Growing borage is one surefire way of attracting all sorts of pollinating insects to your garden. One such pollinating insect is the bee, and bees love borage. They are currently under threat at the moment but there is something we can all do to help give them an easier time. Maybe its time to consider growing borage in your garden, not only for the benefit of the bees but for yourself too.
Although originally from the Mediteranean region, it thrives in our British gardens.
Bees love borage
I am a massive fan of it and more importantly our bees love borage. They adore this annual herb and simply can’t seem to get enough of it. From bumble bees to honey bees, every moment of each sunny day there will be a bee of some type visiting your borage plants. That’s why every year, without fail, I will be sowing borage seeds into the soil.
Did I mention borage seeds are so easy to grow? Well, they are!
You don’t need to be an Alan Titchmarsh or a Monty Don to have success with it. You won’t even need to be the green fingered type. But before you go grabbing those seeds, read on.
Why do bees love borage so much?
Borago officinalis, also known as the star flower because of the delicate star shaped flowers, is a prolific nectar producer. It is this sweet, free flowing nectar that draws the bees onto these beautiful, vivid blue petals. Bumble bees visit not only for the nectar, but to enjoy the pollen that borage provides.
Borage – The nectar and pollen powerhouse
We now know bees love borage for it’s nectar and pollen, and bees need both of these things for its survival and reproduction.
But how prolific is borage? Well, it is said that just one acre of borage will yield about 200lbs of nectar (which the bees will turn to honey) and between 60 – 160 lbs of pollen. Each flower head will refill with nectar after only two minutes of being emptied by a bee.
That certainly puts things into perspective and shows how beneficial it is to our pollinators such as honey and bumble bees. Borage is a very worthy entrant into my top 10 flowers that bees love.
Growing borage – a piece of cake
Borage is a hardy annual. This means that at the end of each season, the frosts will kill it off. But before this happens, the borage plant will have already dropped and sprinkled its seeds into the soil below. This will give you more borage plants in the same location the following spring, and what’s more, they are free!
As I mentioned earlier, borage is a piece of cake to grow from seed. Just follow these simple steps and nature will do the rest.
- For best results, sow your borage seeds directly into the ground where you want them to grow, four weeks before the last frosts. April or May is a good time. Borage is not very demanding when it comes to soil type. Just well drained soil will do.
- Cover over the seeds with half an inch of soil or compost.
- When the seedlings appear, thin them out so that there is about 12 inches of space between each plant.
- Keep the soil well watered while the seedlings grow.
- Borage prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade.
That’s all there is to growing borage. Each plant will grow to about 24 inches, and by June or July you should have the bees flocking to the borage in your garden, and it will continue to flower through to october.
I always like to stagger the sowing of my borage seeds. After I sow my first seeds, I like to sow some more every two weeks. This ensures I have flowering borage all throughout the summer months.
Borage is good for you
Yep, borage is good for us humans too. The young leaves can be added to salads. They have a nice fresh cucumber taste. The flowers can also be eaten and added for a splash of colour on your plate.
In the olden days, borage was classed as a valuable herb and was grown for its medicinal purposes.
How about swapping your normal brew for a cup of borage tea? It is known to help calm the nerves and to help lower a fever.
The leaves themselves are a source of calcium and also act as an anti-inflammatory. It is also said, Starflower or borage seed oil can help with autoimmune disorders, arthritis , eczema and premenstrual stress.
Borage is good for other plants in your garden
Is there anything this wonder plant can’t do? Not only will it provide all the benefits I mentioned above, it will also help protect your other plants.
In the gardening world they would call it a companion plant. What this means is, if borage is planted near strawberry or tomato plants, it will act as a deterrent to the pesky pest invaders that want to make a meal of them.
It is thought the invading creatures dislike hairy like stems of the borage plant and flee the area. They also assist by adding trace elements to the soil which the nearby plants lap up.
The icing on the cake is that when the borage plant is looking tired and dying, it can be gathered up and thrown on your compost heap. The calcium and potassium in the leaves will soon break down and add essential nutrients.
Everyone’s a winner with borage
So let’s wrap things up. Hopefully by now, you’ll agree that it’s worth growing borage in your own garden. The bees love borage, you can add the tasty leaves to your healthy salad, and even your veggie patch will be more productive.
Click here to buy borage seeds from our shop.