Chives are quick, easy to grow perennials that can be harvested over a long period. Chives have a mild oniony flavour that complements eggs, fish and salad. Chives can be grown in containers or as a compact addition to the veggie patch.
Binomial name: Allium schoenoprasum
Life Cycle: perennial
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) is a different species botanically but is grown in the same way as chives.
When to Sow Chive Seeds
Chives can be grown year-round in most climates. Avoid planting in extremely hot or cold weather which can affect germination and growth. Use the table below to identify the best time of year to sow chives in your climate.
Low humidity with most rainfall in winter; hot dry summers and cold winters. Some regions will experience frosts and snow. Includes coastal areas of south-eastern Australia and alpine areas of Victoria, NSW and Tasmania.
Chive plants are best grown in full sun. Choose a location that will receive at least 6 hours of full sun each day.
Chive plants need a well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Prepare soil by weeding it thoroughly, digging it over to loosen it and adding aged animal manure or compost. Keep the area free of weeds until planting.
Chive plants can be grown in containers. If possible choose a variety that’s recommended for container growing. Use a good quality potting mix and make sure your container is large enough for mature plants; a minimum of 10 litres is recommended for chives. During the growing season, keep in mind that container grown plants may need additional fertiliser to encourage healthy growth.
How to Sow Chive Seeds
Chive seeds do not require any treatment (eg soaking, stratification) before sowing.
Chive seeds grow best when they are sown directly into the garden.
Sow seeds directly in the garden 5mm deep and 15cm apart, with rows 15cm apart.
Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
Seeds should germinate in around 7-14 days at a soil temperature of 18-21°C.
Young seedlings will need protection from pests, pets and weather until they are established.
Tip: Chive seeds can also be sown in the less formal ‘scatter seed’ method. Simply roughen the soil, scatter seeds evenly over the surface, then smooth the soil over lightly to cover the seeds.
Tip: Chive seeds are quite small. Handle them carefully to avoid them blowing away or being washed away. Mix seeds with sand or fine potting mix prior to sowing or use a seed dispenser, damp toothpick or tweezers to help space them evenly. Press lightly into the surface after sowing so that the seeds make good contact with the soil. Take extra care to make sure seeds and seedlings don’t dry out. Read more about sowing small seeds here.
How to Grow Chive
Chive plants may need watering during the growing season. Water when the soil is dry about 5cm below the surface (test this by scratching away a little soil with your finger). Water deeply in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid watering the leaves of plants to avoid fungal diseases. Learn more about watering here.
If soil was well prepared no extra fertiliser should be necessary. In poor soil or to give your plants an extra boost, application of a high-nitrogen fertiliser or one formulated for leafy greens or herbs can be beneficial:
Apply slow release fertiliser at the recommended rate when transplanting or when seedlings are 5-10cm tall.
Apply liquid fertiliser at the recommended rate and frequency during the growing season.
Optional: To give plants room to grow, thin seedlings when they are large enough to handle. Pull out any weak or small seedlings so plants are spaced about 15cm apart.
Tip: To prolong the life of the plant, remove flower stalks as soon as they appear.
How to Harvest Chives
Chives should be ready to harvest in approximately 60-90 days.
Leaves are ready to harvest when they are large enough to eat, and can be harvested as needed. Harvest leaves by cutting off the outer ones at the base, leaving some on the plant for future growth. For short term storage, chives can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge.
Common Problems when Growing Chives
Like all plants, chive is susceptible to some pests, diseases and other problems. Below is a list of the most common problems gardeners encounter when growing chive plants:
Aphids are small (2-4mm long) sap-sucking insects that congregate on the new shoots or the undersides of leaves. They can cause leaves to wilt or become discoloured, and also excrete honeydew which can attract ants and other insect pests. To manage aphids, remove them by spraying with a garden hose, apply a soap or alcohol spray, or encourage predatory insects to your garden. Read more about aphids here.
Rust (Puccinia sp.) is a fungal disease that causes brown to orange raised spots or patches to appear on foliage. Fungal spores are spread by wind or water to neighbouring plants, especially in temperatures of 10-20C and when humidity is high. To manage rust, space plants to avoid overcrowding, grow them in the recommended amount of light (eg full sun), do not over fertilise crops, remove dead plants and practice crop rotation. Read more about rust fungus here.
Onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) are flying insects less than 1.5mm long with slender pale yellow to light brown bodies. They suck sap from plants, leaving silver patches on the leaves and reducing the productivity and yield of plants. Thrips can live in the inner leaves and leaf folds of alliums, and may also infest bulbs. Wash thrips from affected plants using a garden hose, spread an organic mulch around plants, and encourage predatory mites and lacewings with companion planting.
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