Monday, April 23, 2012

The Hearty Sage

The other day I was throwing some kitchen scraps on the compost pile when I caught a glimpse of something truly shocking!  I looked over and what to my wondering eyes did appear but a fairly large and budding sage plant!  The reason this is so shocking is because of where it was growing.  Our compost pile is in the very back corner of our yard, behind several tall bushes.  It is completely shaded.  And there, in the middle of all that shade and undeveloped terrain...grew a hearty sage.  What is even more amazing is the fact that this sage was a cast off from last year.  I had bought it on clearance (I think I mentioned before I never by plants unless they are on clearance) and did an excellent job killing it in the ensuing months.  By October, I had given up all hopes on my impulse purchase and relegated it to the compost pile.  I now know that my husband (being the sneaky little miser he is) came along a few days later and plopped it into the ground right at the edge of the compost pile.  I never noticed until the other day....what a pleasant surprise!
Sage, like most herbs, typically likes full sun.  Although it has come back rather nicely in its current spot, I don't believe it can truly flourish there.  So I made the decision to move it to one of my vegetable garden beds.  I chose the "cool crop" bed where I grow my parsley, lettuce and cauliflower. I have been reading a lot about companion planting lately and found that sage helps repel cabbage moths, beetles and carrot flies (which can attack parsley).
I also decided to try and grow a few more plants from "cuttings."  Most herbs (with the exception of parsley and thyme) are notoriously hard to grow from seed.  One of the best ways to propagate herbs is to do so via "cuttings."  Last year I posted about growing basil from cuttings.  The process is virtually the same for sage.  You want to take a 4 to 6 inch cutting of the plant.  For sage, be sure not to cut a "woody" part.  Remove the bottom several leaves by snipping them with pruning shears.  These will eventually form the new roots.
You can then root the plant by placing it in a glass of water in a sunny location (takes about a week for roots to form) or placing it in some rooting medium (such as sand, vermiculite or even potting mix).  If you do use potting mix, I recommend a kind that contains high levels of phosphorus for better root development.  Its usually best to keep the cuttings indoors until they are firmly established, then you can try and move them outside.
Sage makes a great addition to your vegetable or herb garden.  It also looks fabulous in your regular flower beds.  It produces a nice, bushy, elegant plant.  Make a bunch of sage cuttings and then give the plants away to friends and family!

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