Sage is a hardy herb that makes a great addition to any herb garden. A purported antioxidant and antibacterial, historically, sage was used medicinally to treat fertility in ancient Egypt and for healing in ancient China and Greece. Sage flowers are also quite pretty and can be white, pink, purple or blue among other colors. Here’s how to grow sage at home.
Sage comes in different types with varying taste and aroma, color and edibility. Try tricolor sage, which will add green, mauve and yellow to your garden.
WHEN TO GROW
Sage can be grown as a perennial in zones 4-7 or an annual in hotter climates. It can be started indoors 6-10 weeks prior to the last frost of winter or direct sown outside once soil temperatures reach 60° F-70° F, usually a week or two before the last frost.
WHERE TO GROW
Sage is best grown in zones 4 – 9. It is hardy in zones 5 or warmer and can stand winter temperatures as low as 20° F. Choose a spot in your garden with full sun exposure (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day). Plant it with other herbs, rosemary, cabbage and carrots. Avoid planting sage with cucumbers.
Sage grows best in sandy or loamy soil, though it can stand heavier soil as long as it has really good drainage. The soil should be moderately rich to fertile. Test the soil to ensure you have a pH of 6.5-7.0.
Grow sage from seed or from clippings. For best results, use stem clippings from a healthy, mature sage plant and set them 24 inches apart. Stem cuttings should be about 3 inches long and taken from the tip of a branch. Cut away the bottom leaves, dip in a rooting hormone and plant in moist sand or potting mix. Transplant to the garden or growing containers once a good root ball has formed, usually after 4 to 6 weeks. Use bottom heat to help rooting.
When sowing sage seeds, follow instructions on the seed packet closely. You’ll want to plant more seeds then you need to ensure enough germinate. Thin or transplant to about 24 inches apart in the garden or to individual containers.
Water sage regularly so your plants never dry out. Try to keep the soil slightly moist but never soggy.
Sage should be pruned at the end of the season so that it does not become too woody. Cut away the thick, older growth and let the new growth thrive.
Harvest sage as needed once the leaves become big enough, but pick very lightly the first year. This will allow the plant to grow strong and full for subsequent years. When harvesting, you can cut entire stems or pinch off one leaf at a time as needed. Leave about a month between your last big harvest and the first Autumn frost.
Hang sage stems upside down in a dry, dust free space for about 2 weeks to dry out. While fresh sage is good, the flavor can become stronger after drying out.
TIPS & ADVICE
Good air circulation is essential to avoiding mildew in sage plants. Prune and do not plant too close together.
Plant a new sage plant every 4 to 5 years or else they become too woody and lose potency of flavor.
Do you have tips on how to grow sage? Let us know in the comments below.