A Guide to the Benefits of Alliums

March is a good time to plant out the onion sets, shallots and sets for some varieties of garlic, as long as the ground where you live is not frozen or waterlogged. If it is then you would be better to wait a while or better still, to plant sets indoors to allow them to sprout on your windowsills before planting out into their final growing positions as soon as the soil warms up a little. By now, if you are planning to create a vegetable garden or already have one then you should have made your plan and be eagerly anticipating sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings outdoors in the coming months.

In making your plans, you should have taken into consideration the placement of all your plants. You should be planning to take advantage of beneficial plant interactions through companion planting and layering in order to maximise your yield. The onion family, alliums, have a number of uses in the garden as companion plants that can aid other crops. As the time has come to plant out the sets, now is a good time to discuss the benefits of alliums in the kitchen garden in a little more depth.

Alliums for Repelling Pests

Onions, garlic and other members of the allium family have been shown in a number of studies to be efficacious at either repelling or confusing a number of pests. For example, inter-cropping alliums with carrots can stop the carrots from becoming infested with carrot fly and inter-cropping with brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage etc. can protect them from some of their worst pests. Likewise, lettuce will benefit from having members of this family close at hand. Fruit trees in a garden or an orchard would also benefit from under-planting with some members of the allium family.

Alliums for Attracting Beneficial Insects

Members of the allium family can also attract beneficial insects 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 this family, are particularly attractive to bees due to the purple colour of their flower heads, which bees can see clearly. Chives can be planted now, inside on a windowsill and can stay there or be transplanted outside to a herb garden bed or herb spiral once the weather warms up a little.

Alliums for Health

Of course onions, garlic etc. are not just beneficial in terms of the garden's ecosystem, they are also great for our health and since they are easily grown in containers and small spaces, almost everyone should be able to grow at least a few of the alliums they eat throughout the year. The vitamin C and the phytochemicals in onions help the immune system. Onions contain chromium, which helps us to regulate our blood sugar and onions are also said to reduce inflammation.

So get outside and plant some alliums, ideally before the end of the month.

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