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Incorporating edible plants into the landscape

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By Will Stallard

A nice landscape of a few trees and shrubs, some flowers and well-tended turf has value. Our landscapes help define our outdoor living space, provide shade and help screen unwanted views.
A well-maintained landscape may add as much as 5 to 10 percent to the value of our property.
But landscapes can provide another resource that we don ft often consider  \ food. What if it were possible to introduce edible plants to your landscape?
Growing your own food has some obvious benefits such as fresh and flavorful fruits and vegetables. Many food-producing plants can fill the roles that we usually assign to other plants in our landscape. 
Trellised blackberries, for example, make a great hedge or screen.  Using thorny types can also provide some measure of security. Many retain some of their leaves throughout the winter to provide some screening. 
Trellising the blackberries will help define the planting and promote more upright growth. The time needed to prune and thin blackberries is comparable to many other hedge-type plantings. Also, blackberries have relatively few problem insects or diseases.
In flower beds, you can plant fancy-leafed lettuce in early spring. Lettuce is finished by mid-May, just around the time you are adding annual flowers.
In summer, try a few rainbow chard plants, colored peppers and purple or variegated basil. All are relatively pest free and are a good contrast to flowering annuals and perennials.
Also consider containers.  Cherry tomatoes grow well in hanging baskets where vines are allowed to droop over the edge of the pot.  Several herbs are well suited to containers and provide savory flavoring for your salads and meals.
The next time you are looking to add plants to your landscape, don ft overlook herbs and food producing plants. Some may provide what you need and more.
For more information about adding herbs, food producing plants and where they grow best in your yard, contact the Casey County Cooperative Extension Service.
Source:  Rick Durham, consumer horticulture extension specialist