Sage is an easy-to-grow herb that is used commonly in hearty meat dishes and stews. Known for its musky smell and fuzzy, oblong leaves, sage can be grown in containers, flower beds or straight into your garden. Sage is one of the easiest herbs to learn how to grow and harvest.
Beginner Gardening Tips for Growing and Harvesting Sage
I personally love adding sage to my stews. It tastes great in hearty dishes, which is what my family tends to cook. Sage is extremely easy to grow, and I always have it in my garden. If you have never grown sage before and love sage, you’re in luck! This plant is sure to be a fun herb to grow.
Sage grows well outdoors, in direct sunlight. It needs well-drained loomy, clay, soil and actually prefers good air circulation. Water sage occasionally, when the soil seems dry. Do not overwater as leaves will mildew if the soil is too wet.
When and How to Plant Sage
To plant seedlings outdoors, be sure they are planted about 24-36 inches a part from one another as they can grow in large, round bushes once mature. Sage can adapt to most conditions but prefers drier, clay soil. Organic compost can be beneficial to sage.
Seeds and seedlings need an average soil temperature of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate and thrive outdoors. Sage seeds can be temperamental and have a low germination rate. Plant more seeds than you expect to grow.
This herb also enjoys being planted near other perennial herbs, such as thyme, oregano, marjoram and parsley. Sage is very low maintenance once it gets started, many times it doesn’t need much to grow well.
Starting Sage Seeds Indoors
If you live in a cold climate (like I do), you’ll need to start your seeds indoors. Sage seeds need to be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
Planting and Germination
Plant sage seeds in an organic seed starting medium, in a seed tray. It’s important to plant multiple seedlings per cell to ensure that one seedling will survive. Sage seeds like a bit of light for germination so be sure not to plant them too deep.
Make sure to water from the bottom of the tray. This will prevent the seeds from being displaced. It takes about 14 days to 3 weeks for sage seeds to sprout. Sage seeds need to be warm in order to germinate (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit). To be sure that it’s warm enough, use a seedling heat mat underneath your seeds.
Growing Sage Seedlings
Once the seeds have germinated, be sure to add a grow light a few inches above your seedlings. This will prevent them from becoming leggy and help them grow faster. Sage loves full light, so make sure the light is on them for most of the day.
Keep soil damp but not soaked, in fact, sage enjoys being a little on the dry side. Seedlings need to be transplanted into larger pots to get big enough for outdoor transplanting.
At this step you can transplant into a larger pot and keep indoors always, or you can plant in a seedling pot and prepare them for transplanting outdoors once the weather allows.
Transplanting Sage Seedlings
Seedlings can be planted outdoors once the temperature of the soil consistently reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Sage should be at least 6-10 inches high before being transplanted outdoors.
Seedlings must be hardened off before transplanting. If your seedlings are not hardened, many will likely die from transplant shock.
As stated above be sure to plant them 12 inches (one foot) apart from one another. This will allow enough room for air circulation and growth.
Basic Maintenance of Sage
Sage bushes will give you plenty of sage year after year. To maintain your plants during the season, be sure to allow enough room for their growth and don’t overwater. Sage is pretty self-sufficient and prefers soil to be completely dry before watering. Sage does not attract bugs, so the biggest threat to sage would be overwatering.
If you live in a cold climate, it’s important to prune the bush back during the fall and cover the plant in mulch before the cold hits. Otherwise, your sage may not make it to the following spring.
In order to get the best flavor from your sage, pinch off flowers before they bloom. This also encourages the herb to grow bushy instead of just growing tall. Fertilizer will also take away from the taste of this herb. Don’t add fertilizer to the soil, although organic compost can be beneficial. It’s said that the best flavor for sage can be had right before the bush blooms.
You can also grow more than one sage plant, and allow a couple of those plants to go to flower. This will attract pollinators to your garden.
When To Harvest Sage
Sage can be used both fresh and dried (as well as frozen). This herb is used in many different cuisines, but it most popular in poultry dishes. This chicken recipe with sage is delicious.
Remove leaves from the top of the plant throughout the season. Fresh sage can be used in many poultry and meat dishes. Pruning will also help the plant grow larger and fuller.
Rinse your sage leaves will cool water and use as you wish. Store fresh sage in the refrigerator. I usually wrap them in a paper towel or tea towel and place them in a closed jar in the fridge. This will help them stay fresher for longer. Although you’ll need to use them within a week.
Drying sage is a great option for preserving them. Simply hang the leaves in a dark, dry area and leave them be for a couple weeks. Once dried, crush the leaves and place them in a jar. Use as you would store-bought sage.
Adding sage to your garden will not be a regret. Learning how to grow and harvest sage will be a skill you use for years to come.
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