How to plant chive seeds and get a great harvest of either onion or garlic chives easily.
Chive is not only edible, but they are also beautiful low maintenance perennials. They are hardy, require little effort, and go well with many vegetable recipes. Chives also attract butterflies and other pollinating insects. They have a unique aroma that draws these insects near. They work well in shaded areas of your gardens and they survive the weather well with not much water if you want the chives to just survive.
So let’s get started on our simple guide on planting chive from seeds. Now the most common chives are garlic and onion. I love both and every season I am first to plant them in my neighborhood. I will also share a very important tip on how to make full use of your harvest. More on those chive tips at the end. Let’s get started.
1. Prepare the chive seeds
Soak the seeds in clean water for the night. Soaked seeds will give a great result. The seeds that float in water and keep doing so despite a few gentle efforts to push in, maybe hollow. It’s best to discard those if there are too many. Always source your chive seeds from good stores or organically grown ones from the source you trust.
If you are an evening gardener like me, soak them for the day. Evening planting has its own benefits as the absence of hot sun can help chive seeds grow initially without problems.
2. Prepare the soil for the chives
Prepare some soil where you will be planting your chive seeds. You can either sow directly or prepare them in a tray. I would recommend preparing them in a tray if you are new. I usually plant them directly as I take care. I am careful when I water the chive beds so they do not get unsettled. I also keep the bed covered with cotton sheets or plastic cellophane to retain moisture. You can also use planters, chose the right planter, prepare the planters.
3. Planting the chive seeds
Now you can sow the chive seeds about a centimeter deep in the soil. Space the seeds 8 to 10 inches apart if sowing directly, if sowing in a tray, spread them randomly. Do not press the soil, if you have to, use very gentle pressure. You would only press the soil in case it is too loose, which would indicate poor soil preparation or too much coir/moss/humus.
4. Water the chive seeds
Water the soil carefully, you can cover the topsoil with a cotton sheet for gentler watering and remove it when seeds begin to sprout. You need to keep the bed moist. Keep watering regularly and in warm conditions (ideal season) you can water them in the morning and evenings. Maintaining moisture is very important. Without moisture, the baby buds will dry out and die, and watering them again will not help if they dry out even once.
You can use cotton or coir or a gunny bag rug to cover the bed for longer moisture retention. You can also use cellophane to cover the bed but as soon as the plants come out, remove it, or make holes for the plant to come through.
5. Transplanting chive saplings from a tray
If you chose to use a tray to prepare the nursery, wait for them to grow 2 inches or so before you can transplant the chive saplings. Then make sure the soil is moist enough for roots to be pulled out without harming and pull as many saplings you would like to plant.
Now prepare the main bed and create a row. Place the saplings laid on one side and cover the roots with soil again. They can be an inch deep. Do not bother making the chive saplings stand up, they will do so automatically in 1-2 days. Now water the bed and maintain the moisture.
6. Caring for the Chive plants
Chive is hardy and does not require any special maintenance. You should regularly water them. At bloom time, add diluted NPK fertilizer mix as per the instructions on the bag. Keep the beds weed-free. Chive will keep your garden beautiful as it’s a perfect landscaping plant. You can also use organic fertilizer once in the season. But often chive will not need anything if the soil was prepared well for the whole season. When you divide the plants, you can always give them more organic fertilizer or use fresh soil. You should ideally test the soil with a meter to make sure the ph is balanced.
7. Mulch in the Chive beds
Adding a mulch layer at the top will help retain moisture. Mulch like wood chips, straws, etc. helps prevent weed growth and promote soil moisture retention. When growing in planters, you can use coco peat mix to retain more moisture, and also you can aid it with drip irrigation if you like. The planters usually lose moisture faster. You can also use grow bags in large sizes to mimic raised beds.
9. Dividing the chive plants
Chives are divided every 2-4 years to promote healthy growth. You would usually divide the plants at the end of winter or early in spring. Your new divided plants need some time to establish and cannot survive the frost, so if it is too frosty, choose early spring.
To divide the plants, water the soil to make it soft, next day, cut the leaves back to 3 to 4 inches above the ground. Dig the plants using a pitchfork and gently strike the root on the ground to loosen it. Now pull the root apart in smaller groups and separate. Don’t worry the plant is tough to handle this. Now you can proceed with planting the divisions.
8. Tips for seasonal Chive flavor that lasts
Now is the time for some nice tips that can help you get this amazing flavor in your kitchen for a longer time. When you plant from the tray, let the smaller chive saplings remain in the tray. Let a week pass while you keep them in some partial shade, they will grow slower. Plant them a little later than the initial batch.
You can also sow Chive seeds in batches of 2 weeks spaced apart. This way the chive will mature in batches and you will get a longer time to enjoy the mature plants in your kitchen. After all, who would want all of the harvests in one go?
- Zones: 3-10
- Scientific name: Allium schoenoprasum
- Type: Herb
- Maintenance: Low
- Decor: Green stems and colorful flowers
Insects and Invertebrates: Thrips (Thrips tabaci), leafminers.
Diseases: Rust (Puccinia allii)
Other Potential Pests: The following pests have not been observed on this crop in Ontario. However, they are either significant concerns for closely related plants in Ontario, or are reported on this crop in other production areas. This is not a comprehensive list of all potential pests. Not all of these pests will necessarily survive Ontario’s climate, but could potentially survive in a protected environment (e.g. greenhouse, storage facility).
Insects and Invertebrates: Onion maggot* (Delia antiqua)
Diseases: Downy mildew* (Peronospora destructor), onion smut (Urocystis cepulae)