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Attracting Pollinating Insects to Your GardenCasting your eye over a garden in full bloom is one of the great thrills for horticulturalists, as you reap the rewards for all your hard work in the form of a colourful, blossoming landscape. However, while a lot of time and effort has gone into such a beautiful creation, you won’t have done it alone.

That’s because a host of pollinating insects and animals will have given you a helping hand – doing their bit to assist you in producing the garden of your dreams. But what are pollinators, how can you attract them, and which are the best plants for pollinators? Here at Premier Polytunnels, we hope to provide all the answers!

What are pollinators?

Pollinators are insects or other animals that shift pollen from the male part of a flower, the anther, to the female part, the stigma, of the same species. This transfer ensures fertilisation of the flower and encourages fresh growth, while the pollinators themselves also reap the benefits as they receive carbohydrates, proteins and fats from the nectar and pollen. It’s a win-win situation!

What are some examples of pollinating insects and birds?

The most common type among British pollinating insects is the honey bee, although many other species of bees as well as flies, beetles and butterflies also act as pollinators. Additionally, some birds and even bats can help to pollinate your garden, depending on location and plant type.

Which are the best plants for pollinators?

Bees are attracted to a wide range of plants, including wild roses, geraniums, flax, poppies and zinnia while apple and pear trees may also draw them to your garden. Hummingbirds also act as pollinators and they are attracted to begonias, lilies and hollyhocks while the likes of marigolds, calendulas, delphiniums and sage will entice butterflies to your patch.

How to attract pollinators to your garden

There are a few ways you can encourage more pollinating insects and animals to visit your garden:

Stay natural: Try to avoid the use of powerful pesticides when looking to protect your plants and flowers. These can disrupt the natural ecosystem and kill off beneficial organisms, not to mention potentially exposing you and anyone else to harmful chemicals. Try to stay as organic as possible and maintain a natural system, as pollinators will be deterred by the presence of pesticides.

Use pollen-rich flowers: The best way to attract pollinators is to entice them with a range of flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar. Some examples of these include lavender, fuchsias, clematis and hydrangeas, but there are a huge variety to choose from, so you’ll be able to plant those that best suit you and your garden.

Offer a source of water: Pollinating insects and birds all need water to thrive, so it might be worth considering the inclusion of a water feature – perhaps in the form of a bird bath or pond – to encourage them to visit your garden.

Offer shelter: Your pollinators will need a safe place, away from any predators or inclement conditions, so try to include an area of shelter if possible. This can be of the man-made variety, such as a nesting box, while growing hedges or leaving garden waste to rot down offers a more natural, organic solution.

Bring in a beehive: The best and most common pollinators are bees, so why not consider taking up beekeeping to help your flowers blossom? It may require a little patience and learning but, if you’ve got the time and space, using a beehive could really help your garden thrive!

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There are few things more rewarding than growing your own vegetables and reaping the rewards in the form of a delicious stew, curry or as an accompaniment to a succulent Sunday roast.

That feeling of satisfaction when you’ve cultivated your own crops, right through from planting to harvesting, is one that’s difficult to match for all the keen gardeners out there. It’s vital that you carefully protect your veg plot, otherwise the trimmings around your Christmas dinner could look decidedly measly, and one great way to do this is by employing crop rotation.

But if you’re wondering what are the advantages of crop rotation and how you go about it or indeed what crop rotation even is, here at Premier Polytunnels, we can provide the answers.

−	Crop Rotation for your Vegetable GardenWhat is crop rotation?

The idea behind crop rotation is to grow certain categories of vegetables in different parts of your garden each year. So, for example, even if you’ve produced an excellent collection of carrots and potatoes, don’t feel too tempted to stick with the same crops in the same spots. Instead, swapping them about can reduce the risk of crop-specific diseases or pests, among a host of other benefits.

Why is crop rotation important?

The advantages of crop rotation are plentiful, and it can make a huge difference to your vegetable plot if done with due care and attention. For example, rotating your crops can help to keep weeds to a minimum. That’s because some vegetables, such as potatoes, produce large foliage, which quashes the growth of weeds and subsequently reduces their number when you plant the next crops.

Additionally, you can significantly diminish any harm from pests and diseases, which usually attack certain vegetable families. Of course, you can also help protect against these irritants with the use of polytunnels, cloches and fruit cages but that’s not the only way to lessen the problem.

If you change up your crops in each bed on an annual basis, any pests will wane in the intervening period without their host plant and will be less able to develop and spread, meaning you’ll gain a healthier, more wholesome harvest as a reward for all your hard work.

