There are so many positives to growing in a polytunnel, however, being undercover does cause some problems to overcome. Maintaining temperature, humidity and irrigation can all be solved with engineering solutions, but pollination is a different matter. 

There is no better way to pollinate than with bees and insects, hand pollination can go some way to encourage struggling crops, but truly, nature is the best man for the job. While keeping doors and vents open through high summer is important to maintain the climate within your tunnel, it is also necessary so the pollinators can come and go as they please. But how do you get the best for your fledgeling crops? How do you make your polytunnel the place to be? 

It all comes down to some clever planting. If you factor in space for some varieties that are beloved by bees and ensure that you have some of these are flowering throughout the season, your polytunnel will soon become a hive of activity. Don’t neglect outside your tunnel either, a few pollinator favourites dotted around the garden and just outside the door will encourage these hard workers into your haven. 

So what are the best plants for attracting pollinators? 

Cosmos

Cosmos are a beloved flower of the cottage garden and have been prized for their pretty flowers. They bloom throughout summer and are fairly low maintenance. Bees are most attracted to purple flowers and Cosmos come in a range of colours, from chocolate to golden white. For purely pollination purposes we recommend the magenta and pink varieties. If you choose cosmos sulphureus the blooms and young leaves are also edible.

Borage

Though not within the modern vernacular, borage is a herb that will improve any culinary garden along with its bee attracting qualities. Flowering in June and July, borage will quickly pack out the space with pollinators, though be aware it is self-seeding and without a strong hand, it can quickly take over. 

Echinacea

These big old blooms are powerhouses for pollinators. Also known as coneflower, the Echinacea flowers from June to September. They are easy to grow, being tolerant of most soils and not requiring staking. They come in a variety of colours and sizes and brighten up any sad looking patch of a polytunnel. 

Thyme 

Thyme is a hugely versatile herb and with hundreds of varieties, it is easy to find one that suits your garden’s needs. Thyme is renowned for being a bee magnet, but it is also so valuable in the kitchen that it is worth either having a couple of plants or planting in a pot to move into the tunnel when you need it. A known bee favourite is thyme Vulgaris with its mauve flowers. 

Calendula

Calendulas are bright, prolific and easy to grow with over one hundred varieties to choose from. You can quickly dive into the varieties prized for heavy double blooms or bicoloured flowers, however, if you are just looking for bee attracting qualities then the calendula Officinalis will do the job. Flowering from May to November, they offer a long season and lots of jolly blooms for the bees. 

Comfrey

Comfrey used to be a medicinal herb used to treat burns, bites and stings. Now it is a useful plant to have in the garden as its nutrient-rich leaves can be made into liquid fertiliser. Comfrey can live for a fair old time, so choose your site carefully, though it isn’t too fussy about soil type and is a nice low maintenance plant. Comfrey flowers in late May or early June and continues until the late autumn frosts.