Garlic chives are drought, heat, and cold-tolerant – every gardener’s dream! But this delicious herb fares even better when you give it the right start and ideal environment.
Follow this guide as we take you through each step of growing your own garlic chives from seed sowing, transplanting, harvesting, and more.
- Garlic Chive seeds or 4-inch nursery potted plant
- Seed starter tray with lid
- Organic potting soil
- Misting spray bottle
- Seedling heat mat (optional)
- Draw hoe
- Small shovel
- 6-8 inch (W) x 6 inch (D) container
- Soil pH/moisture/temperature meter
- Granular or liquid fertilizer
- Paring knife/scissors
- Airtight ziplock bags
How To Grow Garlic Chives From Seed
Seeds can be direct sown in favorable conditions or started easily indoors, which is a popular choice as it gives you a head start on the growing season.
Method #1 – Start Seeds Indoors
1. Aim to Start Seeds 8 Weeks Before the Last Frost Date
Seed germination is quite slow, so get your materials ready for seed starting at least 8 weeks before your last average frost date.
2. Sow Seeds Thickly in Modular Tray Cells of Damp Compost
Fill the cells of a seed starter tray with nutrient-rich compost and mist each cell lightly with water to create an evenly moist growing medium.
As germination can be quite patchy, sow seeds generously (about 8-10 in each cell). Cover each cell with ½ inch of compost and gently firm the surface with your fingertips before misting again.
3. Place Tray in 68-77°F. Seeds Should Emerge in 2-3 Weeks
Put the lid on the seed tray and place the tray on a warm windowsill in your home or use a seedling heat mat to ensure the seeds remain within a germination-happy 68-77°F range.
Ensure they get at least 6 hours of daily sunlight.
4. Thin Seedlings to 1-2 per Cell once they reach 2 Inches Tall
Once the shoots reach about 2 inches, thin out crowded tray cells so that each one holds 1-2 strong seedlings. Do this by gently pinching out shoots at the base with your forefinger and thumb.
5. Move Growing Seedlings into 6-8 inch Pots & Harden Off
When seedlings grow to 3-4 inches tall, transplant each cell into its own 6-8 inch pot of multi-purpose potting soil.
Fill large pots 2/3 of the way with potting soil and create a planting hole with your finger. Next, push cells gently at the base to free the seedlings and place each one in the new pot, gently patting down the surrounding soil.
The young chive plants can then be gradually hardened off for a week before being transplanted permanently outside. Acclimatize them to the elements by placing the pots outside for an hour the first day, 2 hours the next etc.
Method #2 – Sow Seeds Directly in Garden
1. Start between April-June in Fertile, well-draining Soil
Garlic chive seeds establish better in rich, well-draining soil, so if you have loose, sandy soil or compacted clay soil, amend native soil by raking in a 5-6 inch layer of compost.
Also, be sure to sow only when soil temperatures are around 60-70°F, typically between April and June.
2. Make Shallow ‘Drills’ in Soil Using a Draw/Digging Hoe
Next, create long shallow lines or ‘drills’ in the soil using a draw hoe tool, making sure the groove is no more than ½ inch deep as seeds can rot if they’re sown too deeply.
Space the drills/rows roughly 5 inches apart.
3. Water Evenly Along Drills & Sow Seeds Evenly
Water along the length of each drill/row created so the soil is moist (not soggy), and scatter seeds evenly along each row.
Afterward, completely cover the seeds with the soil on either side of the drills. Depending on conditions, seeds may germinate within 7-28 days.
4. Thin Seedlings 6-12 inches part once 2 inches tall
When seedlings shoot up to 2 inches tall, thin them out to 2-3 seedlings per group using your thumb and forefinger. In doing this, make sure they have at least 6 inches of space between them for healthy, robust development.
Water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist.
How To Transplant Garlic Chives
For Indoor-started chives
1. Wait till the threat of Frost has Passed & the Soil is Warm
As with direct sowing, ensure the soil is warm enough for planting (60-70°F) and wait at least 2 weeks after the last spring frost date in your area to be sure there is no threat of frost.
2. Create 6-inch Planting Holes in Vegetable Patch/Flower Bed
In the week that your garlic chive seedlings are being hardened off, dig a series of 6-inch deep holes in your veg patch or flower bed using a small shovel, ensuring the chives will be in a full sun location.
Space the holes about 8 inches apart and fill each planting hole with compost, allowing it to settle well into the soil as the seedlings complete their hardening off stage.
