How to encourage fast growth
Give them a fertiliser that’s high in nitrogen – the element that promotes leafy growth. Sprinkle the fertilizer around each plant once in late spring. Water the surrounding soil immediately afterwards.
Early each spring, too, just as the narrow grass-like leaves start growing – this could be as early as February – give each plant a dose of a standard liquid house plant fertilizer. These fertilisers contain not only nitrogen, but phosphates and potash as well, and the mixture will give the chives a quick boost, getting them off to a good start.
If you cut off most of the leaves with scissors to just above soil level at least twice a month during the summer, and remove any flower stems as soon as you see them, this will also encourage faster growth and ensure a continuous supply of fresh young leaves for the kitchen.
Growing Chives during winter on windowsill
On a sunny windowsill chives will produce a succession of tender green leaves which can be snipped off with scissors whenever you need them throughout the winter. In September, plant a good-sized clump in a 3-5in pot of potting compost. Keep the compost moist. Feed the chives every three weeks or so with a liquid house plant fertiliser. Harvest regularly, cutting off the leaves close to the base.
Dividing chives in spring or autumn
You can divide your established chives clumps in spring even if they seem to be actively growing, because chives are quite tough plants and will happily put up with a spring disturbance. If the leaves are more than 4in tall at that time, snip them off close to the soil; this will help the plants to settle in more quickly. Dividing chives in Autumn shouldn’t present any problems either, but add peat or sharp grit to the soil if it’s very full of clay and poorly drained, otherwise the roots may rot during the winter.
Growing White Chives, Garlic Chives
If you think you’ll like garlic-flavoured leaves, white chives are good to grow. The ordinary chives whose leaves taste mildly of onions, white chives have garlic flavour. Garlic chives also come up every year, but grow to 15 in high – about twice as tall as the more usual kind. The plant is not so prolific as its cousin, and the leaves are broader. Starry white flowers are borne on the tall stems in late summer, making garlic chives an attractive plant for a sunny spot.
Sow garlic chive seeds in a cool greenhouse – at a temperature of about 12°C (54°F) – or in a pot on a bright windowsill during the spring, and transfer the seedlings to trays or 3 in individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Keep them in a cold frame throughout the summer. Alternatively, sow the seeds in a in deep drill after last frost date, and thin the young plants to 6in apart a month or so later.
Move the chives to their permanent positions in the following autumn, and thereafter treat them like ordinary chives. Cut the leaves when required between late spring to autumn each year.