Growing Crops: Borage

A beautiful and tasty annual herb with an ugly name, borage is also a low-maintenance herb. Perfect for those would-be gardeners with the proverbial brown thumb. You have to really try to kill this herb off. So, why not give it a try?

Be sure to read Growing Herbs 101 in conjunction with this post.

Best Climate to Grow: Borage is a hardy little herb that does well pretty much anywhere.

Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade.

Soil Requirements: Rich, fertile soil that is kept moist encourages the growth of leaves, while lesser, drier soils will encourage flowering. pH level can range from acidic to alkaline without affecting the plants.

Feeding and Water Requirements: That depends on why you are growing borage. See the previous section about soil requirements. Drip irrigation and mulching are not recommended for this herb – too much moisture can cause root rot in borage.

When to Plant: Sow directly in the ground from Spring to early Summer. Borage doesn’t transplant well due to the long taproot.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Sow the seeds ½ inch deep and 12 inches apart in rows that are 12 inches apart. If broadcasting over a block of garden space, you will need to thin the seedlings to 12 inches all around.

Container Requirements: Borage grows very well in containers at least 8 inches deep. We suggest growing a few borage plants in the center of a large container, surrounded on the edges by smaller, complementary herbs. Mix compost into the soil before planting, and water occasionally, making sure the plants don’t completely dry out.

Harvesting and Storage: Both the leaves and flowers are edible, often used in teas or salads and light stir-fries. The flowers can also be candied, or frozen in ice cube trays to add to iced tea or other, stronger drinks during the summer. Snip the leaves with garden shears as needed, starting with the lower leaves. Harvest the flowers for eating before they form seeds.

Harvesting Seeds: Borage seeds are relatively easy to harvest – they’re highly visible, for one thing. Allow the flowers to mature and form seeds. Wait until the seeds turn brown – there are three seeds per flower – before removing the flower head with the seeds. The trick is to collect the seeds after they have turned brown but before they have fallen out of the flower. Simply store them in a cool, dry place until time to plant again.

Pests to Monitor: Generally pest-free; in fact it is often used as a companion plant to repel pests from other plants. Should you end up with an unexpected problem, though, visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

1 Comment so far

  1. Molly on January 18th, 2012

    I love borage- so pretty- but I’ve found it to be a trap crop for the squash vine borer- it’ll get the borers before the squash does and turn into a black sticky mess. I rip the plants out and kill the borers inside by slicing along the stem (versus across the stem.) I hate it when this happens, despite saving the squash vines, because the borage flowers are lovely. Very little else blooms with such a soft lovely blue at that time of year.

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