Borage, also known as Borago officinalis, is an annual herb originally from the Mediterranean region. It’s a hardy plant that grows well in most climates and soils, making it an excellent choice for gardeners everywhere. Borage is a sight to behold in any garden. But its beauty isn’t just skin deep – it has some compelling benefits for our buzzing friends, the bees.
Bees adore borage, and the reason for this is twofold. First, borage flowers are rich in nectar, providing a vital food source for bees. This nectar is not just any nectar – it replenishes itself every 2 minutes! Can you imagine a buffet that restocks itself every 2 minutes? That’s what borage offers to bees.
Second, borage nectar is high in sugar content, more than many other plants. This means it provides a higher energy reward for bees per visit. In a world where bees are constantly on the go, this is like finding a high-energy snack bar at every corner.
But wait, there’s more! Borage’s flowering season is long, typically from June until the first frost. This gives bees a reliable food source when many other plants have stopped blooming.
Now, are there any downsides to borage for bees? Well, not really. The only potential issue might be if your garden becomes overrun with borage at the expense of other plants. Bees like a varied diet, just like us. So, while borage is a fantastic addition to any bee-friendly garden, it’s important to have a mix of plants.
Borage grows up to 60-100 cm tall, with hairy stems and leaves. The leaves are alternate and simple, while the flowers are bright blue and star-shaped, creating a stunning visual display. Its leaves and flowers are edible and often used in salads or as garnishes. Borage is commonly used in companion planting due to its ability to repel certain pests and improve soil quality.
Speaking of which, to supplement borage, consider planting other bee-friendly herbs such as rosemary, or thyme. These herbs not only add beauty to your garden but also offer a delightful aroma and can be used in culinary creations. These are also bee favourites and provide a good balance of nutrients for bees throughout the year.
Borage prefers a sunny location, although it can tolerate partial shade. It thrives in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, and while it can handle poor soil conditions, it will flourish in rich, loamy soil. Regular watering is necessary, but be careful not to overwater as borage doesn’t like waterlogged soil.
Preparation Steps: Before planting your borage, prepare the soil by removing weeds and adding some organic matter or compost to enrich it. This will help improve drainage and provide nutrients for your plants. There’s no need for fertilization as borage isn’t a heavy feeder. As for pests, borage is relatively pest-free, but keep an eye out for powdery mildew and leaf spot.
Planting: In the UK, the optimal time for planting borage seeds is during early spring, typically around April, once the risk of frost has subsided. It is recommended to sow the seeds directly into the soil, ensuring a depth of approximately 2 cm and spacing them about 30 cm apart to allow ample room for growth. After planting, it is advised to thoroughly water the area.
Pruning and Harvesting: Borage is a fast-growing plant, so regular pruning will keep it under control. Cut back any unwanted growth or dead leaves to encourage the plant to bush out.
As for harvesting, you can start picking the leaves as soon as the plant is well established, usually about 8 weeks after sowing. The optimal time to harvest flowers is in the morning after the dew has evaporated, but before the day’s heat sets in. Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to avoid damaging the plant.
Remember, both the leaves and flowers are edible. The leaves have a mild cucumber-like taste, while the flowers add a splash of colour and a sweet honey-like flavour to dishes. After harvest, they can be used fresh or stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Consider drying the leaves and storing them in an airtight container for longer storage.
You can buy borage (Borago officinalis) from several sources in the UK. One of the top recommendations is Crocus.co.uk, a reputable online plant and garden supply retailer. They offer organic borage seeds with delivery options available.
Crocus.co.uk has a variety of full-priced items and provides detailed information about each plant, including its uses and ideal growing conditions.
So there you have it – borage is not just good, it’s fantastic for bees. It’s like their favourite restaurant that’s open all season long, serving up high-energy meals. So why not add some to your garden today? The bees will thank you for it.