I’ve got an enormous patch of sage plants living in one corner of my community garden plot that have just begun to flower. There are actually four varieties living in that corner but only the common garden sage (Salvia officinalis) is in bloom. It looks and smells amazing! The community garden plot isn’t big and while space in the sun is prized, giving over that spot to sage has been worth it. Plus we’ve got more sage than we know what to do with.
During the spring and summer months I grow indeterminant tomatoes (large, vine plants) in large garbage bins like this one purchased for $10 each a number of years ago at the local Ikea. The flat grey colour has faded significantly over the years but the containers are still holding up under the wear and tear of hot summers and winter heaving caused by fluctuating temperatures.
I typically fill each container with a single tomato plant and surround it with 4 basil plants. With the weather being warmer this fall I decided to try and keep the rooftop deck productive AND aesthetically pleasing by replacing the spent tomatoes with attractive, cold-hardy edibles previously growing in smaller, individual containers. This also allowed me to get a head start on clean-up bringing in some of the smaller, terra cotta containers that will eventually come indoors for the winter.
In This Container:
- Tri-color sage
- Pansy (will keep flowering. Flowers are edible.
- ‘Lacinato Blue’ Kale aka ‘Dinosaur’ Kale
- ‘Red Bor’ Kale
- Cinnamon Basil (not cold hardy but surprisingly still going strong.)
Everything in this container is edible. Unfortunately, while we were away a squirrel made a hearty lunch of the dinosaur kale but everything else is still thriving and ready for picking whenever we need a bit of sage for our eggs, some flowers for a salad, or kale to flavour a soup.
Yesterday afternoon I brought home a first harvest from the four different kinds of hardy sage (Salvia officinalis) I’ve got growing at the community garden. It’s not much, just a handful of clippings that I pinched off to make the plants grow bushier but it’s more than enough to make a whole lot of delicious scrambled eggs. I removed the flowers because I moved the flowering plants from my former plot earlier in the season and would rather they put their energy to getting well established and making lots of lush and tasty leaves than making babies so-to-speak.
- Garden sage – Your standard, cold hardy, culinary sage. I am making it sound dull here but really you can’t beat the standard variety when it comes to hardiness and productivity. I grew a bunch of plants in my planter box a number of years ago and they survived for years getting larger and more prolific every season. This variety flowers like crazy after its first season — I like to snip a few off to put in a vase on my desk but you can eat them too or brew them into a tea. Leave a few in the garden where they will attract lots of pollinators and beneficial insects.
- Purple Sage – I find this one to be less cold hardy than the garden sage but it will survive outdoors in colder climates if you give it lots of chance to establish itself and provide mulch or winter protection. I have grown it in the past and it never seems to get as large and bushy as the garden sage but the dark purple colour is just so pretty and makes a great contrast to the golden and tricolor sages. I am a sucker for just about anything purple in the garden.
- Golden Sage – This variety seems to have the same issues as the purple but the chartreuse splashes in the leaves are hard to resist. Chartreuse is my other colour weakness. I’ve got the chartreuse/gold version of just about every herb (oregano, marjarom, etc) in my community plot this year.
- Berggarten Sage – Similar to garden sage but with a dense, low growth and big, soft, oval leaves.
I have a fifth tricolor plant growing in a pot on the rooftop deck. I find the coloured sages are best for pots because they tend to stay on the smaller size and develop a really interesting topiary look if you remove the lower leaves and allow the plant to grow a woody bottom stem.
I picked up this gorgeous and awesomely huge sage plant for a buck fifty a few days ago. Okay sure I already have more sage than I can shake a stick at but you know how it is…. It was so big and beautiful and only a buck fifty people! They charge more for candy bars these days. A comparison/justification that would have an ounce of relevancy if I actually ate candy bars. Most sale herbs look a little worse-for-wear if not completely dead because they can’t withstand the drought in the tight transplant boxes but sage is always a good choice because it just gets bigger and bigger in those little pots. I caught the sale while riding my bike past a small corner shop/plant store that was itching to get rid of their over-sized herbs. I will admit that I have been going out of my way on bike lately in an effort to keep tabs on just about every garden store I know. I bragged to a friend that I’ve got the entire west end of Toronto mapped out in my head according to who’s got what, what looks better where, cost, and if the sales are on yet.
With the heat rising to oppressive levels here in Toronto, the pressure to get things planted or sold off seems to have arrived earlier than ever this year. Yeah, I definitely don’t have enough guilt as-is. I came home with my bike basket overflowing with plants the other day — partly because I am the Angelina Jolie of the plant world (minus the lips) with my insatiable need to expand the brood and partly because I just felt so dang bad for that nasturtium (or three. Twelve if you count that they come 4 per pack).
Colette of Urban Harvest has started selling her plants at reduced prices (I could not resist more basil!) and FoodShare had their annual plant giveaway yesterday afternoon. I said I was going to support a friend and check out the action but walked away with a very hot n’ spicy mustard plant. Thankfully I did not feel bad for the flowers that were left behind. Mostly.
A dull but constant sense of panic is creeping in over the transplants that are still sitting in the holding area outside. The transplants! They are not planted! Everything else is getting huge and yet the stragglers sit out there in those smallish pots waiting to get into some soil. How can I so cruely deny them? And yet I can’t stop bringing new plants home. Because soon it will be harder to find certain plants as the season slows down and so the urge to go out and find more plants to add to a collection that can’t possibly be enough takes hold and the cycle continues.