Even though it is still winter in Oklahoma, it is not too early to start planning your spring and summer landscapes.

When thinking about landscapes, colorful flowers easily come to mine. Something a gardening enthusiast may want to consider is combining those flowers and shrubs with edible plants.

Kim Toscano, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist and host of the popular television program Oklahoma Gardening, said edibles do not have to be planted in a traditional row garden.

“Edible landscaping is the practical integration of food plants within an ornamental or decorative setting,” Toscano said. “Gardeners use the same design principles as they would with an ornamental landscape while substituting lettuces, blueberries, herbs, edible flowers, vegetables and fruit and nut trees for what are otherwise known as unproductive plant material.”

While edible landscaping is a mixture of beauty and utility, it does not have to be all edible. In fact, filling the yard with nothing but edible plants would likely result in too much food for most families, not to mention all the work it would require. Instead, careful planning and the wise use of fruits, herbs and vegetables results in a yard that is flavorful, practical and visually pleasing.

Toscano said there are a number of reasons to include edible plantings in your garden. First, gardeners will be able to enjoy the freshness and flavor of home-grown, fully ripened fruits and vegetables.

“Gardeners also are able to control the amount and kind of pesticides and herbicides used on the plants,” she said. “Growing some of your own food can help cut down on your grocery bill, as well as increase food security of your household. You also may be able to grow more unusual varieties that may not be available at your local grocery store or market. And besides, being outdoors and interacting with nature is a lot of fun.”

When selecting the edibles for your garden, make sure your landscape receives the required amount of sunshine and shade for your choices. While many common ornamental plants can survive with minimal care, most edible plants do require a certain amount of attention in order to produce well. This can include a little extra watering, pruning, fertilizing or pest management.

“Another great thing about edible landscaping is you don’t necessarily have to have a large space for the plants,” Toscano said. “A trellis of cherry tomatoes cascading over an entryway works in both large and small areas. In addition, pots of flavorful herbs could line the sidewalk. Using just a little bit of imagination can produce a landscape that is visually pleasing and tasty, too.”