One of the most appetizing odours on any vegetable ground comes from sage, an evergreen shrub growing about 3 ft. high. The aromatic leaves are used for making stuffing and sauce; they can be picked any time of the year and can also be dried and stored. It is at home on chalk, in full sun, and its only fad is dislike of a heavy soil that lies wet in winter. This can be put right without difficulty.
Plants can be raised from seed (the smallest packet obtainable being ample), but that involves a wait, and it is better to purchase a couple of young plants, for which a stock can be worked up rapidly; or beg a few cuttings from a neighbour and strike these as explained below.
Ready for Use. All the year round, both as young shoots picked from the bush and in a dried state.
Soil Preparation. Any light, well-drained soil is suitable, well away from shade; in the latter posi- tion sage grows leggy and soon peters out. Clay or other heavy soil can be lightened with grit, sand, sifted ashes, wood ash, or chalk dug into it to the depth of about 18 in. Dusty ground will need old manure, hop manure, leaf-mould, or quite rotted vegetable refuse to give it body – not simply spread on the surface but mixed in throughout the top 18 in.
When and How to Sow. At the end of March or beginning of April seed can be sown about in. deep in a well-raked bed, as thinly as they can be dropped, the seedlings to be trowelled up when they are big enough to handle and planted 4 in. apart. The following March or April they will be ready for planting where they are to remain.
When and How to Plant.
Young plants can be purchased and got into the ground in late March or April, 12 in. apart, the roots to be covered in firmly. Sctde with a good watering, and repeat this as necessary in dry weather. To give them a bushy foundation pinch off the ends of all shoots after planting; this causes other shoots to be produced, and a well-developed shrub results.
How to Take Cuttings. Side shoots about 4 in. long make excellent cuttings. They are removed from the parent plant with a piece of the latter attached. The method is to hold the stem or branch (from which the cutting is to be taken) with one hand whilst the cutting is gently torn off with the other.
The piece of parent tissue which comes away with it is known as a heel. Any ragged bits should be trimmed from it with a knife, and the cutting is then ready to beplanted. This is done in April or May, the prepared pieces being inserted in holes about 1 in. deep and then made firm at the base with the fingers. Set out about 6 in. apart in light soil where, shaded from midday sun, they quickly root, provided the ground is not allowed to become too dry. The following year they can be lifted and replanted where they are to stay, shoots to be nipped back, as previously explained, to induce bushiness.
Sage is not. tidy in its habit of growth. Shoots are apt to straggle out from older shrubs. These need to be cut back about half-way, in September, and flower stems (the flowers are blue) removed at the same time. Drying for Winter.
The method is explained in the section EASY HOME PRESERVATION OF VEGETABLES.