One of the exciting things about having a polytunnel is being able to decide exactly what you would like to grow in it. Most polytunnel gardeners will choose to grow at least some of their own food – but the question remains as to exactly which crops you should grow. One group of edible plants that are wonderful for your polytunnel are alliums such as onions, shallots and garlic. These are a great choice for polytunnel growing not only because they can be grown in relatively small spaces, but also for the following reasons:
Onions, garlic and other alliums have been shown in a number of different scientific studies to be effective at repelling, confusing or distracting a range of different pests. For example, sowing onions in your polytunnel next to carrots can help to prevent the carrots from becoming infested with carrot fly and intercropping alliums with brassicas can also help to prevent problems with some of their most common pests. A number of fruit trees and bushes will also benefit from being underplanted with members of the allium family.
Members of the allium family can also attract beneficial insects, especially if they are left to go to seed. While they repel certain insect life with their pungent smell, they can also, when at least some flower heads are left on, attract beneficial predatory insects and pollinators like bees. Chives, another member of the allium family, are particularly useful for this purpose. Chives are particularly attractive to bees due to their purple flowers, which, along with white flowers, the bees can see more clearly than those of other colours.
In addition to aiding other plants in your polytunnel, alliums are also good for our own health. This is another reason why they are a good choice for polytunnel gardens. The vitamin C and the phytochemicals in onions help the immune system. Onions also contain chromium, which helps us to regulate our blood sugar and are also said to reduce inflammation. Alliums play an important role in a healthy diet.
When deciding what to grow in your polytunnel, don't neglect the allium family. They not only taste great, they are easy to grow and, as you can tell from the above, they have a lot of other benefits while in the garden and when harvested.