Chives are a low maintenance perennial herb. The botanical name, Allium schoenoprasum, derives from the Greek meaning reed-like leek - a very accurate description as they are a member of the onion family. Their leaves therefore have a mild onion flavour and are great when chopped up finely and added to dishes. They add that little extra to a potato salad and give scrambled eggs a boost.
They are a great addition to your diet as they are a rich source of vitamin K, C and folic acid and minerals such as manganese, magnesium and iron. As well as eating the leaves, they also have edible pink flowers that make an attractive garnish for salads.
In early spring, sow a few seeds thinly across the surface a 3 inch or 4 inch pot or into plugs. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator or warm windowsill to germinate.
If you forget to sow seeds or want to save time, buy ready-grown plants.
Chives form 1ft (30cm) tall clumps. They grow well in ground or in pots of soil-based compost preferring a moisture retentive, well-drained soil. Outside, plant them in a sunny or partially shaded position.
Chives are very low maintenance. Just keep them well watered, especially during long dry spells in summer.
Lift plants every 3 years or so and divide them. Simply cut with a sharp knife and replant the sections. This will rejuvenate congested clumps in the ground or pots. If they are in containers, either divide them or you could move them to a slightly larger pot.
Chives die back in late autumn. Clear away any dead leaves to discourage pests.
You have a win win situation with chives. The more you cut the more they will produce. Simply snip the leaves with scissors close to the base of the plant. To keep plants going, remove the flowers as they start to fade. Don't forget to or use them for your salads.
Chives are best used fresh. If you want to store them then snip them up finely, pack into an ice-cube trays and add a little water and freeze.
Pests & Diseases
Aphids: Greenfly may be seen on the soft shoot tips of plants. If you catch them early then you can just wash them off or pick them off with finger and thumb and squash them.
Leek rust: This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves. You are more likely to see this when the weather has been wet. Mild attacks of rust won’t harm the plant. There is no control for rust once the plant has it. so the best option is prevention. Avoid crowding the plants, to keep humidity down. Cut any badly affected leaves and don’t grow other members of the onion family: garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.