Strawberry plants and borage have a special relationship.Many books have been written on companion planting; and strawberry plants, like most other plants, can benefit from being planted in close proximity to other flora. The most beneficial plant to plant in close proximity to strawberry plants is likely the culinary herb borage. But before delving into the relationship between strawberry plants and borage, a brief bit of background information may be helpful.
Do Strawberry Plants Need Companion Plants?
At its heart, all companion planting is based on the theory (backed by significant evidence) that planting different plant species in close proximity can, in the right combinations, produce mutually beneficial and even synergistic results. Many combinations have been discovered and shown to positively influence nutrient uptake, aid in controlling harmful pests, and increase pollination (among others). Each synergistic improvement tends to yield benefits in the health and productivity of the crop.
So, do strawberry plants need companions? The answer depends upon who is asking. If you are a commercial operation, strawberry plants don’t need companion planting. The commercial strawberry plants (and consequently the strawberries) are usually doused with pesticides and petroleum-derived fertilizers (see: Reasons to Grow Your Own Strawberries). Plus, planting anything other than strawberries on a commercial strawberry farm may decrease the overall yield derived from modern farming practices.
But, if you are a home gardener planting strawberry plants alongside borage can make a lot of sense. Organic and sustainable agricultural practices are pushing their way into the mainstream, and this is a good thing. So, if strawberry plants are in your garden (or will be), and you don’t want to be completely dependent on toxic pesticides or non-organic fertilizers, companion planting is a good idea.
Companion Planting Strawberries and Borage
The herb borage (Borago officinalis) is known primarily as a culinary herb, but it has other benefits as a companion plant when planted with strawberry plants. Borage is widely accepted as one of the best companion plants for its observed effects within a garden. And, it has a specific affinity when planted alongside strawberry plants.
As discussed on the Strawberry Plant page, strawberry plants and strawberries have numerous pests and pathogens that can kill or maim them. Planting borage next to strawberry plants serves several beneficial functions for the strawberry plants. Namely, the borage plants tend to deter many of the insect pests that afflict strawberry plant. Additionally, they are a powerful pollinator attractor and can make pollination more robust (useful in developing new strawberry varieties).
With the attraction of pollinators, the borage plants also bring other helpful defenders of strawberry plants: predatory insects. Praying mantis and predatory wasps are frequently drawn to gardens where borage is planted (along with others). Predatory insects cannibalize other insects that would do damage to strawberry plants, given the chance.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of planting strawberries with borage, however, is that the flavor profile of the strawberries themselves is improved. Of course, taste is a subjective thing, but most gardeners who have started planting strawberry plants with borage note flavor improvement. And, while borage won’t work in the same way as heavy doses of fertilizer and pesticides, it does positively impact strawberry yield. It is also believed that borage plants increase the level of trace minerals in the soil in which they are planted making the strawberries planted near them even more beneficial for health!
Spacing Borage and Strawberry Plants
Borage plants do not need to be alternated with strawberry plants in order to provide mutually beneficial results. In fact, lots of them aren’t required. If June-bearing strawberries are planted in the matted row system (see the Growing Strawberries page for details), one borage plant every 3 to 4 feet in the center of the matted row should be sufficient. Of course, feel free to experiment and determine the best spacing and location for your given climate, soil, and strawberry variety.
Strawberry Plants and Borage: Extra Benefits
If borage plants are planted, they will attract many pollinators. These pollinators will help fertilize many of the plants in a garden. Plus, bees absolutely love borage and make a delicious honey from its nectar. If you happen to be a beekeeper as well as a gardener, keep this in mind!
Borage is also edible itself. Its leaves have a mild cucumber taste and the flowers are also edible and lightly sweet as well. The leaves can be used in salads or drinks and as a garnish for summer desserts. They can also be prepared and eaten in the same fashion as spinach.
When it comes to planting borage with your strawberry plants, adopt Nike’s old slogan: Just Do It! It will benefit your strawberries, benefit your other garden plants, and benefit your health as well.Plus, the borage plant itself is a fantastic example of unique beauty.
Strawberry plants & borage!