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OUT IN THE YARD — Sage: Wise choice for a new herb

Out in the yard

The gardener’s favorite time of the year has arrived.

With the latest mild winter, many of your herbs and flowers may still be standing from last summer. Nevertheless, we usually want to try something new each year.

If you are looking for a new herb to try, consider sage. Sage has long been used as a medicinal herb. The Greeks used it to treat ulcers and snake bites. The Romans had elaborate rituals and tools just to harvest it. In China, it was so highly valued that one chest of sage was worth three chests of tea.

Common garden sage is easy to grow in full sun and is very attractive with its gray-green leaves. It is drought tolerant and highly pest resistant. It is considered a perennial, but in our humid climate, it may need to be replaced every few years.

The best way to start sage in your garden or container is from cuttings or transplants. Sage seeds are not always reliable. Most of us know about culinary sage from holiday dressings and sausage, but there are also other varieties to enjoy.

For a sage with a lovely light scent, grab a pineapple sage. Part of the salvia family, this sage grows up to three feet in the garden and produces bright red flowers.

Clary sage is a biennial and is often used in beer and wine making. Clary sage essential oil can be used in a diffuser to balance mood.

Sage is a great plant to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other essential pollinators. It repels cabbage moths when planted near cabbage. A handful of leaves hung to dry in a closet or used in a linen drawer sachet will deter any moths that get into cloth.

Sage has long been used as a cleansing herb. It has strong antibacterial properties. Burned or boiled in water, it will disinfect a room. The smoke will neutralize animal or cooking odors.

Sage sticks have been used in many cultures including Native American tribe rituals to cleanse and lift energy. Still used today, if you feel uncomfortable in a space for any reason, light a sage stick and use the smoke to cleanse and bless the area. Common sage and white sage bundles are available locally. They both work, but white sage burns longer. It has been proven to release negative ions in the air for a healthier environment.

For more information, contact Jefferson County Master Gardener Micah Leigh at mkleigh64@gmail.com or Texas A&M AgriLife Extension at 409-749-0083.