All About Scallions & Chives

by National Gardening Association Editors

Almost any onions sown from seed can be scallions (also called bunching onions, green onions, spring onions or green tails). Plant them thickly, pick them young, and you've got scallions.

Planting Scallions

To have scallions in the summer, plant seeds of an onion variety such as 'Beltsville Bunching' or 'Evergreen Bunching' as early in the spring as you can. Pull them up when the stalks are about eight inches tall, and the small bulbs will be tender and tasty. (Some varieties, such as 'Long White Bunching', don't ever form bulbs. So, even if you let them grow taller, you won't have scallions with over-sized bulbs.) 'White Portugal' is a bulbing onion grown all over the country and harvested young for sale as scallions.

You'll sometimes see bunching onion transplants for sale. Although they're ready to eat a little sooner, they're not worth buying. Bunching onions planted from seed will be at the eating stage in just a matter of weeks, and one planting can supply you with produce for many years: They're very hardy and they survive winter temperatures as low as -30F. Bunching onions go to seed each season, so the crop comes back year after year. All you need to do is keep the weeds out. If you want to keep a perennial bed going, plant a hardy variety, like 'Evergreen White Bunching'.

Early Scallions

Here's how to be the first in your neighborhood to have scallions in the spring. Three to four months before frost in the fall plant a variety such as 'Stuttgarter' in a one-foot-wide row, scattering the seeds onto smooth soil and raking them in lightly. If the soil is dry, soak the area before planting, and keep it moist until the seedlings are up. Don't thin them at all! Around the first of November, bend the tops over and mulch the onions with three to four inches of hay or leaves. In the spring take the mulch off early, and your spring onions are four weeks ahead of your neighbors'! You can start harvesting as soon as there's something big enough to eat.

Scallion Varieties

'Beltsville Bunching' - A crisp, very mild onion that survives hot, dry weather better than any other green onion.

'Evergreen White Bunching' ("He-Shi-Ko") - This tasty onion won't form a bulb. It continues to grow and form new shoots throughout the growing season. Will winter over in the North.

'Long White Tokyo' - This variety forms a single stalk and withstands some hot weather.

'Red Beard' - An unusual red-stalked bunching onion with white tips and roots.

'White Lisbon' - A hardy, mild-flavored onion. For many years it was the most popular bunching onion among American gardeners.

Growing Chives

Chives are a great windowsill crop. You can also plant them in a permanent location in an herb garden or as a border for a flower garden. They are just about disease-free and need very little attention once you get them producing.

You can start your chive bed from seed in a window box or flower pot or by using some plants from a neighbor. Six or eight plants are plenty and since they're perennials, you'll get plenty of chives each year. Set out the plants eight to 10 inches apart, and they'll expand to fill the area.

Chives like rich, well-worked soil and fertilizer, so rake some compost or manure into the soil before planting. Trim off the tops of the transplants, leaving an inch or two, and put the plant in at the same depth. Do this early in the spring.

Clip off the tops whenever you need them. The plant will produce more and be slower to go to flower. To keep a steady supply of chives producing through the winter, dig up part of a cluster of plants and pot it inside. It won't hurt the next year's crop.



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