Sage

Famed as part of a double act alongside onion in the famous sage and onion stuffing, sage is a strongly-scented herb that can be used to flavour many vegetable or meat dishes. Fresh or dried leaves are used to make teas. Sage loves a warm, sunny and sheltered spot - and is attractive enough to be grown alongside other ornamental plants.

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Sow

Sage is normally brought as ready-grown plants from garden centres, but you can grow from seed or take cuttings. Growing from seed or taking cuttings will mean a longer time until you have plants ready to harvest.

If you do decide to sow seed, do so into small pots in spring and cover with a thin layer of perlite. Place in a propagator to germinate – they can take up to three weeks to germinate.

Grow

Water plants regularly, especially during dry spells, but avoid overwatering as sage hates wet roots.

Pruning plants after flowering helps to maintain an attractive shape and encourages lots of new growth.

Raise containers onto pot feet in winter to allow excess moisture to drain away.
 

Plant

If planting in the garden, dig over the entire area, removing weeds and incorporating plenty of well-rotted manure or compost. Choose a sheltered spot protected from strong winds in full sun.

Sage can also be planted in 20-45cm (12in) pots filled with soil-based compost.

Common problems

Powdery Mildew
Powdery Mildew

Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.

Remedy

Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.

Capsid bugs
Capsid bugs

Pale green, sap-sucking insects cause foliage damage from late spring to the end of summer. Leaves develop many small, brown edged holes, and often become distorted.

Remedy

Check plants on a regular basis. Vegetables generally tolerate capsid damage and plants in flower should not be sprayed due to potential effects on pollinators.

Rosemary beetle
Rosemary beetle

Both the small oval beetle with metallic green and purple stripes, and its greyish white larvae are a problem. The pest can be found in great numbers on plants, where it will quickly strip stems of leaves.

Remedy

Check plants regularly and pick beetles off by hand.

Harvesting

As sage is generally evergreen, the leaves can be picked at any time of year, but fresh growth in summer has the best flavour. You can pick whole young shoots or individual leaves.

To ensure the leaves remain in good condition over winter, protect the top growth from the worst of the weather with a layer of horticultural fleece.

The leaves are best used fresh, but you can also dry or freeze them.

To dry sage, hang up some sprigs in a warm, dark, well-ventilated place. When fully dried, store the leaves in an air-tight jar.

To freeze sage, chop the leaves and add to an ice-cube tray, then top up with water and freeze. You can then simply add the cubes to your cooking whenever needed.
 

Recommended Varieties

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