Grow Your Own Chives
Chives are a fantastic plant to grow if you want to try your hand at gardening, especially if you haven’t had much success yet, because they're super forgiving. Too much sun? They're great. Too little sun? That's fine too. Too hot? Not enough water? They'll still be growing.
In fact, they’re like the best friend who loves you no matter what. With just a little bit of tending, you’ll be able to grow way more chives than you could ever think of using. Bonus: their flowers are both beautiful and edible.
One of my first introductions to kitchen gardening was a pot of garlic chives that my mother gave me. I kept it on our front stoop, and I would just step outside the door and harvest chives to put on omelettes every Saturday morning. I felt like Martha Stewart. It whet my appetite for growing my own fresh food in a simple way.
Are Chives a Perennial Plant?
Chives are a cold-hardy little perennial that will return from the roots each year.
If you experience a cold season (during which you can regularly expect frost or snow), your chives will die back in the winter but then return on their own in the spring—a welcome sight every year!
If you live somewhere with milder winters, your chives can grow year round.
I've found that I get more chives blossoms when I live in colder areas than I did when I lived somewhere warm, perhaps because the plants die back each winter.
Whether your chives popped back after winter or you planted chives seeds in early spring, by early summer, your chives should be producing gorgeous blossoms that hold the chives seeds. Each little part of the floret, if dried, will produce one small, circular seed. It's a good idea to harvest these blooms before they spread seeds all over your garden (though they're easy enough to move should that happen).
How to Harvest Chives to Get More Blooms
Spring or early summer is a great time to cut back your chives—about 60 days after planting from seed if you started new chives plants.
Chives can spread through both seeds and underground bulbs, so if your chives have enjoyed several seasons in your garden already, it might also be time to divide them, which encourages each plant to be more productive. You can use a hori hori or a garden shovel to divide your plants and spread them further around the borders of your raised beds. Give transplants several weeks to adjust before harvesting from them. Cut from established plants monthly.
When harvesting, use a clean pair of scissors to cut the plants pretty low to the soil level, just 1 to 2 inches above the soil. I like to grab several stems at once like I'm gathering hair for a ponytail. New growth will spring from the center of the plant, not the tips, and that's why a good cutting back will keep your plant healthy through the summer.
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How to Harvest Chive Blossoms
You'll notice that the blossoms themselves grow on much sturdier stems than the rest of the plant. You'll want to cut these stems all the way down at their base, just like you would a cut flower. You can then cut the blossom from the stem and enjoy the entire blossom, or you can break them apart for use in your kitchen.
What to Do with Chives Blossoms
Chive blossoms are at their peak flavor right after they've opened. They have a really vibrant onion flavor.
When you harvest chives with flowers, you can make a chive blossom vinegar to put on salads or use as a garnish (it’s a pretty pink color). Again, the blossom stems will be more rigid than normal chives stems, so if they're not to your liking, I recommend composting them.
For regular stems, use as much as you can when they're freshly harvested. If you have more than you could possibly need, wrap stems in a damp paper towel and then put them into a container or jar in the fridge. You can also store chives in the freezer if you won't be able to use them in the next two weeks.
I hope these hardy, sustainable plants give you quick success in a raised bed or even in a little pot. If you're still getting your herb garden set up, learn how to grow more herbs in a small space.
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