In the Garden
Chives are members of the lily family grown for their leaves and flowers, which are equally popular in the garden and in the kitchen. Both onion and garlic chives are grown and used in a similar fashion. Some gardeners use onion and garlic chives as a perennial edging or border plant in a flower border or an herb garden. They also grow well in containers alone or in combination with other long-lived herbs such as rosemary.
Onion chives are grown for their leaves and rosy purple flowers with a mild onion flavor. They grow well in the ground or any pot, even a small one, or the pockets of a strawberry jar.
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), also known as Chinese chives, are grown for their leaves with a mild garlic flavor and for their pretty white flowers. The leaves are flat, not hollow like those of onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum).
Chives prefer full sun but plants also grow in partial shade, especially in the South and Southwest. Set out transplants in early spring in soil amended with plenty of compost or a good slow-release fertilizer.For fast growth, plant in rich, well-drained soil; plants are tough enough to withstand poor soil, too; they just won’t grow fast. Be sure that the soil drains well.They need little care other than watering until well rooted. If you harvest often, fertilize every 3 or 4 weeks with a liquid plant food such as fish emulsion or 20-20-20, diluted according to label directions. Although the flowers are nice, the plants produce more leaves if you pinch off the flower buds. Suit yourself. If you use chives a lot, let a few bloom and pinch the rest. After a few freezes make the leaves ugly, cut the plants back to the ground. They will come back in spring. After 3 or 4 years, each plant will have grown into a clump of many plantlets; divide them in early spring.
You can begin harvesting leaves as soon as they are big enough to clip and use. Cut from the outside of the clump about 1/2 inch above soil level, always leaving plenty to restore energy to the plant. Although fresh is best, you can store extra for winter use by chopping and freezing the leaves, or you can also preserve them in herb butters, oils, and vinegars, where they blend well with parsley and tarragon.
Add to dishes at the very end of the cooking process, because their mild flavor is destroyed by heat. The purple flowers of onion chives, which are also edible, float beautifully in soup.In late summer, dig up a couple of plants and pot them to move to your windowsill later for a nice winter source of fresh snips.
The pot of chives that I bought looks like a tuft of grass. How big will they get?
Where should I put my chives?
Will my chives spread?
It looks like there are a lot of little plants in my pot of chives. Can I divide them?
Will I be able to cut chives all year long?
I want to use my chives, but I also want them to look good in the garden. Can I have both?