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We have a fairly short growing season-- last frost mid-May, first frost mid-Sept. This year, it's even more compressed because I'm having a baby in late June (yay!). I want to put an easy garden in and use my sprinkler timers to keep everything alive. I don't want to do radishes, lettuce, etc... anything that will need thinning & reseeding... things I just won't have time for or be up to doing. I am planning to do lots of potatoes-- they grow well here and can be basically ignored. Any other ideas? I'm also thinking of filling my containers with some easy annuals, flowers and herbs... need something I can get planted within the next month and then ignore (besides watering) for most of the summer. Thanks for any and all suggestions!

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Not sure whether you're after a solution for this year only or for years to come. Though if you're about to have your first (?) child (congrats) your garden is going to be neglected for more than a year or two (in my experience).

The overall all-time lowest maintenance item I have in my veg garden is rhubarb which simply comes back year after year and needs nothing doing to it.

But for just this year, a plant you can put in now and neglect until later? What about putting something into growbags, so you won't have to thin or weed. Tomatoes? Or for minimum effort (though you do have to harvest regularly, you can manage that right?) what about runner beans?

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I was about to say peppers (eg. bell peppers), and tomatoes & peppers need similar care. Beans have grown well here with minimal maintenance (shelling might be a different matter!) –  winwaed Apr 12 '12 at 12:35
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You can plant lettuce and other small-seeded plants without needing to thin. One trick that can help you avoid thinning is to make your own seed "tape". You can make these indoors so you don't have to bend down in the garden while trying to carefully drop tiny seeds at appropriate intervals. Get some cheap paper napkins from a fast-food joint (really cheap: you want them to fall apart fast). Put dots of glue at the appropriate spacing, and put a single seed on each dot. Let them dry overnight. (Don't stack the napkins! Yes, I'm dumb enough to have done this...) You can make them far in advance and then when it's time to plant your carrots (or lettuce, etc), set the napkins into your garden bed and sprinkle with just enough soil to hold down the napkins. Keep moist until they germinate.

Your growing season sounds a lot like mine. Spinach can go into the garden now. By the time the kid arrives, the spinach will probably have bolted.

Peas can also go in now. They're very low maintenance, except for the daily harvesting... which will be happening right around the time the baby is due. (You could always have a friend come and take your peas, or let them go to seed, harvest in August, and save it for next spring.)

If you have rich soil, or can dig in a bucket of compost where you plant them, pumpkins and winter squash are relatively maintenance free. (Unless you get squash bugs really bad, but we still got more volunteer pumpkins than we could deal with last year, even with a bumper crop of squash bugs.)

For flowers, I've had good luck (and zero maintenance beyond watering and very little weeding) with marigolds, calendula, cosmos, and sunflowers. We've got some perennial wildflowers that do well too, but you've only asked about annuals.

The one thing you didn't mention is weeding... if you can get out once a week and pass a hoe over the tiny weeds it will be more manageable. But speaking from experience, that'll probably end up fairly low on the priority list...

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