In the Garden
Common sage takes the form of a low shrub that is often wider than it is tall. The soft gray-green foliage is great in pots or the garden. Consider planting sage in a container with rosemary, basil, and other Mediterranean herbs for a fragrant mix. While cooks appreciate the distinctive taste and scent of sage, gardeners enjoy its velvety, evergreen foliage, and delicate blooms.
If you live in Zone 4 to 7, your sage will grow as a hardy perennial. However, in the humid climes of zones 8 and farther south, sage is usually an annual, as it does not easily tolerate summer heat and humidity.Set out transplants in spring or fall. Choose a sunny spot in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7. For better drainage and lighter soil, add sand and organic matter to clay soil.
Prune plants back in early spring every year, cutting out the oldest growth to promote new growth. You will begin to see little pink or purple flowers in late spring. Even with pruning, plants can get woody and stop producing lots of branches after 3 to 5 years. At this point, you may want to dig up your original and plant a new one.
Mildew is a problem for sage, so thin plants regularly to encourage air circulation. Watch carefully on the hottest, most humid summer days. You can also mulch with pebbles to help keep the area immediately around the leaves dry. The moisture from pebbles evaporates quickly compared to organic mulches.
The first year, harvest sage only lightly. In subsequent years, harvest sage as you need it, year-round. Cut an entire stem if you need it, or just pinch a leaf at a time. To give new foliage time to fully mature, leave 2 months between your last big harvest and the first frost of the season.Dry harvested sage by hanging bunches of stems upside-down. Strip the dry leaves from the stem and store in an airtight container. Keep the flowers on the stems to cultivate a pretty pod useful in arrangements of dried herbs.
Use fresh or dried sage in your holiday recipes and to accent pork, poultry dishes, sausages, game, stuffing, and vegetables.