The little garden that could

Jerry Apps
What’s in Jerry Apps' little backyard garden that seems to be outdoing itself this year?

The kitchen garden in our backyard is small. Only four feet by eight feet. Thirty-two square feet. A whisper of a garden compared to the one we have at the farm, where the rows are 30 inches apart and each row is several times longer than the length of our kitchen garden.

And yet, our little garden with no rows at all is outdoing itself. Recently I wrote about how the rabbits have feasted on several vegetables at the farm garden. As you will note from the photo, this little garden is three feet off the ground, plus a four-foot fence all around it. It may happen, but it will take an Olympic-style rabbit to leap over this fence.

What’s in this little garden? Several pole bean plants, a half-dozen climbing cucumbers, a nice patch of lettuce, four tomato plants and a goodly bunch of zinnias. My Dad always said each garden must have something pretty.

As far as the yields so far—I’ve harvested five servings of leaf lettuce, and six servings of green beans. The cherry tomatoes will be ready in a couple weeks, and within a week or so I will be picking my first cucumbers. We cut zinnias to grace our kitchen table every other day or so.

The theory of our little kitchen garden is to make sure every square inch is producing something, and that horizontal is as important as vertical—meaning that vegetables such as pole beans and cucumbers can grow upward. My pole beans have grown seven feet tall. I have to reach well above my head to pick them.

If you have a sunny place, you can grow a kitchen garden—and have fresh vegetables handy throughout most of the summer. A real treat to have fresh vegetables so close.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Vegetable gardens come in many sizes—so nearly everyone can grow one.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to