In order to grow food, you need to pay attention to how your crops are pollinated. Some food crops are self-pollinated, or wind pollinated, while others require intervention by insects or other pollinators in order to bear fruit. In order to have success in your gardening endeavours, you need to know how to attract pollinators to your polytunnel. In this article, we will look at some of the many ways in which this can be achieved:
Create a ‘hotel for solitary bees
If you want to ensure that the bees come to your polytunnel and stick around then it is a great idea to provide a place for solitary bees to make their home. This is not just a good thing to do for the benefit of your produce garden, it is also a good way to help the environment – bees are endangered. The more we as individual gardeners can do to help them the better. Make your bee ‘hotel’ with lengths of bamboo garden cane, or pieces of wood with holes drilled into them. There are plenty of instructions online to help you make your own from whatever you have to hand.
Plant the flowers and herbs that bees and other pollinators love
Try to plant the things that will attract those useful insects the most. Bees will be attracted most to purple flowers, because they can see that colour better than other colours. Good bee attracting plants include comfrey, lavender, hyssop, bee balm and chives. Of course all of these plants are also useful for other things so are great additions to your small space. Polytunnel gardens are best when they fulfil as many different functions as possible.
Create a display of flowers that lasts for the whole growing season
To make sure you have pollinators around when you need them, try to think about having bee-attractant flowers of at least one sort in bloom for the whole growing season, throughout the year. Though the primary function of your polytunnel garden can be food production, do not neglect to plant any flowers at all as these are a vital part of any functioning garden ecosystem, no matter how small. The more you can cram into your space, the better your crops will grow with their little insect helpers.
Keep your polytunnel accessible to pollinators when flowers bloom
Opening polytunnel doors is important for ventilation and to keep temperatures down as the weather warms in the spring. But keeping doors open is also important in order to allow pollinating insects to enter. Make sure that pollinators always have access to crops when these are in bloom.
Keep your own bees
If you find that pollinators are in short supply where you live, you may even want to consider keeping your own honey bees, which will pollinate your crops. While this is not usually strictly necessary in order to pollinate polytunnel plants, you may find that this is an enjoyable pastime. And it can, of course, not only help to ensure that there are plenty of bees around. It can also add to your home harvest with a home-produced honey supply.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.