Learn About Borage
How to Sow
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
- Direct sow in average soil in a sunny or lightly shaded area, after danger of spring frost.
- Borage is an attractive flowering annual in cottage gardens or borders, or planted with herbs and vegetables.
- Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
- Sow seeds about 12 inches apart and cover with ¼ inch of fine soil.
- Firm the soil lightly and keep evenly moist.
- Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days.
- This gradually to stand 18-24 inches apart when seedlings are 1-2 inches high.
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For herbs, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
- Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Discard plants after they bloom.
- Borage will self-sow where it is happy.
- Harvest leaves and flowers in the morning after the dew has dried before the heat of the day.
- Pick flowers before they are fully open.
- Both flowers and young leaves are edible. Add the flowers to wine, use them to decorate cakes, or try crystalizing them.
- Leaves may be dried in an area with good air circulation out of the direct sun for one to two weeks. Store or use when dry but still green, discard any black leaves. To store put them in glass or plastic containers with lids. They will lose their flavor over time but can last for one year if properly stored.
- Flowers may be frozen, and they may be candied.
- Borage leaves and flowers may be preserved in vinegar.
Common Pests and Problems
Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water and rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.
Downy Mildew: Leaves turn yellow around the middle vein and the disease spreads, eventually turning grayish purple and fuzzy. Burpee Recommends: Make sure the plants have plenty of air circulation, avoid getting water of the foliage when watering, remove infected plant material.
Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage and may spread diseases. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different plant family. Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage.
Japanese Beetles: Burpee Recommends: Hand pick early in the morning into a bucket of soapy water.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
Springtails: These are small, dark colored, wingless. They do not fly, but they jump. They live in the soil and chew on the roots and leaves of seedlings. Burpee Recommends: Do not overwater plants and reduce excess organic matter in the soil.
Is borage deer resistant? Yes.
How can I use borage as a companion plant? Borage is a terrific companion plant as it tends to repel many insects and is very disease resistant. It is particularly beneficial to strawberries, cucumbers, gourds, tomatoes and cabbage.
Is borage a good pollinator plant? Yes, borage is attractive to honeybees, and also attracts predatory insects.
Can I start borage indoors? Borage develops a tap root and so is not recommended to start indoors unless you plant in fiberpots.
Can I grow borage in containers? Borage can grow into a large plant up to 3 feet tall. If you want to plant in containers make sure they are large and deep enough, and use a commercial container mix rather than garden soil.