3. Plant Seedlings with Crown ½ Below Soil Level & Backfill
Place each seedling clump in the center of their planting holes with the crown/base sitting ½ an inch below soil level.
Then backfill the hole with surrounding soil and pat around firmly to secure the young plants.
Water the seedlings thoroughly.
For nursery-purchased chives
1. Water Nursery Plants to Soften the Soil & Remove from Pots
Moisten the 4-inch nursery starter chives to soften/loosen the soil and gently tip the pot upside down, cradling the plant in one hand. Set aside on newspaper.
2. Fill a Deep, Wide Container with Well-draining Potting Soil
Choose a sturdy container/planter at least 6-8 inches wide and 6 inches deep (ensuring there are drainage holes at the base) and fill it with light, well-draining potting soil, leaving ½ inch between to soil and rim of the pot.
3. Plant Chives at the Same Depth as their Nursery Pots
Transplant your nursery chives into the new container at roughly the same depth as their nursery pots. You can also plant nursery starter garlic chives together in much larger containers, ensuring there’s 6 inches of space between each clump.
You can choose to keep them in permanent containers as part of an indoor herb garden or transplanted in beds in summer.
Garlic Chives Companion Plants
Aside from beans and peas, garlic chives grow well alongside many plants, helping to enhance the flavor of fellow veg/herbs and repel many pests. Some great companion plants include:
How To Care for Garlic Chives
Your garlic chives have successfully germinated and grown into handsome seedlings – great! Now to maintain their healthy development by ensuring your outdoor garlic chives grow in the best possible conditions.
Though tolerant of poor soil, your chives will thrive in fertile, fast-draining soil, so add 1-2 inches of compost or worm castings yearly to improve drainage. Garlic chives also love soil with a pH range of 6.0-7.0 so test yours with a soil pH meter and adjust accordingly.
6-8 hours of full sunlight is preferred but they can tolerate partial shade. Garlic chives grow best in USDA grow zones 3-9, so provide afternoon shade if you live in a hotter climate to prevent scorching.
Give them a deep drink whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. Aim to keep the soil moist but not soggy, so wait a few days in between watering and see how the soil feels – use a soil moisture meter to help you stay on track!
Fertilizing Garlic Chives
Go easy on fertilizer as excess use can cause the chives to lose their flavor. Work a slow-release granular fertilizer into the soil once yearly or add some compost tea to your container-grown garlic chives once in summer.
How To Harvest Garlic Chives
Garlic chives can be harvested 85-90 days from sowing the seeds or 30 days after transplanting.
1. Once Leaves are 6 inches Tall, Slice them Above Soil Level
Using a paring knife/clean kitchen scissors, cut established leaves at the base close to the soil line.
You can also pick the edible flowers by hand when they have recently opened for optimum flavor.
2. Chop Chives & Dry before Refrigerating/Freezing
Preserve the fresh chives by chopping them into 1-2 inch chunks and placing them on a paper towel to dry.
Then, place small tablespoon-sized handfuls in airtight ziplock bags for storage in the fridge (for up to 1 week) or the freezer for up to 12 months.
How To Use Garlic Chives
Washed and prepared garlic chives can be added to various salads, stews, soups, egg, and meat dishes and the flowers can be used as edible decorations in desserts.
You can also grow garlic chives indoors as microgreens for a quicker harvest that provides a great sandwich and salad dressing!
Growing Garlic Chives in Pots
If growing garlic chives permanently in pots, choose a container as deep as it is wide (6-8 inches) and fill it with good quality compost or organic potting mix.
You can either place the pots out on the patio or keep several pots on a south-facing kitchen windowsill or under grow lights, treating them to a liquid fertilizer (diluted by half) every month.
Garlic Chives vs. Chives
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) have flat, wide grass-like leaves of blue-green with a mild garlic taste, whereas common chives (Allium schoenoprasum) have tubular bright-green leaves and a distinct onion flavor.
Garlic chives also bloom later and typically produce white flowers whilst chive blooms tend to be pale purple.
Are Garlic Chives Perennial?
Yes, they are cold hardy perennials, tolerating temperatures down to 40°F, and go dormant in winter once temperatures dip below freezing.
That’s A Wrap
You’ll know you’ve provided your young seedlings with great care when you can enjoy harvesting the delicious stalks within 3 months (if grown from seed) or within 3-4 weeks (if transplanted).
Healthy garlic chives will grow erect stalks around 1-3 ft tall and bloom reliably in late summer-early fall when they have a moist yet well-draining soil bed that’s free of weeds and rich in nutrients.