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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Growing Sage

Part of our Culinary Herbs Series

Perennial Zones 4 – 8 (Hardiness Varies)

Sage is a shrubby perennial that’s an obvious choice for the kitchen.  From spring through mid-summer, Sage displays blue to lavender flowers which are very attractive to birds.  It has an earthy, rich, spicy flavor and it is part of the mint family.

The most popular types of culinary Sage are Garden Sage, Golden Garden Sage, Berggarten Garden Sage, Dwarf Garden Sage, Tricolor Garden Sage, and Window Box Sage.

Starting Sage from Seed

Seed Longevity:                                            2 years.
Seed Sowing Depth:                                     Surface, cover lightly.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:                   65 – 70 degrees.
Days to Germination:                                    15-21 days.

Spring Sowing                                           

Sow Indoors 6 – 8 weeks before the last frost.  Transplant out after the last frost date.

Fall:    Not recommended.

Winter Sowing

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.
For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, see our separate article.

Herb Scissors

Herb Mincer

Growing Sage

Plant Size:                                                     1-3’ Height.
Growing Soil Temperature:                            55 – 80 degrees.
Spacing:                                                         12 - 18”.
Container Size:                                              12” x 12” good size for Sage.
Soil:                                                                Well-drained.                                                             
Watering:                                    Light, only during dry spells.  Avoid overwatering.
Light/Sun:                                    Full sun to light shade.
Fertilizer:                                      Add some compost throughout the year.

Other Care Tips:   

  • Prefers cool to warm temperatures and will need some shade during the hot weather.
  • The plant should be replaced every 4-5 years.
  • Remove flower spikes before they have a chance to flower.
  • After three years, trim off woody parts to encourage new growth.

Dividing Sage

Best to divide Sage every 4-5 years when the plant becomes woody.  Dig up the entire plant, and using a sharp shovel, divide it into sections.  Remove all woody parts and replant the tender sections planting at the same depth.

Softwood Cuttings of Sage

Take cuttings in spring when new growth is several inches in length.  Side shoots of 4" in length are perfect. Cut the stem at an angle and remove lower leaves leaving an inch or two of the stem bare.  Plant cutting bare side down into a well-drained soil mix.  No fertilizer is needed at this stage.

Wrap the container in plastic to keep in humidity.  Avoid having the leaves touch the plastic.  Place the pot in light but out of direct light.  Keep soil moist but never soggy.  Remove the plastic when cutting grows roots.  A light tug that gives you some resistance means it has rooted.

Harvesting Sage

Start to harvest Sage once you see good growth on the plant.  Best harvested when tops of blossoms are barely open.  You can gather leaves at any time.  Sage is most flavorful as flowers begin to open. Purple-leaved Sage tends to be more aromatic than green-leaved Sage.

Storing Sage

Damp Paper Towel

This method works well for hardy herbs that have woody stems as well as a few soft-stemmed herbs.

Clean and thoroughly dry the Sage.  Arrange lengthwise in a single layer on a slightly damp paper towel.  Loosely roll up the herb and transfer to a plastic bag or plastic wrap.  Label and store in the fridge.  Sage will stay fresh in the fridge using this method for up to 2 weeks.


For best results, use frozen Sage within 1-2 years.  By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.  Here are a few freezing options to consider:

Tray Freeze

Strip leaves off the stems of the Sage and spread onto a cookie sheet on a single layer. Freeze in the freezer, then place it in a labeled freezer bag to store.  Since the leaves are frozen separately, you can easily remove the amount you need.

Ice Cube Trays with Oil

This method works well for hard-stemmed herbs that would probably be cooked when adding to a dish.  The oil reduces some of the browning and freezer burns.
Clean and thoroughly dry herbs.  Mince and firmly pack herbs into an ice cube tray 3/4 full.  Add Olive Oil to fill and freeze.  Transfer frozen cubes into labeled freezer bags to store.

Flat Freezer Bag

Trim off the stems and place them in a labeled freezer bag.  Squeeze out the air, flatten the freezer bag, label and store.


Sage contains more oil than most other herbs so it dries more slowly.  It is one of the best herbs to dry.   For best results, use dried Sage within 1-2 years.

Hang to Dry

Pick your Sage in bunches right before you intend to store them.  Tie the bottom of the bunch together with twine and hang upside down to dry in a dry, low humidity area. For added protection against dust, you can put the bundles inside paper bags with plenty of holes for ventilation.  When the herbs are dry, the leaves will crumble easily between your fingers.  Store in an airtight container.

