Forum: Polyculture & Niche Analysis Questions & Comments (optional)

A Native Pantry: Southern Style

Picture of Abigail Shields
A Native Pantry: Southern Style
by Abigail Shields - Saturday, December 12, 2020, 10:52 AM

Hi! I tried to incorporate Texas native drought tolerant species within my polyculture that would help fill a pantry and medicine cabinet (my pantry is very much my medicine cabinet and filled with lots of jars of herbs and tinctures). 


Polyculture Goals:

  1. Create an edible landscape that would promote more time spent within the garden (yard) space

  2. Add medicinal value to the space that would act as attractants for pollinators while over time creating a wild medicine cabinet

  3. Provide habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife

  4. Use drought tolerant trees for a proper canopy layer with a complimentary understory 



  1. The site is a suburban residential neighborhood with limited wildlife. Birds and squirrels are present in this specific site.

  2. The polyculture would attract a variety of butterflies and moths by acting as larval hosts for a variety of species. The goal of the understory would be to attract a variety of beneficial insects and birds by providing both food and habitat to increase native biodiversity.

  3. Humans can enjoy the native pantry by harvesting plums, berries, and medicinal roots and herbs. 


Decomposers/Abiotic Factors:

  1. Soil conditions can range from clay, loam, to sandy. 

  2. The primary focus is to create a drought tolerant polyculture within southern climates where rain/desalinated water is limited. 

  3. These plants thrive in warmer climates and are sun tolerant. 



  1. Sassafras albidum: the roots of this tree create an allelopathic zone, thus there are specific species that can coexist in this environment. Some perennials that are of interest include the virginia strawberry (ground cover) and switchgrass (good for nesting birds, seeds eaten by song birds and game birds). Due to the allelopathic nature of this species, I found it interesting and wanted to use it in zone 4 of my site. The drought tolerant nature of the Sassafras tree and the brightly colored leaves in the autumn made me want to work with this species, as southern Texas rarely gets the classic autumn colors seen in northern climates. 

  2. Mexican plum: this drought tolerant plum tree would act as a smaller understory tree to the Sassafras and would move us to zones 2 & 3. A combination of autumn sage , bulbine, yarrow, comfrey, and nasturtiums would compose the herbaceous layer that would attract beneficial insects and birds and provide a multitude of medicinal herbs. 

  3. Medicinal border: between the trees and the border of the polyculture will be made up of medicinal herbs such as dill, garlic, thyme, rosemary, lavender, lemongrass, and sage. Ideally I think this would be built up into a modified deconstructed herb spiral in the form of a hugelkultur that would act to retain water on the land and add elevation to the garden. This would form a zigzag border, creating edges and hopefully opportunity for more biodiversity and habitat. 


Herbaceous Layer Details:

  • Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana): allelopathic resistant ground cover

  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum): allelopathic resistant hedge good for providing food for wildlife and attracts butterflies and birds 

  • Autumn sage (Salvia greggii): attracts hummingbirds and bees while providing medicinal leaves nearly all year long 

  • Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens): attracts pollinating birds and insects with the juice of its leaves being used to relieve stings and burns 

  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): used to treat fever, stomach ailments, and as a poultice for rashes

  • Comfrey (Symphytum): acts to break up clay based soil while providing a living mulch, can be used medicinally in salves for external wounds

  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum): used as ground cover and both the leaves and flowers can be added to salads for an added kick and a good source of vitamin c

  • Dill (Anethum graveolens): a self-seeding annual, attracts many beneficial insects including ladybugs and other aphid eating species, and is a great kitchen herb high in antioxidants, vitamin c, and magnesium

  • Garlic (Allium sativum): a natural pest repellent that can be planted as a border within the garden, it not only wards off pests but also the common cold and lower cholesterol 

  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): attracts predatory wasps and honeybees while having excellent antiviral properties

  • Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus): this drought resistant perennial is known to get quite large in warmer climates and can provide a fragrant hedge that attracts pollinating birds and insects, medicinally used as an anti-inflammatory and for its antioxidants 

  • Lavender (Lavendula): deters moths and fleas while attracting beneficial insects, medicinally used to relieve stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation

  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon): deters mosquitos via the compound citronella and can be used to reduce inflammation and to add flavor to dishes or simply brewed as a tea

  • Sage (Salvia officinalis): attracts hoverflies that eat aphids and other pollinators, can be used as a compost activator by increasing decomp and adding potassium and calcium to your compost, delicious when added to meals, and can be burned to keep pests away/bad juju (haha) 

Picture of Deb Winther
Re: A Native Pantry: Southern Style
by Deb Winther - Saturday, December 12, 2020, 6:34 PM

Hi Abigail, 

I'm so interested in the plants you've listed in your herbaceous layer! I want to create an herb spiral in another area of my site and I had planned to include some of the herbs on your list. I have a few of them tucked into my perennial beds already, but I would like to eventually gather them together into a cohesive herb garden. 

Unfortunately, I'm unable to open the file you attached. Would you have time to convert it to a .pdf format and repost it? I'm just so intrigued by your description of a deconstructed herb spiral that I would love to see your elevation view.