How to Grow Chives
Chives are one of my favorite perennial herbs, not because they lend a delicate oniony flavor to recipes - although I love that too - but because they evoke memories of days gone by. These hardy herbs emerge in early spring in thick clumps of grass-like foliage and soon dazzle the eye with pompom blooms of lavender. Once established, chives thrive in the same location for years and require little care.
- Soil: Plant chives in organic rich well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Add a two- to three-inch layer of compost of well-rotted manure to the soil and work it into the top six inches before planting chives. Organic matter provides slow-release nutrients, improves aeration and promotes good drainage.
- Lighting: Chives prefer full day sun, but will tolerate partial shade. For best results plant chives in a location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Keep in mind that direct sunlight does not need to be consecutive. A few hours of direct sunlight in the morning, noontime shade and a few hours of direct light in the afternoon works well, too.
- Watering: Chives prefer moist soil, but will tolerate some drought. Water your chives once a week, saturating the soil to the root level - especially during hot dry periods.
- Fertilizer: Typically chives get the nutrients they need for healthy growth from organic matter in the soil. If growth appears stunted - or foliage yellows - apply a light application of 5-10-10 fertilizer in early spring when new growth appears. Follow with water-soluble fertilizer mixed to one half strength every four to six weeks during the growing season.
- Harvesting: Chives can be harvested at any time by clipping sections of the foliage. I typically prefer to remove the entire "leaf" and snip it into usable sections, but snipping the top from several stems works well, too.
- Maintenance: Cut chives back to the ground level once the flowers fade. This sends out a new flush of growth that often blooms again within a few weeks.
- Propagation: Chives are typically propagated by lifting and dividing the entire clump in early spring every three to five years. Replant in similar soil and light for best results.