Culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) is a perennial evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean region. Its smallish gray-green leaves have a pebbled or bumpy texture, and release a pungent but not unpleasant aroma. Although Sage flowers, it is primarily grown for its foliage, which should be harvested before the flower buds open.
Sage is used to flavor meat and fish, sausages and stuffing, salad, and a wide range of Mediterranean dishes. It is also a common ingredient in vinegars, soils, and sauces.
Choosing a Variety
With more than 750 varieties of Sage available today, you might think that selecting one for the herb garden would be a daunting task. Most of these varieties are ornamental, however, and you can't go wrong with the classic Salvia officinalis, plain garden sage! There are also lovely golden- and purple-leaved variants on garden sage, which add plate appeal and garden beauty.
When to Start
Sage seeds can be direct-sown into the warm spring soil after all danger of frost, but most gardeners find it easier to begin the seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last anticipated frost.
How to Start
Sow the seeds in your Bio Dome or in seed flats. If using the Bio Dome, drop one seed into each Bio Sponge. If using seed flats, cover the seeds lightly with a thin layer of vermiculite.
Seeds should germinate anywhere from 10 to 21 days after sowing. They are ready to transplant when they have 2 sets of true leaves and stand about 4 inches high. Space them about 18 inches apart in the garden, or set them into containers.
Pests and Problems to Watch For
Seedlings can occasionally fall victim to damping off, a fungal condition. To prevent this, make sure your potting mix or medium is sterile, bottom-water the seedlings, and avoid crowding.
Whitefly and mealybugs are sap-sucking pests that can harm your Sage. Whitefly is usually found on houseplants and in greenhouses, and is easily controlled by hanging a yellow sticky trap near the plants. Mealybugs can strike indoors or out, and are best dealt with by pruning off the affected branches or, if there are only a few bugs, using a Q-tip to coat them in rubbing alcohol or cooking oil.
Mildew can be a problem in humid or rainy climates, or with overhead watering. In the garden, site your Sage in an uncrowded area where air circulates freely, and use a soaker hose to bottom-water if possible.