Whether you’re a foodie who prefers fresh herbs for cooking or an aspiring gardener who’s ready to test their green thumb, chives are a great plant to start. Relatively speaking, chives are low maintenance and easy to grow. Not to mention, they have a versatile, light onion taste that serves as a great addition to soups, dips, roasted veggies, omelets, and more. Here, we’ll teach you how to grow chives from seed outside in a garden or from the windowsill of your own kitchen.
Growing your own chives is as easy as providing your plant with the basics: Sunlight, water, and space to gently spread its leaves. The seedlings can be planted outside in the spring once temperatures on the ground hit about 65°F, but it’s best to start indoors when growing chives from seed. This gives them a head start before the optimal warmer growing season to really thrive, and that way you can enjoy them sooner and for longer. You can start planting your seeds indoors about a month before temperatures begin to warm up or just after the last predicted frost.
Nonetheless, chives are a perennial plant, meaning once planted, they’ll grow back each season on their own with little to no help from you. In fact, you’ll probably see their light purple, edible flowers, and tall green leaves as one of the first plants to sprout in your garden each spring.
While chives are extremely laid back when it comes to maintenance, they thrive on sunlight.
If you’re growing chives from seed indoors, ideally you should find a windowsill where they can get at least six hours of sunlight per day. If the chives begin to grow toward the light, you can rotate the pots to ensure they receive even sun exposure. No bad tan lines, here! If full sun isn’t possible, you can always supplement with a grow light, positioned about a foot from the plant.
Chives also appreciate a little humidity, so you can place other potted plants close by, use a water bottle to mist the leaves, or place a small pebble tray filled with water nearby. You can keep the soil slightly moist, too, as long as there’s proper soil drainage. A good practice is to water your chives as soon as the top of the soil is dry to the touch. If you forget to water your plant for a little bit, don’t worry — it will probably still survive. And make sure your chive’s pot has holes in the bottom for drainage.
During the warm seasons, apply a diluted water-soluble fertilizer twice a month, to help your chive plant thrive. When seasons change and it starts to cool off outside, the chives will grow much slower and, most likely, will eventually die down. But don’t fear—clear out the dead foliage, water every now and then through the winter, and the chives will grow back as soon as the weather starts to warm up again.
When you start growing chives from seed, it’s important to plant them in fertile and well-drained soil, like your standard potting mix. The soil should also only be lightly fertilized, as too much fertilizer will affect the taste, and we don’t want that.
To begin planting, dampen the soil (it shouldn’t be soggy) and place it in a pot, about 6 inches deep. Spread the seeds out over the soil and cover with a thin layer of dampened soil. Then, place the pot in a sunny spot and wait. Things will start to get exciting in about a week to 10 days when seedlings start to pop up.
You can, of course, keep your chives inside, conveniently in your kitchen for cooking. However, if you so choose to move them outside, wait until the temperature is right and the seedlings are at least 2 inches in height. An added bonus of growing chives outdoors: They’re known to help keep pests away.
Here’s something you might not know: The entire chive plant is edible. You can eat the leaves (which is most popular), the blossoms, and the bulbs if you like. You should wait until the plant is at least 6 inches tall to begin harvesting; however, the taller the better if you plan to use a lot of chives for cooking.
Start your harvest by cutting the flowers, as they can restrict the growth of new leaves. To do so, cut the blossoms at the base of their stems. You can use them as a garnish, salad topper, or if you’re feeling really thrifty, to make chive blossom vinegar.
The leaves can be cut several times throughout the growing season, but you should start with the outer ones first and then work your way in toward the center of the plant. Use scissors to clip them 2 inches above the soil and this will ensure they’ll continue to grow the rest of the season.
As long as you follow these steps for growing your chives, you should end up with a healthy plant and a happy gardener. Plus, if you transfer your chives to outdoors, you’ll have minimal work and plenty reward for years to come.
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