The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Book
by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing
Chives are perennial plants belonging to the Onion family that produce foot-tall clumps of hollow, upright leaves. Allowed to go to flower, they make mounds of lavender-pink flowers. Chives add a delicate Onion-like flavor to soups, stews, salads, omelets and sauces. Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum, produce long, flat leaves with a Garlic flavor. In late summer they produce showy white blossoms. Garlic Chives spread by rhizomes and by self-seeding. Garlic chives are equally at home in the herb garden, the vegetable garden, a flower bed or as an edging plant along a mixed border. It takes the heat better than true Chives and doesn’t die back in summer. Garlic Chives usually is treated as a semi-permanent plant and can be left in place for several years.
• See also Home Garden Chives
WHEN TO PLANT
Spring is the usual time to plant Chives, although they can be divided and replanted just about anytime during the season. Buy small plants that are available in garden centers in spring. You can also purchase and sow seeds in early spring. Plants from seeds are not as uniform as those from seedling plants; some will have larger or smaller leaves, so dig out the less desirable ones.
WHERE TO PLANT
A few plants will probably meet your needs. Plant Chives in a corner of the garden where they will not be disturbed and will not interfere with other gardening operations. Chives will tolerate shade but choose a site in full sun (10 hours or so) to have the best growth. Chives do well in containers and are less likely to spread.
HOW TO PLANT
Set started plants or divisions in well-prepared soil, spacing them 12 inches apart. Sow seeds on the soil surface and cover them lightly.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Once started, Chives need little, if any, care. They just grow. You do need to watch out for the same problems that affect Onions. To control thrips, use insecticidal soap and remember to wash it off the Chives after harvesting.
As soon as the plants begin to grow, harvest the leaves. Snipping them off with a pair of sharp scissors works as well as anything. Keep the plants clipped to eliminate flowering, which is to be discouraged for at least 2 reasons. First, after a shoot flowers, the leaves become tough and unusable. Second, plants that are allowed to flower will reseed. The seedlings are seldom as good quality as the parent and they become weeds. The plants will continue to make more leaves after flowering but the ones that flowered will be lost. Divide clumps every 3 years so they do not become crowded. Separate them into bunches of 5 or 6 bulblets each and discard the extras or give them to friends. To have Chives all winter, dig a plant before the first frost, shake off as much soil as possible and pot it up using artificial potting soil. Set the plant over the kitchen sink where it will be convenient to take a snip. Some gardeners insist that to have the best Chives indoors in pots they must be frozen in the garden several times before digging and potting them up. Try them both ways and see which works the best for you.