If you have a garden in Arizona’s low desert, grow garlic chives! Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) are easy to grow, attract pollinators, come back year after year, and taste delicious. I first planted garlic chives over ten years ago. Not only is the original plant still growing well, but I’ve also divided it several times and have garlic chives in other areas of my garden, all started from the original plant.
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Garlic chives are also called Asian leeks, Chinese leeks, and Chinese chives.
Traditional chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are an easy-to-grow perennial herb in many climates, but garlic chives are more reliable in hot summer climates.
Overview of Garlic Chives Growth Cycle:
Garlic chives are one of the earliest plants to emerge in early spring. Fresh, green, tender stalks appear in January in the low desert.
Lush green growth continues all through the spring and into summer. Growth slows during the hottest part of summer.
In late summer (usually September), stalks shoot up, topped by star-shaped, bulbous flowers. The bees flock to the blooms.
As summer fades, so do the blooms. Leave in place to save seeds (if desired), or cut back the flower stalks after blooming.
With cool temperatures, the green growth fades and yellows.
Cut back to soil level, divide (if desired), and top with a fresh layer of compost or manure. Tender stalks will sprout in early spring, and the cycle begins again.
Planting Garlic Chives:
In most climates, plant garlic chives in early spring when the weather starts to warm up. When planting garlic chives in mild-winter climates like the low desert of Arizona, plant garlic chives from October through April.
When it comes time to plant garlic chives, you have two options: from seed or transplants. While both methods will work, starting with transplants is generally recommended as it will give you bigger plants faster.
Choose the right spot in your garden—garlic chives prefer full sun but tolerate some shade throughout the day. It is best to plant garlic chives in a location with afternoon shade, if possible, in hot climates.
Garlic chives prefer well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter mixed into it. Add compost or aged manure to the soil around your plants for added nutrition and moisture retention. A raised bed is an ideal spot for garlic chives since it helps ensure good drainage and prevents waterlogging of the roots.
Plant garlic transplants at the same level as the nursery pot. Allow 12-18″ between plants.
Plant seeds ¼” deep and space 6-9″ apart. When using square foot gardening, plant garlic chives one plant per square.
How To Care For Garlic Chives:
Garlic chive plants need about 1 inch of water each week during their growing season—either from rain or supplemental irrigation. During hot summer months, you may need to water them more frequently depending on how quickly the soil dries out. Avoid overwatering your garlic chive plants, as this can cause root rot.
- Remove faded leaves throughout the growing season.
- Cut back the flower stalks after blooming, or leave them in place to develop into seeds.
- When the plant yellows and dies back, cut it back to soil level, divide (if desired), and top it with a fresh layer of compost or manure.
Harvesting, Using & Preserving Garlic Chives:
Begin harvesting garlic chive plants once they reach about 12 inches tall. To harvest garlic chives, snip off the leaves at their base with scissors or gardening sheers, and take no more than one-third of the plant at a time.
Garlic chives are a staple in many dishes in Chinese cuisine, including scallion pancakes, stir-fries, dumplings, and more. Fresh chopped-up garlic chives are perfect for adding flavor to salads, soups, and stews.
Flower heads are also edible if harvested before they open up fully—wait until they begin to open before snipping them off with scissors or a sharp knife.
Read this post for more information about growing herbs in the low desert of Arizona.