Growing Sage

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Garden sage is easy to grow—and a wonderful culinary herb that flavors meat and bean dishes (including that Thanksgiving stuffing). Sage is a hardy perennial with pretty, grayish green leaves that like as good in a perennial border as they do in a vegetable garden. It grows spikes of spring flowers in different colors, including purple, blue, white, and pink.

Not all sage varieties are culinary; the most popular kitchen sage is called Salvia officinalis.



Planting


How to plant sage 

  • Plant sage in full sun.
  • Sage should be planted in well-draining soil; it won’t tolerate sitting in wet soil.
  • The easiest and best way to start sage is from a small plant. Set the plants 2 feet apart.
  • You can also sow seeds up to two weeks before the last frost date. Plant the seeds/cuttings in well-drained soil 1 to 2 weeks before the last spring frost.
  • For best growth, the soil should be between 60º and 70ºF.
  • Plants should grow to be between 12 and 30 inches in height.
  • In the garden, plant near rosemary, cabbage, and carrots, but keep sage away from cucumbers.

Care


How to grow sage 

  • Be sure to water the young plants regularly until they are fully grown so that they don’t dry out. They’ll need a consistent moisture supply until they start growing quickly.
  • Prune the heavier, woody stems every spring.
  • It’s best to replace the plants every few years so they remain productive.



Pests/Diseases


  • Rust
  • Powdery mildew
  • Stem rot
  • Fungal leaf spots
  • Whiteflies
  • Aphids
  • Spider mites

Harvest/Storage


How to harvest sage 

  • Pinch off leaves or snip off small sprigs from the plant.
  • During the first year, harvest lightly to ensure that the plant grows fully.
  • After the first year, be sure to leave a few stalks so that the plant can rejuvenate in the future.
  • If fully established, one plant can be harvested up to three times in one season.
  • Stop harvesting in the fall so the plant can prepare for winter.

How to store sage 

  • Sage’s flavor is best when fresh, but it can be stored frozen or dried.
  • To dry, hang sprigs in a shady, well-ventilated area and allow them to air dry, waiting until the leaves crumble easily to store in tightly lidded jars.
  • Sage keeps its flavor better if stored in the freezer. Freeze leaves or stalks on a tray, then move the leaves into a zippered bag or container. Some cooks blend the leaves with oil, pack the ground mixture into ice cube trays to freeze, and then transfer the cubes to a container.

Recommended Varieties


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