Chives

Description

Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, are perennial herbs in the family Liliaceae grown for their leaves which are used as culinary herbs. The chive plant is a member of the onion family and forms small bulbs from the roots. The leaves of the plant are tapering, hollow and cylindrical and have a soft texture. The chive plant grows in clumps and produces large pale purple flowers in a dense clusters of 10–30 individual inflorescences. Chives grow to approximately 46 cm (18 in) in height and can live for many years in favorable conditions. The exact origin of the chive plant is disputed but it grows wild in Europe, Australia and North America.


Uses

Chives are consumed fresh as a culinary herb in a variety of dishes.


Propagation


Basic requirements
Chives are easy to grow and tolerate a range of soil types and conditions. Chives will grow best in a well-draining soil, rich in organic matter with a pH of 6-7 and will perform optimally when positioned in full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade.

Propagation

Starting from seeds
Chives can be grown directly from seed or new plants can be produced by dividing an established plant. Seeds can be started indoors approximately 4 weeks prior to the last frost date and should be planted in flat trays containing sterile seed starting mix. Plant seeds to a depth of 1.3 cm (0.5 in). The seeds are slow to germinate, emerging after about 7 days but the seedlings develop quickly and are ready to be transplanted when they are about 4 weeks old and after they have been hardened.

Dividing plants
Established plants should be divided in the Spring. Start by watering the plants a few hours before dividing to soften the soil and ensure the plants are turgid. Identify individual groups of plants and plant to take 3 to 4 of these together to form a new clump. Cut the chives back to a height of approximately 10 cm (4 in) and carefully extract the existing plant from the soil. Break the clump by dropping the plant from a gentle height to break it apart into separate plants.

Transplanting
Individual plants or seedlings should be planted 20 to 30 cm (8-12 in) apart. Plant divided plants about 1.25 cm (0.5 in) deeper than they were previously. Keep the plants moist to aid in the establishment of the root system.

Harvesting
Chives can be harvested at any time once plants are established. To harvest leaves simply snip them with a pair of scissors leaving about 3 cm (2 in) of green on the plant. Begin harvesting from the outside leaves inwards as required. The plants will quickly produce new growth.

General care and maintenance
Chives benefit from the application of a layer of mulch in the Spring, grass clipping or leaves are ideal and help to conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds. When plants flower, remove the flower head when it starts to dry out and die in order to divert energy to the production of leaves. Chives require the application of fertilizer at regular intervals throughout the growing season unless they were planted in composted manure. A liquid fertilizer should be applied every 4 to 6 weeks.



References

Anderson, C. R. Home Gardening Series. Chives. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Available at: http://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/.... [Accessed 11 November 14]. Free to access.

CABI Crop Protection Compendium. (2010). Allium schoenoprasum datasheet. http://www.cabi.org/cpc/datasheet/4251. [Accessed 11 November 14]. Paid subscription required.

Drost, D. (2010). Chives in the Garden. Utah State University Cooperative Extension. Available at: http://extension.usu.edu/files/public.... [Accessed 11 November 14]. Free to access.

MacKenzie, J. (2007). Chives. University of Minnesota Extension. Available at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/y.... [Accessed 11 November 14]. Free to access.

Schwartz, H. F. & Mohan, S. K. (2008). Compendium of Onion and Garlic Diseases and Pests. American Phytopathological Society Press. Available at: http://www.apsnet.org/apsstore/shopap.... Available for purchase from APS Press.


Common Pests and Diseases

Damping-off
Pythium spp.
Fusarium spp.
Rhizoctonia spp.

Symptoms
Seeds water-soaked, mushy and decomposing; infected roots are gray and water-soaked; seedlings that have already emerged prior to infection collapse and die; older plants that become infected become severely stunted
Cause
Fungi
Comments
Disease emergence favors high soil moisture and cool temperatures
Management
Control of disease is dependent on minimizing soil moisture: break up compacted soil; plant in well-draining areas or raised beds; treat seeds with appropriate fungicides prior to planting

Downy mildew
Puccinia destructor

Symptoms
Pale spots or elongated patches on leaves; gray-purple fuzzy growth on leaf surface; leaves turning pale then yellow; leaf tips collapsing
Cause
Fungus
Comments
Disease emergence favored by cool temperatures and leaf wetness
Management
Avoid planting infected sets; rotate crops to non-allium species for 3-4 years; plant in well-draining areas and do not overcrowd plants; destroy all infected crop debris; apply appropriate foliar fungicides taking care to apply thoroughly to waxy leaves

Pink root
Phoma terrestris

Symptoms
Light pink roots which darken and turn purple; roots become transparent and water soaked; plant may look like it has a nutrient deficiency; infected seedling may die; stunted plants with shriveled bulbs
Cause
Fungus
Comments
Fungus colonizes plant through root tips; fungus can survive in soil down to a depth of 45 cm (17.7 in)
Management
Disease is most severe were onions have been planted continuously; avoid planting on sites where onion has been planted recently, especially if they were diseased; plant more resistant varieties; solarization and/or fumigation can help reduce the levels of pathogen in the soil

Thrips (Onion thrips, Western flower thrips)
Thrips tabaci
Frankliniella occidentalis

Symptoms
Discolored, distorted tissue; scarring of leaves; severly infected plants may have a silvery appearance
Cause
Insect
Comments
Both onion thrips and western flower thrips have an extensive host range and can be introduced to chives from other plants
Management
Natural enemies include some species of predatory mite, pirate bugs and lacewings; avoid planting onion in close proximity to grain fields as thrips populations build up on these plant in the spring; overhead irrigation of plants may help reduce thrips numbers; apply appropriate insecticides at first sign of thrips damage

Onion maggot
Delia antiqua

Symptoms
Stunted or wilting seedlings; plant will commonly break at soil line if an attempt is made to pull it up; if infestation occurs when plants are bulbing, bulbs will be deformed and susceptable to storage rots after harvest; adult insect is a greyish fly which lays white, elongate eggs around the base of the plant; the larvae that emerge from the eggs are tiny and white and bore into the bulbs; mature larvae are about 1 cm (0.4 in) long with feeding hooks
Cause
Insect
Comments
Females can lay several hundred eggs during their 2-4 week lifespan; insect overwinters as pupae in the soil
Management
Management of onion maggots is heavily reliant on good snaitation; all chive bulbs should be removed at the end of the season as maggots will die without a food source; commercial growers must often rely on the application of appropriate granular insecticides and, in some cases, insecticide sprays are also required; home gardeners should try to remove any volunteer wild onion and chive plants as these can act as an infection source; floating row covers may provide protection by preventing females from laying eggs around the plants