Fabian Bernhardsgrütter is our RAUSCH herb garden expert. The landscape gardening specialist has tended our garden in Kreuzlingen for over 20 years. He knows exactly what each herb needs to achieve its full potential and the perfect time to harvest every single one.
Fabian, why do you think sage is an indispensable plant for any garden?
Sage is an extremely versatile herb, particularly when it comes to its medicinal benefits. As the name even suggests: ‘salvia’ comes from the Latin ‘salve’, meaning ‘to heal’. Its healing properties range from anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects to offering relief from cramps, excessive perspiration and digestive problems.
Traditionally, women have also used it to relieve period symptoms and to ease the weaning process and reduce milk supply. Its extraordinary aroma also makes it perfect for Mediterranean cooking. It’s a must-have in every kitchen and garden.
Fabian, the gardener at the RAUSCH herb garden in Kreuzlingen, knows exactly how best to care for sage.
How should I look after my sage plant?
To make sure we meet the plants’ needs properly, it’s important to remember that sage originally comes from the Mediterranean. That means it likes to live in the sunniest possible spots. Nutrient-rich, permeable soil is important – so the soil should be fertilised with compost once a year.
As with all Mediterranean plants, sage should be pruned back in spring, i.e. late March or early April, to make it less sensitive to frost. However, sage can stay outdoors all year round, as long it’s sheltered from harsh, cold winds, for instance, by being placed against a wall.
The best time to pick the leaves is from May to August, before the plant begins to bloom. Not many people know this, but a sage plant in full bloom is actually a bad sign. It indicates a lack of nutrients and that the plant will die soon. Although the flowers are lovely to look at, we gardeners don’t like to see them.
We want the sage plant to keep its power in its leaves – after all, they’re the reason for its unmistakable aroma and effects. If you fertilise it thoroughly each year, a single sage bush can bring you joy for many years to come. Left unfertilised, it will need to be replaced every four years at least.
How can I use sage?
I like to use sage when I have a bit of a sore throat. Putting a fresh sage leaf in my mouth eases symptoms and lets me go about my business with confidence. Drinking or gargling sage leaf tea also has a soothing effect. Chewing sage leaves relieves bleeding and inflamed gums.
I recommend drying sage leaves so you can enjoy sage tea from your own garden all year round. Simply spread the leaves out on some newspaper and leave to dry at 21–27°C for around 10 days. Store them in a properly sealed container, away from bright light. The sage leaves will retain their effect for up to a year.