Sage likes dry feet and some company
Hardy aromatic herb hails from northern shores of the Mediterranean
You may need only a leaf or two to flavour a dish but don’t let that stop you from planting several sage bushes in your garden.
This aromatic herb is edible and ornamental, its soft greygreen foliage an attractive addition to sheltered spots.
Sage is a sub-shrubby evergreen perennial that is native to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. It is a hardy plant but it does not like wet feet; it is less hardy in heavy soils where winters are cold and wet, so make sure your soil is light and freedraining. It is best to plant in raised beds or large pots if in any doubt. Incorporate organic matter and a handful of dolomite lime before planting – sage likes a neutral or slightly alkaline soil.
It does not like rich soil; floppy stems are often the result, and plants are more susceptible to diseases, especially when nitrogen levels are high.
Position in full sun and ensure excellent air circulation.
Mildew can occur if plants are overcrowded, as can the fungal disease rust. If several of the leaves are yellow, take a closer look at the undersides. If you see webbing, you probably have spider mites. All you will see of the mites with the naked eye are tiny moving dots.
If you see teeny tiny bugs about 3mm long, you may have herb leafhoppers (also known as mint leafhoppers and sage leafhoppers).
They prefer herbs in the mint family, so you may also see them on spearmint, catmint, lemon balm, lavender, rosemary and oregano. Both these pests feed on the sap of plants, sucking out the juices and causing stippling on the leaves. Eventually leaves may yellow. If you wish, you can use a pesticide suitable for leafrollers, or you could try something like pyrethrum. If spider mites are present, simply blast the leaves regularly with water. Spider mites like a dry situation, so they should eventually move on.
Common sage ( Salvia officinalis) can be propagated by seed but it can take a while to produce a reasonable sized plant.
Unless you want to grow several plants (for ornamental purposes) you will get a quicker harvest if you buy small plants from garden centres. Or you could try propagating from cuttings in spring or layering in autumn.
In any case, sage tends to become woody and less productive after four or five years, so replace at least every five years. To keep your sage plants bushy, prune lightly in spring, then once again when flowering has finished in late summer, cutting the stems back by about a third. Feed plants with liquid fertiliser or worm castings in spring and after cutting them back. When harvesting, try to avoid picking off individual leaves. Snip off whole sprigs instead. This promotes the development of further shoots.
Flavoursome: Sage is an edible and ornamental addition to your garden.