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I have a few questions about starting chives (Allium schoenoprasum) and keeping them happy. I understand chives can survive and grow in many conditions, but what are the best conditions? A few points I would love answered:

  • What are ideal conditions for germination?
  • Should seeds be clumped together or individually spaced out?
  • What is the optimal soil pH/temperature?
  • Full sun, partial sun, shade (optimally)?
  • How aggressive should stalks be harvested?
  • Do they spread asexually (spores, clippings) or by seed only?
  • Should they be replanted every year or do they overwinter well?
  • What nutrient are they heavily dependent on (if any in particular)?

Please feel free to bring up any other aspects that may be pertinent!

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I can't answer all the questions, but I know that once you have chives, you'll always have chives. They don't spread like weeds, but they are hardy and always come back from bulbs and seeds. We just dug ours up, and there was no dirt left between the roots -- it was just a solid block of roots a foot in every direction. I think maybe it was time to thin them. –  thursdaysgeek Feb 24 '12 at 1:39
    
I also can't answer all the points, but they overwinter very well. I don't protect them and they just keep on going (Z5 here, I think they're supposed to be good to Z3?). –  bstpierre Feb 24 '12 at 1:56
    
They don't have spores - they're not moss, fern, fungi - chives have seeds :-) –  winwaed Feb 24 '12 at 2:56
    
My best chive clump is in partial shade, and on the damper side of our property, and the worst, scraggly clump is at the sunniest, dryest side. This is in Scotland though, so the ground is moist all year round, and the temperature is normally between -5 and +25 Celsius. –  Rory Alsop Feb 25 '12 at 10:39
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Chives are one of the easiest herbs to grow and are trouble free unless you grow onions close by. The onion fly will attack most members of the onion family of which the chive is a member.

  • What are ideal conditions for germination?

    • Soil less mix, moisture, light, bottom heat, moderate to high humidity to start germination with more air movement after germination
  • Should seeds be clumped together or individually spaced out?

    • Chives do very well from seed. Collect the seeds and sow in a pot very early in the year. Keep warm and watered until the seedlings are large enough to plant outside. Use normal spacing, they will fill in as they start growing outdoors
  • What is the optimal soil pH/temperature?

    • Ph neutral, temperatures ranges from 15 deg C to 30 deg C. At either end of the temperature range growth is reduced.
  • Full sun, partial sun, shade (optimally)?

    • Full sun if the soil is rich and does not get too dry, light shade is better if the climate or soil is dryer
  • How aggressive should stalks be harvested?

    • Let seedlings grow unharvested for one year. Established clumps can be regularly harvested by taking a portion of the stalks. It's your choice whether you take the entire stalk down to the base or a little off the top. After flowering the entire clump should be cut down to the ground so you can have another harvest late in the fall.
  • Do they spread asexually (spores, clippings) or by seed only?

    • They spread by seed or by division
  • Should they be replanted every year or do they overwinter well?

    • They can be grown in USDA zones 3 to 9. I have read that they should be replanted every four or five years but have never done so and I have more chives than I can use. Rabbits don't seem to eat them either.
  • What nutrient are they heavily dependent on (if any in particular)?

    • None when grown in soils with normal or above average amounts of organic matter. Fertilizer is not necessary unless your soil is extremely poor in nutrients.

Chives are not a fussy or demanding plant. There are a few different types like garlic chives. Once you plant them and see how reliable they are their relatives such as garlic, onions and leeks start to look like a good addition to your garden as well.

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Excellent information. Thanks. –  WienerDog Feb 27 '12 at 14:47
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