Using Sage

  • Sage can be overwhelming so start with small amounts.
  • Use leaves fresh in recipes or add them sparingly to salads.
  • Dried sage is commonly used with Thanksgiving stuffing. 
  • It can be paired with pork, beans, potatoes, and cheese. 
  • You can mix it into a soft cheese for a tasty bread spread.

To see the other herbs in the culinary herb series, click a tab below.


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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Making Carrot Seed Tapes

I used to think making seed tapes was a waste of time and I didn’t understand why gardeners would spend time making them.

That was until I was at my wit’s end trying to thin out carrot seeds that I had direct sown. I find it nearly impossible to get the spacing right on those tiny seeds. So I tried the seed tape thing and made enough of them to fill a four by eight foot raised garden bed.

The result?  The carrots germinated with just the right spacing – NO THINNING!  I was sold.

Besides the joy of not having to thin tiny seeds like carrots, there are several other advantages of making and planting seed tapes over direct sowing the seeds.



  • Better harvest of straight, uniform looking carrots.
  • Correct spacing of plants so no wasted time thinning.
  • Seed Saving. No wasted seeds from heavy-handed over sowing.
  • You can make the seed tapes any size or shape to fit your container or the shape of your garden bed.
  • It’s a great kids project.
  • It’s a great winter project. It satisfies my need to do some gardening things when there is still snow on the ground. When Spring hits, the garden marathon starts. Anything that I can do in the off season to get a jump on spring chores is welcomed.

What Seeds are useful for making seed tapes?

You can literally make seed tapes of any type of seed that can be direct sown in your zone, but I find this process more useful with tiny seeds like carrots, beets and radishes that are a pain to thin out.  This process even works for small flower seeds!


What you need

  • Seeds
  • Paper Towels (I find two ply works best) – Not toilet paper!!
  • An empty paper towel roll or similar item to roll the finished seed tapes around
  • A paste mix of flour and water
  • A ruler
  • A marker
  • Wax paper
  • Tooth pick

So why Paper Towels over Toilet Paper?

One, paper towels are stronger and hold up better in storage. I sometimes make my seed tapes several months in advance.

Two, paper towels make much larger seed tapes than toilet paper making them much easier to later set in their planting place.

Let’s Make Seed Tapes!


Step 1

Decide on your seed spacing. For my carrots, I prefer the spacing of 2”.

Step 2

Using a marker (it’s easier to see than pen or pencil) and a ruler, make a dot where the seeds are to go. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

Step 3

Make a paste of flour and water. You won’t need much. Make it of the consistency where you can drop a good sized drop of the paste onto each dot on the paper towel. A toothpick works well for this.


Step 4

Carefully drop one or two seeds onto the top of each paste drop. You don’t need to press the seeds down. They will stick. I like to carefully remove any seeds more than two to a paste drop. If you’re doing many seed tapes, do it in sections so the paste doesn’t dry out before you drop in the seeds.

Step 5

Let the tape dry for two to three hours.


Step 6

Wrapping the seed tape for later use.

Place an equal size piece of wax paper on top of the seeded side of the paper towel. If you’re doing several sheets, layer one piece of wax paper between each seed tape to prevent the paper towels from sticking together. Roll the layers around a paper towel roll and fasten loosely with a rubber band, string, etc, to keep rolled.

I have rolled seed tapes together without the layer of wax paper in between, but found that some areas will lightly stick together which can rip the paper towels as you unroll them.

Step 7

Store the rolls in a cool, dry place until you’re ready for planting.

To Plant The Seed Tape

Unroll the layers. I reuse the wax paper for two or three seasons so I keep those. Lay the seed tape seed side up on the soil. Cover the entire paper towel with soil at the same depth as you would if you were direct sowing. For carrots, that's 1/4th inch, just a light dusting of soil over the top.  Make sure the soil stays moist until the seeds germinate.

When it comes carrots, I like to place a layer of cardboard over the soil and keep it wet until germination. I find it helps the seeds to germinate uniformly and more quickly, and it’s easier to keep the cardboard moist instead of worrying if I’m dislodging any seeds when I’m watering.

So that’s it! I now do this for my carrots every year.  I get a great harvest of healthy, straight carrots!

So while you have down time in the winter season, why not try this method for some of your tiny veggie and flower seeds?  You'll be glad you did!

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