Chive talkin’

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In the middle of summer, chives make a lovely, if slightly restrained show. No in-your-eye-blooms the size of saucers; just pretty purple flowers on top of vibrant green stems.

This perennial member of the onion family (the smallest edible variety) is undemanding and easy to grow, returning year after year, and attracting bees and butterflies to its delicate blooms.

They are an essential part to any herb garden. Their leaves and edible flowers make them indispensable for garnishing potato salad, soups and other savoury dishes.

But you don’t have to eat chives –you just have to grow them to appreciate them. They are ideal for edging paths and borders and also make an excellent companion plant, deterring pests such as carrot root fly. And they don’t grow too tall or try to take over their neighbours.

So, three cheers for chives. And while we’re applauding them for what they have done this summer, it’s time to get some ready to make a difference to the coming winter.

Dig up a healthy clump and split it into several smaller pieces. Then get a few clean plant pots and fill them with a decent multi-purpose compost. Excavate a hole in the middle and pop in a small clump of chives. Firm it in and then trim the old foliage, leaving two inches of greenery standing proud.

Water thoroughly and stand the pot(s) on a windowsill or in the greenhouse and let the chives start to put on fresh growth. Within a few weeks you should have a decent crop, perhaps even enough to see you through the winter.

And while we’re on about winter, August is as good a time as any to sow a few parsley seeds to get a crop for the darker months.

Use pots or trays and fill them with compost. Water well and then sprinkle on the seeds. Cover them with a breath of compost and pop the container on a sunny windowsill or, again, in the greenhouse.

When the seeds germinate and are big enough to handle, prick them out and pot them up individually. With a bit of luck and tender loving care, they should grow on to provide a welcome crop of fresh parsley. It’s a lot easier than going to the supermarket.