Chives Planting
Herb Growing in South Africa

© Louise Brodie
Cabbages and chives growing together.


Chive propagation is from seed. Plants and bulbs can also be divided and planted out in the same way as the seedlings.

Planting Method

Planting by large commercial growers is most commonly done by direct seeding or the planting of chive seedlings. The seeds are planted about 1.5 millimetres deep. Chive seeds germinate and emerge in about seven to ten days and the seedlings can be transplanted out into the field after about four to five weeks. If direct sowing, it is advisable to sow twice the seeds required and thin out if required. Planting is done by mechanical planters or by hand, depending on the size of the operation.


Plant chives about 15 cm apart in rows that are 20 cm apart. This is a stand of around 400 000 chive plants per hectare. Implement and tractor paths are left for management practices and harvesting.

Sowing Time

Sow chive seeds directly into the fields in early spring or autumn. In South Africa that is early September or April. Planting of chive seedlings can also be done at this time. Existing plants can also be divided and planted out.

Growth Period

Commercial producers start harvesting the fresh chive leaves from as early as five to six weeks from sowing. The chive plants can be harvested for two to three years and should then be divided and planted out. Some commercial growers will replant seedlings yearly.


Before planting, a representative soil sample should be taken and sent for analysis. This will identify soil type and nutrient requirements for the intended crop.

For a rough guide, the following recommendation can be used in the absence of soil analysis. An initial 300 kg application of 3:1:5 can be broadcast and incorporated into the top 15 cm to 20 cm of soil prior to sowing. This will give the new plants a good start in establishing themselves. It is best to monitor the growth and then to decide if further nitrogen is required to boost growth. A similar amount of fertigation can be done through the drip irrigation after seeds have germinated and plants emerge. Fertilize with 250 Kg per hectare LAN after each harvest cut.


Most commercial chive growers install drip irrigation as this is the best to monitor soil moisture management. The chive plant should not be over watered, and the soil should be allowed to dry out and then watered again. To produce fresh leaves, make sure that the plant is adequately irrigated. Do not over irrigate as this could cause bulb diseases or diseased leaves. It is, therefore, best to install moisture measuring devices to continuously monitor the soil.

Depending on soil types and the weather, a good irrigation average is between 25 and 30 mm per week with one application during the warm summer months and reducing irrigation during cooler or rainy months of the year. Heavier soils can be watered every two weeks. Try to avoid irrigating directly before harvest but irrigate immediately after harvest to restore the optimum moisture content if you wish to stimulate the plant to produce again.

By Louise Brodie