Chives are bulb plants, a perennial related to the Lilly, onions and garlic. They are also referred to as Garlic chives and Chinese chives. The Onion chive has tubular leaves and pink flowers and a taste similar to mild onions. Chinese or Garlic chives have a garlic-like flavor with flat leaves and white flowers.
They are grown not only for their flowers but also their leaves / stems. Their flat leaves are not hollow like scallions or onions. The plants produce beautiful, globe like lavender and pinkish blossoms. They grow to about a foot and a half high and do best in Zones 3 to 9. They require very little care other than watering and weeding.
Chives perform best in well-drained soil with well aged compost or manure. In early spring, plant seedlings in full sun. Keep any mulch away from the bases of these plants to prevent disease problems due to excessive moisture retention, as well as to promote proper air circulation.
Chives do not compete well with weeds or other garden plants. Diligent weeding and proper spacing is essential. Some gardeners use garlic or chives as a perennial border plant in either a flower, herb or vegetable garden.
They are good neighbor plants for carrots and tomatoes and are said too enhance the growth and flavor of both. You can also plant chives around base of fruit trees to discourage insects from climbing the trunk.
Plant clumps of four to six chive bulbs 6 to 7 inches apart. After 3 or 4 years, successful plants will grow into a clump of smaller plants; divide them in early spring. Divide larger clumps of chives about every 3 years once you have established a patch. Divide them by digging up the plants and dividing them into smaller clumps with four to six bulbs each.
Chives will also grow well in containers, either by themselves, or in combination with other herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – But Simon and Garfunkle aren’t recommended.
Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, and fertilize lightly when you do so. Heavy fertilizer applications will affect the taste of the chives in a negative fashion. They do need to be fertilized several times annually with either bone meal, manure or fish emulsion. Compost or manure tea can also be used.
Chives are almost disease free. Aphids and thrips are the primary pests , particularly in spring. If you use sprays such as Neem or insecticidal soap be aware that they tend to bead up on the waxy leaves, so you need to be certain it contacts the pests physically.
Chives exist to flower and will diligently work at producing flowers, you need to be just as diligent in preventing this. Removing or preventing flowering will force the plants energy to go into producing foliage and leaves instead of flowers. Some flowers are okay, as they do attract bees and other pollinators.
Occasionally, you might find the chive plant drying up and withering a bit. Cutting back the leaves slightly and trimming dead stalks will generally reverse this, as it rejuvenates the plant which will usually start generating new leaves.
Use scissors to cut chives about 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the ground, leaving enough stalk for the plant to regenerate. Leaves can be harvested as soon as they are large enough to clip and use but have the most oil just before the plants flower, so harvesting them at this point will ensure a better quality. Cut from the outside of the clump, about 1/2 inch above soil level. Harvest from the outside edges of the clumps. After flowering and final seasonal harvest, cut back the entire plant to remove the spent flower stalks.
You can store extra chives for winter use by chopping and freezing the leaves, or preserving them in oils, and vinegar, where they blend well with other spices. Chives can also be frozen, To freeze chives, wash and puree it, adding a modest amount of water as needed to make a thick sauce like puree. Freeze the puree in ice-cube trays than freezer bags for later use as needed.