By: Amy Grant
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) make a wonderful addition to the herb garden. In gardens throughout France, the herb is almost obligatory since it is one of the ‘fines herbes’ traditionally combined with chervil, parsley and tarragon to flavor chicken, fish, vegetables, soups, omelets and salads. So, how to grow chives from seed? Let’s find out.
Chives are grown primarily for their culinary uses, but the herb may also be grown for its lovely, light purple flowers and flourishes in containers as well as in the garden proper. A member of the onion or Amaryllidaceae family along with garlic and leeks, chives are native to northern Europe, Greece and Italy. This hardy, drought tolerant perennial grows to between 8-20 inches high in clumps via underground bulbs. Chives have hollow, round leaves much like onions, although smaller.
I propagate my chives by dividing my massive decade-old chive plant but growing chives from seed is the common method for starting this herb; unless you live next door to me, in which case, please, come get one!
Growing chives from seed is a simple process, as seed germinates easily, albeit slowly. Sow seed ½ inch deep in flats of peat-based soilless mix. Keep the flat consistently moist and in temps of between 60-70 degrees F. (15-21 C.). At four to six weeks and once all danger of frost has passed, the chive seedling can be transplanted outside.
Planting chive seeds can also occur directly outside in the garden once the soil has warmed. Space plants 4-15 inches apart in rows 20 or more inches apart. As mentioned, propagation can be from chive seed, transplants or division. Divide the plants every two to three years, separating new plants into clumps of about five bulbs each.
When planting chive seeds, the soil should be rich, moist and high in organic matter with a soil pH of between 6 and 8. Prior to planting the seedlings, amend the soil with 4-6 inches of composted organic matter and apply 2 to 3 tablespoons of all purpose fertilizer per square foot of planting area. Work this in down to 6-8 inches of soil.
Chives thrive in full sun, but will do well in partial shade. Fertilize the plants a few times during the growing season with bone meal and manure or a well-balanced commercial fertilizer. Side dress with 10-15 pounds of nitrogen two times during the growing season and keep the herb consistently moist and the area weeded.
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Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) provide a mild onion flavor when used as an herb, and double as an attractive perennial garden flower. The grasslike plants produce purple orb-shaped flowers in summer, and these are also edible. Chives grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 through 11, tolerating both warm temperatures and frost. You can plant them year-round in mild climates or germinate them four weeks before the last spring frost in cooler regions. Starting the seeds indoors gives you the best chance of successful germination because you can manage the moisture and temperature for the developing seedlings.
Fill a 2-inch deep seed-starting flat with moist potting soil. Set the flat on top of a tray to catch moisture that drains.
Sprinkle the chive seeds on the soil surface in rows. Sow approximately three seeds per inch in each row, and space the rows 2 inches apart in the flat.
Press on the seeds lightly so they are in full contact with the soil. Sprinkle a 1/8-inch layer of soil on top the seeds so they are just covered.
Mist the potting soil with water from a spray bottle. Cover the flat with a plastic bag to retain the moisture during germination so the chives won't require watering until after they sprout.
Set the flat in a location with a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Chives germinate most readily when the soil remains between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the bag once the seeds sprout, which usually takes about seven days. Move the flat to a sunny location and transplant the chives outdoors when they are four to six weeks old.
Cut leaves for salads, potatoes, soups.
Sun The amount of sunlight this product needs daily in order to perform well in the garden. Full sun means 6 hours of direct sun per day partial sun means 2-4 hours of direct sun per day shade means little or no direct sun.
Days To Maturity The average number of days from when the plant is actively growing in the garden to the expected time of harvest.
Life Cycle This refers to whether a plant is an annual, biennial or perennial. Annuals complete their life cycles in one year biennials produce foliage the first year and bloom and go to seed the second year perennials can live for more than two years.
Height The typical height of this product at maturity.
Spread The width of the plant at maturity.
Additional Uses Additional ways in which the product may be used in the garden.
Container Plant, Easy Care, Eco-Friendly, Low Maintenance
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Chives may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost or sown directly in the garden.
Sowing Seed Indoors:
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
Planting in the Garden:
For a quicker harvest, plant garlic chives from transplants or divisions. Space plants about 12 inches apart.
For square foot gardening, allow 1 garlic chive plant per square foot.
Plants grown from seeds will grow into a thick planting in about 3 years. It’s best not to harvest from seed-grown chives until the second year.
Sowing chive seeds indoors is the easiest way to grow them from seed, and indoor propagation is advisable if you live in an area that has the slightest chance of a late cold snap. Sow the seeds about 1/2 inch down in a peat mix, and keep the mixture consistently moist but not wet. Soil temperature should approximate an indoor environment, between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When ready, plant chive seedlings outside 6 to 12 inches apart in ground enriched with compost, not fertilizer.
Chives self-seed if conditions are conducive and you do not trim the flower heads once they wither. If you want them to self-seed, simply leave the heads on until the seeds fall out to prevent self-seeding, trim them off as soon as the blooms fade. You can also purchase rooted chives at a nursery.