Sage is a hearty, savory herb which belongs to the mint or Labiatae family, and is a good choice for neophyte gardeners to grow due to its relatively low maintenance needs. There are many different types of sage, including clary sage, diviners' sage and purple sage, but the type of sage most commonly grown by home gardeners for cooking purposes is the common sage plant, which can also be used medicinally as an antiseptic and a disinfectant. It is an herb which grows as a bushy shrub and its most rudimentary requirements are full sun and soil with good drainage. In addition to this, there are a few extra tips to bear in mind when cultivating sage.
Hearty though the sage plant is, it can be a bit finicky when it comes to properly germinating. Germinating your sage plant seeds indoors, particularly in areas which experience cold weather and/or chilly evenings, is a good way to address this. Start the plants in a room with lots of sunlight and a consistent temperature between 60 and 70 F. After a four to eight weeks, when the plants have reached a few inches in height, they can be transplanted outside.
Harvesting Sage Leaves
When it comes to harvesting the leaves of your sage plant, do so frugally during the first year of growth. You'll want the plant to have grown to at least nine or ten inches in height before picking any of the leaves off. It isn't until the second and third year of growth that you can pick the leaves freely without fear of taxing the development of the plant. After your sage shrub has flowered, trim the plant down so that it's only a couple of inches high, making sure to leave at least a few stems when cutting. Beyond four years of trimming and regrowth, you may want to consider replacing the entire plant to prevent it from becoming overgrown and hardened.
One last consideration to keep in mind when growing sage is to avoid planting it next to incompatible plants. Specifically, planting sage close to cucumbers or any variety of onion can cause more dominant flavored plants to compromise the taste of less dominantly flavored plants, and can also lead to inhibited plant growth. The plants which sage is most space-compatible with include carrots, tomatoes, strawberries and other herbs such as rosemary and marjoram. These plants have comparable growing requirements, and won't affect the taste of developing sage. Maintain an 18- to 20-inch distance between your sage bush and any other plants growing nearby.
Keep these tips in mind and you can have a flourishing sage plant to complement your cooking.