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How to Grow

Chives are an incredibly easy perennial herb and grow great in cold climates with little care required. Gardeners in Zone 2 and up can easily grow chives.

How To Grow Chives In Zone 3

by on June 15, 2023
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Chives are an incredibly easy perennial herb and grow great in cold climates with very little care required. This herb can tolerate long, cold Winters in most grow zones, even as low as Zone 2-3. They are extremely hardy and are typically the first thing to pop up in the Spring.

How to grow chives in Zone 3

Are Chives Easy To Grow

Yes! Chives are extremely easy to grow in a range of climates including cold regions across Canada and the Northern U.S. They will thrive in both part shade or full sun locations in your garden.

Another reason chives are easy to grow is because they don’t require much fertilizer or maintenance throughout the growing season. They are hardy perennial herbs and will be fairly hands off!

In my Zone 3 garden, our chive plant comes back bigger and better each season.

How To Grow Chives From Seed

Chives in a raised bed garden

The hardest part about growing chives is starting them. The seeds are slow to germinate and take some time to establish.

First, source high-quality organic chive seeds from a reliable seed provider, such as one of these listed in my blog Where To Buy The Best Organic Vegetable Seeds In Canada In 2023.

For Zone 2-4, start your chive seeds indoors in mid to late Winter. For myself in Zone 3, this is typically late February to early March.

Chive seeds are quite tiny and fine, so sow several per transplant cell. You can easily sow upwards of 10 per cell. You will have to separate the seedlings once established and transplant into larger containers or directly into your garden.

Plant each chive seed 1/4inch deep and gently cover with your seed starting soil blend. Be sure to keep soil consistently moist during germination.

Northern growers will have to keep seeds under grow lights as there simply isn’t enough natural daylight in the Winter months to grow chives from sunlight alone.

How Long Does It Take For Chive Seeds To Germinate

I’ve found chives can be very slow to get going, taking anywhere from 10-20 days before any growth appears. So have patience!

And if you don’t, instead opt for buying organic chive seedlings from your local garden centre and transplant into your garden. It will give you a head start and lead to an earlier harvest.

Transplant your chive seedlings into well drained soil. They will do well in both part shade or full sun locations, which is one of the reasons why they’re so easy to grow.

When Do Chives Bloom

Once established, chives will bloom toward the end of Spring. This is typically around early to mid June in our Zone 3 garden here in Manitoba.

However, when your chives bloom will depend on the growing season. If years when it has been warm early on, I’ve had our chive plant bloom in May.

You can harvest your chives before the plant blooms. I have noticed that the flavour of the herb changes slightly after blooming. Some gardeners believe that harvest the seed heads before they bloom will preserve the flavour longer.

I personally like to leave the blossoms on the plant for a few days for the pollinators to enjoy. Then I harvest them by using sharp kitchen scissors and cutting toward the base of the plant.

Whether you choose to keep the blooms on for the bees to enjoy or remove them yourself to use in a recipe, you’ll find that the herb does tend to get a little tougher and woody tasting as the season goes on.

How To Overwinter Chives

Overwintered chives in the early Spring

Before your first hard frost of the Winter (typically between Oct 31-Nov 10 here in Manitoba), cut down your chives. Use a sharp pair of kitchen scissors or pruning sheers to do so.

Cut the plant down so no more than 1 inch is above the soil’s surface. Then, cover with a thick layer of mulch.

This will offer your chives insulation throughout the Winter.

I’m a big fan of straw mulch and love the HealthiStraw brand. They’re a Manitoba-based company but you can find their straw mulch across garden centres in Canada & the U.S. Plus, they have a certified organic straw option available!

Once the snow is melted and the ground is no longer frozen, remove the straw mulch from your chives.

The plant might look brown and dead initially, but give it a few weeks and your chives will start appearing.

The photo above is what our chives look like by early May.

If it’s a hot, dry Spring, water your chives regularly to keep the soil consistently wet. You can fertilize your chives with compost or an all-purpose organic fertilizer, but it’s not necessary. Truthfully, I rarely feed my chives and they come back big and healthy each season.

All the more reason to grow chives in a short season, cold climate garden!

FAQs About Growing Chives

What’s the secret to growing chives?

In my opinion, the secret to successfully growing chives (especially in cold climates) is to start with a well established plant and then properly protect it over Winter.

Whether you choose to grow chives from seed or purchase seedlings from a greenhouse, ensure your plant is strong and healthy so it can withstand the Winter.

Then when Fall comes, cover it with a thick layer of mulch to provide some insulation from the cold. Those are my secrets to growing great chives!

Do chives grow back after cutting?

Yes! Chives are a herb that continues to provide harvest after harvest. In fact, the more often you cut back your chives the more it will put on new growth.

Use a sharp pair of kitchen scissors to harvest. The newer growth will have a sweeter flavour whereas the chives that are closer to the base of the plant will be slightly woody.

Do chives need sun or shade?

Chives thrive in most garden locations, including sun and shade. A location that receives a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight daily would be sufficient to grow chives. However, chives will also thrive in full sun of 12+ hours daily.

Should I let my chives flower?

The choice is yours! The pros to letting your chives flower is that it provides food for the bees as well as the opportunity for you to use the blossoms for various recipes. The cons to letting your chives flower is that it changes the flavour of the herb slightly and you risk the chance of thousands of seeds dropping in your soil and germinating.

How much water do chives need?

Chives are fairly drought resistant and can go several days to even weeks without a heavy water. But to grow healthy chives, water them consistently every few days when the first few inches of soil is dry. Mulching chives with a high-quality medium like straw will require you to water less.

And there you have it!

That’s how to grow chives in a Zone 3 garden or any garden for that matter.

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