An extremely useful, long lasting and attractive herb which is equally at home in the flower border as it is in a herb garden or mixed patio planter. The mild onion flavoured leaves are produced from spring right through to the first frosts of autumn. The plants themselves are long lived and will provide fresh leaves for a great number of years. The attractive purple flowers can also be used as a garnish or left as a decorative addition to the herb garden or flower border.
Sow outdoor March to May. To grow big perennial plants it is best to grow chives outdoors. Choose a sunny location for best results and wait until the soil has warmed up, ideally to around 10°C+. Then sow thinly directly where plants are to grow. Make a shallow trench 0.5cm deep and cover the seeds with fine soil. Keep the soil moist and weed free. It is important to keep on top of weeding as the thin leaves of young chives are easily shaded out by any competition. Thin out the seedlings to 20cm apart when large enough to handle. Carefully removed seedlings can be planted out elsewhere if desired. Over the years mature plants can spread out to form large, attractive and productive clumps. Once established, a regular liquid feed will help maximise crops.
Top Tips About Seeds
Once the seed packet has been opened, the seeds can be stored in an airtight container until required for further sowings.
Small clumps can planted into patio pots or decorative mixed patio containers, where they can be close at hand for use in the kitchen or when eating outdoors. Pots can then also be overwintered in a greenhouse or polytunnel to extend the harvest season.
It is unusual for chives to suffer any major problems, especially once established and if kept well watered in dry spells. If there is a problem then the whole clump can be rejuvenated by cutting back the existing leaves to allow fresh healthy leaves to grow back in their place.
Harvest all year round, outdoor plants from June. Once a clump is established and the leaves are 15cm tall or more, they can be cut as required. Cut the leaves to about 4cm from the ground. If leaves are collected from a few different plants it minimises the damage caused to any single one and the plants will regenerate more quickly. If removing flowers, the stems are best cut down to approx. 2cm from the ground.
Ideas on how to use your chives
Large clumps of chives can be divided in spring. Simply slice of an edge from a large clump with a spade, they can replanted elsewhere. Small clumps can also be potted up in late summer and cut back. These will then be shooting fresh new leaves in autumn and can be taken indoors to grow on a windowsill, providing fresh leaves throughout the winter months. In late autumn any remaining leaves can be cut, chopped up and frozen for later use. The flowers also have a mild onion flavour and can be sprinkled into salads or used as an attractive garnish.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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