Crop rotation can also improve the fertility of the soil, which will only boost the growth of your precious veggies. That’s because different plants have a range of nutritional requirements, and regularly changing your beds around means your soil shouldn’t build up any potentially harmful nutrient deficiencies.

Which vegetables are suitable for crop rotation?

In truth, you can rotate almost all your vegetables and the practice can be very easily adopted if you have an allotment or kitchen garden. The only vegetables which may not marry up with your crop rotation are the perennial ones, such as asparagus and rhubarb, as they will live longer and are likely to play havoc with your rotation schedule, so it might be best to treat those as a separate entity when arranging your timetable.

How should I plan my crop rotation?

All good gardeners know that preparation is everything and that’s no different when it comes to crop rotation. You’ll need to plan carefully and, once you’ve set aside a section of your garden for those perennial vegetables, it may be worth dividing up the remainder according to groups of crops.

For example, you may want to identify one bed for potatoes and tomatoes, one for beetroot, carrots and celery and another for sprouts, cabbage and turnips. Once you’ve done that, draw up a schedule of how and where you’re going to move each set of crops every year, so that when it comes to rotation time, you’ll know exactly what’s required!

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Whether it’s based on a farm, smallholding, allotment or in a back garden, polytunnels are hugely useful. Designed to retain heat, they provide the ideal conditions for plant growth, meaning that your plans don’t have to be dictated by seasonal changes. While traditionally used for cultivating fruits and vegetables, many have been updated to house sheep and other livestock. Yet as hardy as they are, like anything, they can be susceptible to damage. Whatever’s caused yours to wane in standard, you can easily rectify it. Look no further than our guide to find out how to repair polytunnels effectively.

Tend to tears

Polytunnel Repair TapeTears can be annoying, especially on polytunnels. You may not notice the effect straightaway, particularly if it’s small, but the longer you leave it the larger it’s likely to become. So, it’s crucial to repair it as soon as you spot one. Luckily, it isn’t hard to do this – a lot of the time, it just takes some polytunnel tape.

Don’t just reach for your nearest duct or carpet tape roll though. For this task, it’s best to use polytunnel repair tape. UV resistant and highly adhesive, polytunnel tape is perfect for repairing tears in polythene covers. Stick it to your polytunnel and you needn’t worry about anything – from the sun’s rays to strong storms – undoing your work.

Raise your plants

Do you use your polytunnel to grow plants in? If so, whereabouts are they growing? If it’s in the ground, you may want to temporarily transfer them into pots. That way, if you can’t fix a tear or rip with polytunnel repair tape straightaway, you don’t have to worry about its effect on the soil your plants are growing in.

This is particularly important if the damage occurs during winter or early spring, when frost and severe cold can freeze soil, causing roots to die from a lack of moisture. Re-home plants in the ground into pots and you can avoid the threat of frozen soil altogether. Alternatively, you can cover your plants with a polythene cloche to act as double glazing for your polytunnel, keeping the frost off your crops. As a result, you’ll have more time to learn about how to repair polytunnels properly.

Find a temporary home for sheep (especially lambs)

Do you use your polytunnel for housing sheep? If the answer’s yes, who could blame you? After all, sheep kept in naturally ventilated cold housing tend to be healthier and cheaper to feed than those kept outside and exposed to the elements.

This is largely because well-ventilated housing helps to prevent respiratory problems among sheep. While most sheep are able to withstand the cold, lambs typically aren’t – so it’s vital that they’re sheltered during cold periods. But if your shelter is in desperate need of some polytunnel repair tape, it could lose its positive impact on your livestock.

The solution? Place your sheep in temporary accommodation while you deal with the issue in hand. Is there a local farm that could put up your animals? Alternatively, you could rent a livestock shed or shelter.

Assess those rips

Just how big are the holes in your polytunnel cover? Bigger than a simple tear, by any chance? Are they, in fact, large rips or holes which the wind is catching? If so, it may be time to assess the effect they’re having. Realistically, will the cover still protect your plants during winter? Is the damage reducing the heat capacity of your polytunnel?

To find out, why not test its indoor temperature over a number of days? True, polytunnel tape is highly effective. But if the rip in your polytunnel is having an impact on its performance, you might be better off replacing it with a new polythene cover. Speaking of which…

Trust in a specialist

Does it look like you need to buy a new polytunnel? If the answer is yes, don’t worry – go with a specialist provider and you’ll be guaranteed a hardy cover that lasts for years. Though it might be tempting to go for the exact model you’re replacing, you could do worse than explore the market for alternatives. Depending on how long your previous one lasted for, the world of polytunnels may have changed since you last invested in it.

Also, your plants or livestock could benefit from a change in polytunnel cover or size. Go with an expert supplier and you’ll be more likely to find the polytunnel to suit your preferences.

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