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Growing Backyard Chives

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By Erin Sheehan | Apr 30, 2015

Do you remember when every backyard had at least a clump or two of chives? Maybe out by the rhubarb? Nowadays many young people (and many not-so-young people) couldn’t tell chives from chrysanthemum, unfortunately. But there’s no reason that chives can’t make a comeback. They grow like weeds and taste great.

We left behind our chive plants when we moved last month, but we’ve transplanted a few clumps from our community garden plot to the new house. I like to have them close to the house, so I can just run out and cut fresh at any time.

Chives are one of the first perennials to pop up come spring. They are cold-tolerant and will be all done by late May, especially if you let them go to flower. Chives prefer full sun, but it’s not necessary. They’ll do better if they have it, but they survive in partial shade just fine.

You can start chives from seed but they won’t amount to much for the first year or two at least. It’s better if you can find someone with some you can transplant. They can be transplanted any time after they’ve come up at least 5 to 6 inches high. To transplant just carefully dig up a clump with roots and surrounding dirt. Before you plant them work some compost or fertilizer into the planting area at a depth of about 6 to 8 inches.

If you do decide to start chives from seed you want to sow them as soon as the soil temperature is at 60 F, in early to mid-spring and treat them with some care, they want regular water and some fertilizer from time to time for that first year.

Once your chives are established they need little or no care. I never water or fertilize mine, I just rely on rain and whatever is in the soil.

Although I am sure you can find “rules for harvesting chives” online, I go out and cut ‘em as I need ‘em. I substitute them for scallions in most if not all recipes. When I see the plants are starting to go to flower and some of the stalks are heading toward woody, I cut the plants way back and freeze the cut chives, without blanching or processing, in freezer bags. I find they retain their flavor just fine that way all winter and I don’t have to spend money on scallions!

If you don’t already have chives out back, ask around and see if anyone you know has some they can share with you. It’s worth it!

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