, sauces, and other savory dishes. Although they are mainly coveted for their leaves, chives also produce some beautiful purple flowers which can be a great addition to your flower garden. Its purple flowers are not only attractive to look out, but they can also be a great garnish for your salads.
Chives are a versatile plant that can be easily grown and harvested. They make an excellent addition to salads and soups when you want a savory addition that is less pervasive tasting than its cousin, the onion. If you want to learn how to grow chives, you have several options that can get you started.
Common Varieties of Chives
Although there are plenty of types of chives that you can grow, there are two popular varieties. They are common chives and garlic chives. Other varieties of chives are Staroand Fine Leaved, which is known for its milder flavor, and Forescate, which is known for its slight garlic flavor and pale pink flowers. When learning how to grow chives, it helps if you know which one you would prefer to plant.
Common chives or known also as onion chives are the most often grown variety of chive. As the name suggests, onion chives, they have a slight onion flavor, and scent to them. Onion chives are generally used in salads and as toppings for many cooking recipes for a subtle flavor enrichment. They grow as clusters of thin cylindrical green leaves. This plant can mature up to fifteen inches in height. It is often recognized by the globe-shaped flower it produces. The flowers can be purple, pink, white, or red. Not only are the flowers attractive, but they are also edible and have an excellent flavor.
Garlic chives or sometimes called ‘Chinese chives’, they grow in a similar fashion to common chives. This chive smells like a violet when crushed, but has tastes that are reminiscent of garlic. However, the leaves are a flat and more vibrant green. They can grow up to twenty inches in height. Garlic chives are grown because they have a light garlic flavor. They are commonly used in dishes that need to further bring out the garlic flavor. Unlike the common chives, garlic chives have flat stems and their flower buds are edible as well. It produces white flowers that are bigger than common chives.
How to Grow Chives From Seed
Chive seeds are collected from the globular flower that the plant produces. Once the flower dries, it is simple to separate out the other material from the small black seeds. They are similar in size to sesame seeds.
You can grow chives indoors or outdoors, and how to grow chives from seed depends on which one you are going to do. Growing from seeds will take time, starting from chive seeds to full maturity for harvest will take two years. Growing from seeds involves starting planting the seeds indoors for a few months before planting them outdoors. It is recommended to transplant them later in the springtime. Chives grow best in a cool temperature environment, which means they thrive in seasons that are cool such as spring and fall.
Chives plant thrives in a sunny environment, although they are still able to grow in the shade, their productivity output will significantly decrease. It is recommended that they should at least receive 4-6 hours of sunlight to be able to produce the biggest harvest.
If you are adding them to your garden, they can be sown immediately in the soil. Lightly sprinkle the seeds in the area you want to grow your chives. Ensure that the soil is fertile and rich. It should be in a well-drained location and preferably have a sandy-loam composition. Although the chive can still grow in dense hard soils, their growth rate will be affected. If your soil is too dense and hard for the chive to thrive in, consider adding some sand into it to loosen up the soil.
It is best to add compost to the soil and work it up before planting the seeds. Once the seeds are growing well, thin them out to approximately one foot apart. Chives thrive in soils that has a pH level between 6 and 7.
Seeds can also be started indoors at any time. Make sure to time it accurately if you plan on transplanting them into your garden. However, chives make an excellent container plant to keep on your balcony or windowsill. Prepare your pots or seed trays with nutritious soil. Add two or three seeds per pot and lightly cover them with more compost. Use a spray bottle to mist the soil until nice and damp. Cover your tray with the plastic dome to keep moisture in until they start to sprout. This should happen within fourteen days. It is important that the location maintains a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the seedlings are well established, transplanting chives is simple. Move them into a larger container of around five seedlings. If you are eventually transplanting chives to your garden, make sure they are properly hardened off.
Prior to transplanting your chives, water the soil first to prevent the chive from having a transplant shock. When watering the soil, make sure that is only watered enough to make it damp and not muddy. A transplant shock occurs when the plant is not familiar with the environment it has transferred into, signs of transplant shock is when the chive looks wilted and looks sickly in appearance.
Dig a hole 2-4 inches in depth, this depth is enough to accommodate and fully over the chives’ bulb. Make sure when transplanting the chive that they buried in the same depth as when they were in pots. If a part of the stem is covered when previously it wasn’t the plant could rot.
Chives don’t require a lot of moisture, only water them at least 1-3 days. The frequency of watering the chive depends on the weather environment n your area.
How to Grow Chives in Water
Although you know how to grow chives from seed, there is another option. This method is almost simpler than starting from seed. It is useful if you are regrowing an established plant, if you find whole chives with the bulb attached at the store, or if a friend has given you a bulb from their plant.
If the bulb has long sprouts on it, trim it down to about two inches from the bulb. Do not peel the bulb as that is part of the natural protection for the inside. Set the bulb in a cup and add water to the bottom. It is important that you do not submerge the bulb in water, but only put enough in to the water the bulb, perhaps about half an inch. If you completely envelop the bulb in water it will rot instead of sprouting.
Place your cup in a brightly lit windowsill. Within a few days, it should start to grow roots and begin to sprout some more. You can keep the bulb growing like this for some time as long as you keep the sprouts trimmed and ensure it has water. However, transplanting chives is simple. Prepare a pot with compost-rich soil. Place the bulb in the soil so that just the tip sticks out of the top of the soil. Learning how to grow chives in water can save you money in the long run as you do not have to buy them as often at the grocery store.
There is very little you need to do to chives to keep them as a healthy plant that you can continue to enjoy. To keep the plant thriving, you may need to propagate the bulbs every three or four years. Because chives are such a well-growing plant they produce many bulbs over the years. In the spring or fall, dig up the bulbs from the garden. Separate the bulbs and plant them approximately six to eight inches apart with just the tip sticking out of the soil. This may be a great time to work up your soil again and add in more compost.
Top 5 Uses For Chives
We love using chives in our cooking due to their versatility. Here are our top 5 uses for chives that you might like to try yourself:
- Garnish: Chives are commonly used as a garnish for a variety of dishes, such as soups, salads, baked potatoes, and omelets. They add a pop of color and a mild onion flavor to the dish.
- Flavoring: Chives can be used to flavor a range of dishes, such as dips, spreads, dressings, and sauces. They pair well with sour cream, cream cheese, and mayonnaise and can be used to make a variety of savory spreads and dips.
- Seasoning: Chives can be used as a seasoning for a variety of dishes, such as roasted vegetables, fish, chicken, and rice. They add a subtle onion flavor and a hint of freshness to the dish.
- Infused oil or vinegar: Chives can be used to infuse oil or vinegar, which can be used to dress salads or as a marinade for meat or vegetables.
- Herbal butter: Chives can be mixed with butter to create a delicious flavored butter that can be used to top grilled meats or vegetables, spread on bread, or used to make garlic bread.
Overall, chives are perfect to use in a variety of dishes to add flavor, freshness, and color. My favorite is definitely using it in herbal butters!
Investigating how to grow chives is a great way to develop your green thumb and keep a supply of fresh herbs on hand for your culinary pursuits. This hardy perennial also makes a beautiful container plant or addition to your garden that is simple to maintain for years to come.