Urban Gardener: Chives and Daffodils
Saturday, October 26, 2013
I have very good luck with an old fashioned favorite, chives. They are a clumping style member of the onion family delicious in soups and especially egg dishes. Here’s a herb to grow with children, who can identify the plants by its distinctive aroma and petite size. Chives are a lovely green color and often have purpling in the older stems or parts closer to the mulch. We lift and divide clumps in our garden. The ancestors of my chives became part of the household long ago and migrated from garden to garden, always close to the entrance for easy kitchen harvest. They love loam enriched with organic material and reach for the sky when top dressed with Milorganite. A couple times a year I scratch bone meal around the clumps of chives. They also enjoy a manure top dressing and I grow everything with year round mulch.
Chives will remain green well into cold weather. I like seasonal foods. It’s easy though to harvest chives with kitchen shears, bring in, wash, remove anything less than perfect, and cheerfully snip chives into smaller pieces. They will quickly dry out laid on brown paper or I’ve found inter office mail envelopes with a few holes punched into them nearly perfect for drying chives and a multitude of other herbs and flowers. Store them in small boxes or bags on pantry shelves safe from moisture and add to soups, cheese sauces, and egg dishes. Friends and others joyfully accept dried herbs full of flavor and nutrition.
Early in the spring, clear away the winter mulch surrounding your chives and carefully prepare a sweet planting bed full of composted mulches and loam. An ordinary garden spade dug into the soil on four sides will free a good sized chunk of chives. Without shaking the soil loose, use the spade or a good trowel to divide the clump into smaller groups. Don’t isolate the chives, they are a sociable plant and do best as families together. Replant in the new soil and enrich the mother clumps with composts and old mulches.
Some gardeners dare to cultivate a close cousin of the chive, flat leaved garlic chives. This sturdy plant is tenacious and a pioneer, I long knew it as a plant growing up through cracks in an old cement pavement. Both types of plant offer cheerful blooms to gardeners, chives have distinctive heather purple hues and garlic chives a lovely ivory white. It’s possible to lift and divide chives virtually throughout the growing season but Fall and Spring are more common. Now, while you’re putting chives to bed for the winter is a good time to exercise hope and optimism. Let’s put in spring flowering bulbs.
Urban gardeners thrive best when combining the laconic merits of simple chives with eagerly awaited spring blooms. Don’t hesitate friends, box stores have made bulb buying easy and accessible to every level of gardener. Please do support your local growers and small businesses. Or you may have friends who are happy to lift and divide old plantings of daffodils. Wherever you find them, October in southern New England is an ideal time to plant daffodils. Once again, bring the children into the garden and encourage them to gently scatter a prime number of bulbs, always 3’, 5’s, 7’s, into spills allowing 5 or 7 inches between bulbs. Avoid regimentation with the bulbs and gardener alike.
Good garden soil is fine with bulbs, loosen the soil down just about the depth of the trowel, generously spoon on bone meal, and plant, bottom side down of course, look at your bulb and find the roots before you firmly bury the bulb. Make this a fun time to be with youngsters and relieve what could be a tedious task into a joyful one. For those of us planting in solitude, this is a garden project for every Fall akin to climbing Joseph’s Ladder and add the hosts and choruses of spring bulbs into garden niches. The choices are endless. Do plant for color, fragrance, shape, form, and song. Squirrels won’t eat daffodils nor will moles or other garden varmints. Blooms are reliable for years to come and each bulb divides itself eventually into a long term program of lifting and dividing spring after spring.
While you prepare for fine eating and visual, soulful spring treats, the leaves begin to turn. Organic gardeners relish the next harvest: the leaves that fall upon our city and soon conscientious homeowners will rake and bag the leaves for sidewalk pick up. I bring bag after bag of leaves to the garden. My passage ways are usually sidewalks and people are often amused to see the leaves go into the garden. Let’s talk about that in a couple weeks.
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