Chives are a native herb of China where the plants have been cultivated for the past 5,000 years. The herb was introduced into Europe during the 16th century and was brought to the United States by the colonists. Chives are used both for their culinary value as a flavouring and for their medicinal properties. The plants thrive under optimal growing conditions, which includes providing the right amount of water.
Chives grow best in a moist but well-drained soil. In their native habitat and their widely naturalised habitat in Europe and Greece, the plants thrive in moist pastures and on stream banks, which demonstrates their requirement for continual soil moisture. Water deeply, especially during periods of dry weather and infrequent rains so that the soil around the roots does not dry. Mulch lightly with organic material such as compost, grass clippings or ground leaves to help retain soil moisture.
Plant chives in areas of full sun. Though the plants are tolerant of some hours of light shade, growth is best when exposed to six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Make sure the soil is well amended with organic material and is lightly acidic with a pH ranging between 6.2 to 6.8. The plants also adapt to low soil fertility and grow well in containers.
Start the plants from seed by planting in small pots or flats. Sow the seeds at a depth of ½ inch and place in shade at temperatures of 15.5 to 21.1 degrees C. Keep soil well moistened. Chive seeds germinate slowly in two to three weeks. After germination, allow seedlings to grow for four weeks before moving them to a permanent spot in the garden. Propagation is faster with division of clumps.
Plants growing in fertile soils amended with organic material at planting time do not need too much fertiliser. Excessive use of fertiliser is not recommended for chives. Plants that are continually harvested over the years start to weaken. Fertilise these plants lightly with a 5-10-5 liquid fertiliser once a year in spring. Use half of the label recommendations for both ground and container-grown chives.