Chives are commonly cultivated in the garden for their edible leaves which are available from late winter to the beginning of the following winter. The bulbs divide rapidly and large clumps are quickly formed.
The juice of the plant is used as an insect repellent, it also has fungicidal properties and is effective against scab, mildew etc. The growing plant is said to repel insects and moles.
An easily grown plant, it prefers a sunny position in a rich moist but well-drained soil, though it succeeds in most soils and also in light shade. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.2 to 8.3.
Chives are very tolerant of heavy harvesting, regular cutting of the leaves ensures a continuous supply of young leaves and prevents the plants flowering. Plants can be moved into a frame or other protected environment in the autumn and will then produce leaves throughout the winter. Do not do this every year or it weakens the plants. The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply.
A good bee plant. Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes. Helps to reduce the incidence of scab when it is grown under apple trees. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other.
The flowers can be used as a garnish in salads etc. The flowers of this species are rather dry and less desirable than the flowers of many other species.
Leaves - raw, cooked or dried for later use. The leaves have a mild onion flavour and are an excellent addition to mixed salads, they can also be used as a flavouring in soups etc. The leaves are often available from late winter and can continue to produce leaves until early the following winter, especially if they are in a warm, sheltered position. A good source of sulphur and iron. A nutritional analysis is available.
The bulbs are rather small, and rarely exceed 10mm in diameter. They can be harvested with the leaves still attached and be used as spring onions. They have a pleasant mild onion flavour.