“Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.”
— Hesiod, “Works and Days,” c. 700 BCE
“Works and Days,” written by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, is part poem, part Farmer’s Almanac and part lecture to Hesiod’s wayward brother, Perses.
Apparently, both siblings inherited property from which to make a successful living, but Perses squandered his wealth. Hesiod then considered it his duty to instruct his brother on how to farm and live his life more effectively.
The opening quote comes from part of the poem where Hesiod offers advice on the best time to leave one’s farm to go sailing: “Fifty days after the solstice, when the season of wearisome heat is come to an end.”
He also cautions against filling the ship’s cargo hold with all of one’s goods during one trip. It’s much wiser, he says, to leave the largest proportion at home “for it is a bad business to meet with disaster among the waves of the sea.”
Two-and-a-half-thousand years after Hesiod admonished his brother in verse, gardeners still know that timing is everything. Who among us has not planted early, only to lose everything during an unexpected frost? Or sowed too many tomato and zucchini plants, and ended up with so much produce that our neighbors hid whenever they saw us coming, “gifts” in hand?
Succession, or interval, planting solves these timing problems, but it can be a bit tricky in Southern Oregon with our wet winters, hot, dry summers and unpredictable springs and falls. Not all vegetables are suitable as succession crops because they take longer to mature (such as tomatoes and squash). However, many quick-maturing, cool-season vegetables can be planted in succession to ensure steady harvests through winter. Here are some factors to consider:
What to plant? Good choices for succession planting in our area include: basil, snap beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, cilantro, kale, lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach. Look for fast-maturing varieties of these vegetables.
For spring plantings, cool-season crops welcome some afternoon shade to protect them from the heat, but succession crops will need the warmth and light of full sun during fall and winter. Positioning raised garden beds on a south-facing slope with protection from wind is ideal.
For succession planting, think in two-week intervals. For example, plant basil May 15, then plant some more around May 30, and again June 1 and June 15. Follow this schedule for snap beans, beets, carrots, lettuce and radishes.
During the first week of August, plant some more lettuce in a bed prepared for the fall, and repeat at two-week intervals through September (continue through the winter in cold frames and greenhouses). Other succession crops to plant August through September include: broccoli, kale, radishes and spinach.
Next February, begin planting spinach in two-week intervals through March, and peas and kale through mid-April. In March, begin interval planting for broccoli and cilantro through May 15, and for beets, carrots and radishes through the end of June.
Some succession crops are more vigorous when they are seeded directly into the soil: snap beans, beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach. Others will fare better if they are started indoors and transplanted: broccoli, cilantro, kale and some say basil. I grow my basil and lettuce in pots, which allows me to move them around.
In “Works and Days,” Hesiod advised his brother on how to get along with the neighbors. He counseled, “Take fair measure from your neighbor and pay him back fairly with the same measure, or better, if you can; so that if you are in need afterward, you may find him sure.” Hesiod’s advice may not apply to extra tomatoes and zucchinis.
— Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, teacher and writer. Email her at email@example.com.