Flowering time (month)
Ornamental or utility value
moderately dry to moist
The chives (Allium schoenophrasum) are a native plant and can still be found wild in river meadows and wet meadows. Along with parsley, it is one of the most popular culinary herbs and tastes best fresh from the garden. The perennial spring herb, which belongs to the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae), is particularly suitable for salads or directly on bread.
Appearance and growth
With its pink to purple flowers, which are also edible, chives are also a beautiful ornamental plant – beds of chives, for example, have a long tradition in monastery gardens. For many insects, the flowers that appear from May to August are a welcome source of nectar – especially butterflies, bees, bumblebees and hover flies. Chives form slender tubular leaves up to 30 centimeters high. They see in dense horsts, which look almost like rushes – therefore it is called occasionally also rush leeks.
Location and soil
Chives are a medium eater and grow on almost any cultivated garden soil. However, it prefers fresh to moderately humid, calcareous soils rich in nutrients and humus.
Chives can be grown from seeds. However, direct sowing is only recommended on weed-free soils, as the seeds germinate very slowly. When sowing in the bed, one waits until the soil has reached a temperature of five degrees Celsius. If you mix the seeds with coarse sand, they can be spread more evenly. A sunny to semi-shade place is favourable. A cover with fleece accelerates the emergence when sowing early. Due to the weed problem, sowing and pre-cultivation in sowing trays or pots on the windowsill at a temperature of 18 to 20 degrees is more sensible. Seed discs are particularly recommended when only a few plants are needed. Fill small pots eight to ten centimeters in diameter with lean herb earth. Then lay out the seed discs, moisten them thoroughly and cover them about one centimeter high with soil. Afterwards you should keep the pots evenly moist until they germinate.
Planting and division
After about four to eight weeks the pre-cultivated plants can be planted out in tufts of 20 to 30 pieces. For a family of four, a well ingrown eyrie lasting several years is usually sufficient as a seasoning.
The easiest and most popular way to propagate chives is to divide the perennial. In autumn or spring, dig out the root ball of an older plant and carefully pull it apart to separate the bulbs, which are close together, from each other. Remove grasses and weeds from the nest and replant the parts immediately. Then cut all the tubular leaves to a height of five centimeters.
Chives are basically very easy to care for. However, it needs a good water supply in summer, otherwise the tubular leaves become dry and strawy. In addition, you must keep the nests weed-free and provide them with compost in the spring. Tip: If you also want to enjoy fresh chives in winter, you should separate a piece from the eyrie in late autumn, cut back the leaves and cultivate the cut on a bright windowsill in the house.
Harvesting and storage
Once the plants are well rooted, you can harvest for the first time. The leaves should be at least 15 centimeters long, but not more than 25 centimeters. Cut off the juicy tubular leaves with a sharp knife or scissors. If you prepare chives, you should not chop them as finely as many other herbs do, because then they become very muddy and develop after a short time a somewhat severe, pungent aroma. Instead, use scissors to cut it into small tubes a few millimetres long. Fresh from the garden, chives last two to three days. To do this, place it in a glass of water immediately after harvesting. The best preservation method is freezing – either finely chopped in freezer bags or together with water in ice cube containers.
Mixed cultivation and crop rotation
In mixed cultivation, chives have proven themselves as a partner for many types of vegetables. Among other things, its scent is dispelled by the carrot fly. Just a few nests in the neighbourhood reduce the susceptibility to grey mould in strawberries and the risk of infection with downy mildew in cucumbers. Chives must not be cultivated on the bed after themselves and other Allium species, and they are not very compatible with cabbage. However, as this is a perennial crop, there is no need to transplant the chives year after year.
In the case of chives, there are differences in the height of growth, the colour of the flowers and the thickness of the leaf tubes. A distinction is made between fine, medium and coarse-branched varieties. In the house garden usually fine or middle varieties are cultivated. For pots, varieties with thicker tubular leaves such as ‘Nero’ or ‘Nelly’ are suitable. Forescate’ has burgundy red flowers, ‘Corsican White’ and ‘Elbe’ surprise with a snow-white pile. This also applies to the flower-rich breeding ‘Profusion’. Like all white cultivars, these produce hardly any seeds and must be multiplied by division. Their flowers are particularly delicate and are suitable as a decorative salad addition.
Diseases and pests
Similar to kitchen onions, chives can also have rust fungi. They manifest themselves through round, orange spots and light green discolorations of the leaves. The infestation pressure is particularly high in rainy late summers. As a preventive measure, you can strengthen the kitchen herb with horsetail broth.
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I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.