A.J. Droddy and her 4-year-old daughter, Madilyn, dig through their 8-foot-by-8-foot garden behind their home in search of the garden’s yield for the day. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncoureir.com)
A.J. Droddy and her 4-year-old daughter, Madilyn, dig through their 8-foot-by-8-foot garden behind their home in search of the garden’s yield for the day. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncoureir.com)
Ask AJ Droddy's 4-year-old daughter, Madilyn, how her garden grows and she will have no problem giving an answer.

A technical one, at that.

"What makes it grow is rain and shining really bright," Madilyn said while standing near her and her mother's 8-foot-by-8-foot garden plot that is filled with tomatoes, corn, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, green beans and a host of other vegetables and herbs.

The project is a first for Madilyn and her mother, who both moved to Madison in December from Los Angeles. They live near the Madison Apothecary on Main Street, and the garden is located behind their apartment.

Droddy moved to the area to be closer to family and to eventually develop a carryout restaurant business that focuses on healthy homegrown foods. She spends much of her time between Madison and Bedford, where her parents live.

The garden, affectionately named "Bertha," serves as a source of food for Madilyn, who is a vegetarian, and source of education for the youngster.

"She looks forward to it every day," Droddy said.

Droddy developed a system early in the process to use the garden as a learning tool. She marked each plant with plastic vegetables from Madilyn's kitchen play set.

Now, while many of the plants have produced, Madilyn uses the plastic vegetables to learn the real plants that are harder to remember.

"I wanted her to make the relationship between what the plant looks like and the actual food," she said.

But the learning doesn't just end with Madilyn. Planting and maintaining the garden was all new territory for Droddy, too.

"This is a lot of work but the reward is so great," she said.

Before beginning, she consulted gardening friends on how to plot things out. She also keeps a garden journal, jotting down the progress of each plant - the planting date, first sprouts, first harvest, etc.

To prepare the garden, Droddy tilled the area with a shovel. She and Madilyn water the plot by filling up a basket and scooping out glasses of water one at a time because they have no spigot for a hose.

She also often finds herself constantly checking the forecast - something she had little need for before the garden.

"It's like having a child,"Droddy laughed.

The tough and tedious work gave Droddy a new-found gratitude for the "relationship farmers have with nature."

Beyond the harvest and lessons for Madilyn, Droddy wanted to start the garden as a step toward creating a carryout food business in Madison with her brother. Droddy worked in Los Angeles as a freelance photographer, writer and songwriter but said she always enjoyed the art of cooking.

She now works as a server as Crystal and Jules and hopes to one day open her own business. She has an idea and a concept and sees Madison as the perfect fit.