A low maintenance perennial herb, chives are grown for their pungent, mild tasting leaves that are delicious when chopped up finely and mixed into a salad or added to other dishes – they go particularly well with potatoes and egg. Although they are primarily grown for their leaves, chives have edible pink flowers that make an attractive garnish for salads.
Jobs to do now
- Remove flowers
Month by month
In early spring, sow a few seeds thinly across the surface of very small pots or into plugs, cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator to germinate. Remove the container after germination.
If you forget to sow seeds or want to save time, buy ready-grown plants.
Chives are incredibly easy to maintain. Keep plants well watered, especially during long dry spells in summer.
Rejuvenate congested clumps in the ground by lifting and dividing plants every three years or so.
Preferring moisture retentive, well-drained soil and a sunny or partially shaded position outdoors, chives form 30cm (1ft) tall clumps and can also be grown in pots of soil-based compost.
When plants have filled a container, either move into a slightly larger pot or lift the plant out and divide the rootball in two with a sharp knife, replanting a portion in the same pot.
Chives die back in late autumn. Keep plants looking tidy by clearing away debris.
Look for colonies of greenfly on the soft shoot tips of plants or on leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, encouraging the growth of black sooty moulds.
Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.
This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves. It is often worse in long, wet spells.
Mild attacks of rust won’t harm the plant, but serious infections may cause leaves to shrivel and affect yield. There is no control for rust once you have the infection. Make sure you don’t crowd plants, as this increases humidity and increases the likelihood of infection. Dispose of any badly affected plant material, and don’t grow garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.
You can harvest chives from early summer until they start to die back in autumn.
Cut the leaves as required with scissors, snipping close to the base – the more often they’re harvested, the more new leaves will be produced.
To keep chives productive, remove faded flowers or use the edible blooms when young to brighten salads.
Chives are best used fresh. The leaves can also be frozen – chop them finely, pack into an ice-cube tray and top up with water, then freeze. Pop out cubes whenever you need them.
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