Top Tips for Growing Borage

Borage is a unique herb that gardeners enjoy for its beauty in the garden and medicinal purposes. Begin seeds indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost, or sow directly in your garden after the threat of frost has passed. Keep seeds about 18 inches apart and just beneath the soil, placing a few in each spot for better chances at germination. Keep borage plants well-watered with an alkaline soil. Thin seedlings once they reach 4 to 6 inches tall. You can harvest borage leaves and flowers once plants have become established.

Why Grow Borage? Borage Uses and Benefits

Borage is an herb that’s been used for healing purposes since the ancient Roman era. This super herb is usually sold as a concentrated oil to help reduce the symptoms of arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory properties. And, borage contains gamma-linolenic acid, an important Omega 6, and is an excellent source of Vitamin B and fiber.

Its flowers are even edible, although you should speak to your doctor about the amount safe to consume. Some people use the leaves or flowers in salads, as they have a taste similar to cucumber. But, they can also help create jellies, sauces, drinks, and more.

And, if you want a plant that attracts honey bees, borage is perfect for you. According to Permaculture News, beekeepers sometimes grow the herb to attract bees and increase honey production. Plus, it adds some beauty to your garden with its bright blue flowers and long, green leaves.

Planting Borage

Borage is actually one of the simplest plants to keep up with, as it can thrive in poor soil. You won’t need a fancy soil with plentiful nutrients, and borage can even grow through dry spells if it’s mulched well. Therefore, it grows well in a variety of regions with different weather patterns and soil types.

With that being said, you should ensure that your borage plants do get adequate water and sun for optimal growth. Choose a spot in your garden where sunlight hits for most of the day. Also make sure you have plenty of room in your garden spot away from other plants, since borage will likely take over with its self-seeding reproduction each year.

When to Plant Borage

If you’re growing from seed, Planet Natural suggests planting your seeds indoors about 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost occurs in your region. Alternatively, you can sow seeds directly in your garden after all threat of frost has passed in the spring. You will usually begin to see the borage flowers bloom in June or July, and you can begin to snip leaves during the growth period.

How to Plant Borage

This video by Oklahoma Gardening shows how to sow borage seeds into your garden:

You should plant borage seeds about 18 inches apart, placing the seeds slightly under the soil, about ½ to ½ inch. It’s best to place a few seeds in each spot to ensure that at least one will germinate to produce a borage plant. Make sure the seeds are covered back up with a small layer of soil and thoroughly water them.

Caring for Borage in the Garden

Once you plant borage, your plants won’t need an excessive amount of care. You’ll need to keep it watered regularly until it becomes well-established and begins to grow its long leaves and blue flowers. Then, just enough water to keep the soil moist is plenty.

Gardeners usually prefer to mulch borage once seedlings form to help retain moisture, especially for areas affected by drought. Borage will usually continue to grow as long as it has an adequate mulching and is watered when possible.

Occasionally test the soil to ensure that its remaining alkaline, between 6.0 and 7.0. Add some lime to your soil to raise the pH, if necessary.

Once the seedlings reach about 4 to 6 inches high, Gardening Know How suggests thinning the seedlings to at least one foot apart. This will help them become further established and have plenty of room to avoid competing with each other for water, sun, and nutrients.

Keeping Borage Pest and Disease-Free

Borage is unique in that it is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. But, it still can be attacked by some that will render your plants useless.

Since it’s a leafy plant, aphids and Japanese beetles can find it tasty. Fortunately, both of these can be controlled fairly easily if you don’t have a huge infestation. You can pick Japanese beetles from your plants with your fingers, and aphids usually come off with a spray of water.

Then, add a safe oil, like neem oil, to your plants’ leaves and stem to prevent the pests from reaching the leaves and eating them. Japanese beetle traps can also be placed far away from your borage plants to prevent them from getting closer.

Powdery mildew is possibly the most common disease to disrupt your borage plant growth. It causes white spots on the leaves or flowers and, if left untreated, will begin to grow black mold spores.

Aside from being unattractive, a bad case of powdery mildew will leave your borage plants wilted and mushy. If you notice powdery mildew, you can use unaffected parts of the plant for healing purposes, but the rest of the plant should be removed and discarded.

To prevent this disease, make sure your borage plants get plenty of sunlight and are not over-watered. Remember to water the soil, rather than the leaves and flowers, and do so in the morning so the sun can dry them through the day.

Harvesting and Storing Borage

Once borage plants have become established, you can harvest borage leaves and flowers. Simply pick leaves from the stem, harvesting the younger ones first. You can distinguish them from older leaves because they will have less small hairs on them. Frequent harvesting will lead to a more productive yield and longer life of borage plants.

Garden Guides suggests drying leaves for use in teas or other drinks. You can do this by placing them on a cookie sheet and keeping them away from sunlight. Allow to dry until the leaves are crisp, but still green. Or, dry them in your oven set at 180 degrees, checking every 20 minutes so they don’t over-dry. Store your dried leaves in plastic containers with lids.

Photo by Pauk licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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