If you are looking for a flowering plant that ticks all the boxes then borage is for you. Deters pests, attracts beneficial insects, grows easily, improves your soil and is not only a beautiful statement flower but completely edible.
Why should you grow borage?
It's one of the greatest companion plants for your garden, especially your vegetable garden. Companion planting helps you grow your garden in a more sustainable manner as the plants work together and reduce or alleviate the need for fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides.
Benefits of borage
Borage is a great pest deterrent because it attracts beneficial insects and predators which prey on tomatoes worms and cabbage worms/caterpillars. These pests are detrimental to your plant growth so try planting borage in between your plants.
You will notice that borage has very hairy leaves. Slugs and snails are opposed to hairy leaves and so planting a border of borage around your tasty crops will protect them. The snails and slugs will not want to cross the hairy leaves even for the tastiest of lettuce treats and go elsewhere in search of food.
Borage also has other companion planting benefits. It is said to improve the growth and flavour of strawberries. So why not try interplanting borage with your berries for a bumper crop.
Is borage edible?
Absolutely! The flowers and the leaves are both edible and have similar nutrient benefits to dandelions. You can use the flowers to garnish cakes and treats or to add colour to salads. The leaves have a taste similar to spinach when cooked. You can also brew herbal tea from the flowers and leaves which is said to help with cold and flu symptoms and even depression. It is actually a common ingredient in many commercial herbal teas.
However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consuming borage should be avoided.
Borage self seeds easily and so you will find it popping up in your garden year after year. If it's in the way then add it to your compost, but always leave some in your garden to reap the many benefits. Unfortunately, transplanting is very challenging as they do not like their roots being disturbed.
When sowing seeds it is best to direct sow into the garden. If this isn't possible, then sow into planters that you can place directly into the grounds like newspaper or jiffy pots.
Borage leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals including potassium, nitrogen, calcium and vitamin C. At the end of the season when they die back, ensure that you add them to your compost, or leave them on the soil like a "cut and drop" green manure crop.
If you have chickens, you will discover they will love borage as much as you. When feeding them, leave the borage to wilt for a day so it's less hairy and more appetising for the birds.
Author: Diana Barnes, Growing Vegetable Down Under