we like it wild: star apple edible gardens

As much as we love flowers (and you know how much we love flowers), we have a feeling that the purely decorative garden’s days may be numbered. This bold statement is a result of meeting Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner of Star Apple Edible Gardens, an Oakland-based landscaping company determined to bring sustainable, edible gardens to even the tiniest urban and suburban plots. The two create gardens that harmoniously weave edibles and ornamentals and rechristen boring suburban lawns as stylish micro-farms.

Star Apple believes that where we live, what we eat and how we connect to nature and our community are all important to our health and well-being, and the gardens they create are both artful and fruitful. Put thoughts of clunky, raised railroad-tie beds out of your head; the garden designs from Star Apple are elegant, sophisticated, colorful and hardly recognizable as the hardworking mini-farms they actually are. Leslie and Stefani work closely with home gardeners teaching them how to cultivate and care for their new plots, as well as offering monthly classes focusing on seasonal topics like winter veggies or how to make cocktails with ingredients from your garden.

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The company strives to bring edible gardens to even yard-less apartment dwellers through a line of salad kits, complete with organic potting soil, organic mixed heirloom salad green seeds and organic fertilizer. Or if you’re lucky enough to have some outside space to spare and an affinity for eggs, Star Apple has been working with Modern Cabana to develop a pre-fab chick coop complete with succulent roof (available in Spring 2011). We got a chance to visit the green-roofed coop prototype with seven resident chickens at Stefani’s beautiful home and garden in Lafayette.

It’s hard to sum up Leslie and Stefani’s backgrounds in a sound bite. Between the two of them, their career paths have crisscrossed the worlds of law and landscaping, taken them from Switzerland to the Sierra Foothills, and finally landed them both back in the Bay Area where they’ve used their collective knowledge to bring a food and gardening revolution to the urban landscape. The two met while Leslie (a lawyer turned landscaper) was apprenticing at the organic foods landscaping company Garden Fare, and Stefani (with a career in non-profits turned landscaper) had just started the edible landscape division of Magic Gardens in Berkeley. They decided to use their design, fine gardening and organic farming expertise to start Star Apple and bring more edible plantings into urban spaces.

We asked the ladies for some tips on what to do in your garden right now:

Late September and October is when we have fun experimenting with heirloom hard neck garlics. This year we are especially excited about Red Toch, Purple Haze and Thai Fire. We picked up the local organic garlic seed at Baker Creek’s super stylish Seed Bank in Petaluma, Ca. on the same day Stef picked out her chicks. Hard necks are great because you can grow rare gourmet varieties unavailable at the market. Soft necks, although more common, can be braided and stored hanging — a great activity for kids and an unusual gift come summer. Garlic is super easy to grow. If you have never grown vegetables before, garlic is a great one to start with. This is also the time of year to start thinking about cover cropping parts of your garden. You can replenish soil nutrients sustainably using crimson clover, vetch, and favas (yum!). We like to build in visual interest using the low growing crimson clover interspersed among the more unusual pink-flowered fava bean.

If you are interested in getting more information on Star Apple or need help with your garden, contact Leslie and Stefani at (510) 922-1258 or email inquiries@StarAppleEdibleGardens.com. — Studio Choo

  1. Jen Dean says:

    “Star Apple believes that where we live, what we eat and how we connect to nature and our community are all important to our health and well-being…”

    I wholeheartedly agree!

    What beautiful photos. I love the animals and the succulents. Nice choice!

  2. Jules says:

    Sigh. I wish there was a company like this in my part of southern California. What a great concept.

  3. Linda says:

    Beautiful photos, thank you for sharing! I will be day dreaming about moving from my apartment to my own plot of land all day! (:

  4. monica says:

    Exciting and inspiring! Thank you for introducing us to Star Apple.

  5. Sarah Picking says:

    I was SOOO looking forward to having one of those coops this summer, but I called my city zoning and in the suburbs, we aren’t allowed to have one chicken-not even if it’s kept in a coop. I know zoning laws are meant to protect us, but sometimes I think they are why my food is produced so far from where I live :( The only regular/reliable source for organic eggs I have (even when looking at local farms in my area) is to try and trust the free range label on the eggs at my supermarket, or get them delivered from illinois to virginia! :( Love these efforts! The more of this that happens, maybe the more flexible laws will get?

  6. Beth Goolsby says:

    I love this idea! Thank for sharing this with us.

  7. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this! I am struggling with how to design both my front yard and back yard. I want to get rid of the lawn on both sides, and on the front, intersperse edible plants and herbs amongst other plants. In the back, I want a veggie garden. But I want both to look really beautiful and well designed. Unfortunately, the pickings are incredibly slim for how to make a unique, beautiful garden using edibles. Everything seems focused on either purely decorative garden design with ornamental plants and flowers, or purely utilitarian design for fruits, veggies & herbs, so any resource is a boon! Needless to say, I would LOVE more coverage related to this concept…

  8. kelly says:

    This is stunning. I clicked on this post with a little trepidation, that my envy would spill over into bitter resentment that I live in a rental apartment! but instead I am inspired and will call these gals whenever I have a little patch of my own for planting and roosting.

  9. Dara says:

    Those photos are stunning! Thank you thank you for making this concept come to life. Star Apple rocks to take all these quality-of-life issues and put them together to make our homes, lives, tables, more beautiful and more yummy. I love the idea of growing my food in such a beautiful way. Get to share the process with everyone I love from seed to table. Thank you Design Sponge, thanks Star Apple — so calling you for a consult!!

  10. C J says:

    With the Beauchamping “food” print discussion still in mind, I’m chuckling a litle here with the photo of the gorgeous chook straight under the title of edible gardens… Gorgeous work though!

  11. Lisa Finerty says:

    So inspiring. Hopefully many will see how you can steward a whatever size piece of land, and support many “communities” on it and add to a greater good for all — including neighbors — we all need the good air a healthy garden generates!

    Love the photos. Those are some loved birds!

  12. make my day says:

    we started today out in the garden getting more done on the ‘almost done chicken coop’ and vegie garden – interrupted by the aussie rules football grandfinal which ‘DREW’ ( can you believe that) – then almost finished the cladding. love this story!!! we’re almost there…patience…we have tomorrow! cheers kari

  13. kerrouche says:

    very interest your description thank you.

  14. Julia* says:

    Ce poulailler avec la toiture végétalisée est extra !

  15. Kate says:

    What a great post. As an country girl who now lives in the city I really appreciate efforts to make urban gardening not only a reality but beautiful, thoughtful and stylish as well. Thank you!

  16. carolyn willis-snead says:

    One of the most gorgeous posts ever!!! Could you please re-post when the coops become available- maybe with a guide to the best small space, friendly, cool egg chickens???? That would be so exciting. Then I would plan my trip to SF to get the coop, see Diana Fayt’s ceramics and go to Flora Grubbs garden too. Super Fun!! Thank you!!!

  17. Cary says:

    looks like paradise to me!

  18. What a great company. Here’s to the hope that one day soon, every boring suburban lawn will have been turned into a stylish micro farm! I’m always trying to convince people to grow vegetables in their front yard. :)

  19. stella says:

    How I wish I have one. It is fantastic and facinating.

  20. Maya says:

    I’d love to visit these photos in person, ho beautiful are they? Just out of interest, what type of chicken is the fluffy one at the beginning of the post – does anyone know?


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