What I’m Planting by Leah Ray


We’ve had so many new gardeners ask, “What should I plant?” If you’ve asked, then you know what we’ll say:

1)   Think of what you want to eat, and then

2)   Plan your garden using a tool like the one you can find HERE

It’s good advice, and it’s what we do ourselves. So: we’re starting a new series on this blog, entitled “What I’m Planting.” In it, we’ll have PGP gardeners show you what they’re growing in their plots this year, why they like it, and where they get their seeds and seedlings. The idea is that seeing what we do may inspire your own ideas.


What I’m planting from seedlings:

  • Kale
  • Tomatillo
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants
  • Onion (these are called ‘starts’ actually, not seedlings)
  • Marigold

What I’m planting from seed:

  • Beets
  • Swiss Chard
  • Sunflower
  • Carrots
  • Summer Squash


I have some raised bed gardens in my own back yard, and that’s where I grow things like herbs and lettuce that I use most frequently. In my plot at Land on Lincoln this year, I’m doing a few different things. I always like to plant some things that will intrigue visitors to the garden, like Zucchino Rampicante —a summer squash whose fruit range from 18” to 36” long, look crazy and taste great (we split them, brush with olive oil & grill them). I’ll also plant a few things just because they’re pretty, like sunflowers (I’ll eat the seeds), marigolds (which have properties that attract good bugs, and repel the bad ones), and eggplant (I love the striped purple ones—they are truly the jewels of the garden).

As for what I know my family likes to eat, we live for homegrown tomatoes. My eight-year-old inhales kale chips, so we have lots of kale. My husband loves to cook, and one of his specialties are enchiladas suizas, which means we need LOTS of tomatillos. When we grill out in the summer, we love to roast beets, carrots & onions (toss in rosemary or whatever herbs you love) in a cast-iron skillet right on the grill, right next to a good steak or pork tenderloin. The root vegetables soak up the charcoal aroma, and the onions caramelize everything so the dish just becomes juicy, sweet, smoky deliciousness.

Where I get my seedlings:

I grow some from seed at home, and buy the others at The Peterson Garden Project seedling sale or Meinke, on Touhy in Lincolnwood.

Where I get my seed:

I am a seed-a-holic! I love Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek , Kitazawa Seed and Botanical Interests.  You can buy online, but I really love getting the catalogs. It’s how I survive January in Chicago!