Honest gardening folk would NEVER waste time doing mindless chores to avoid grocery shopping, cleaning the house or paying bills.The naysayers contend it’s unnecessary and insist that it doesn’t matter in terms of time or quality.CHITTING MAY GIVE YOU A HEAD START: Do you live in a zone where hot weather slams into spring all of a sudden and there’s no turning back?The usual time to plant potatoes is after any threat of frost is past and when soil temps are in the 50’s.Chitting potatoes takes up space and time and that to a commercial grower costs money and cuts production.By coaxing shoots to emerge unharmed, they get strong before they get exposed to weather and soil issues.Sprouting does age the potato seed but if we are harvesting fine yields after chitting, why stop?Chitting is a centuries old practice and although commercial operations or science may not fully support it, there are some of us that believe it provides an advantage. .
To chit or not to chit potatoes?
As an unapologetic science geek who finds trawling through the data of agricultural trials fascinating, I am forever curious as to whether age-old horticultural techniques are actually supported by good evidence.The argument is that this process artificially elongates the growing season, resulting in an earlier crop and greater yields.However, for home-growers low on space this can mean windowsills covered in egg cartons of shrivelled-looking spuds which, aside from not being exactly ornamental, can take away prime “window front” real estate for growing seedlings.For example, a two-year trial published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the early 2000s found conflicting results from one year to the next.If, on the other hand, yield doesn’t concern you that much and it is smaller, new spuds you are after in exchange for less work and more windowsill space, ditch the chitting altogether. .
If you don't have an empty egg box, you can use any container with dividers or make some out of cardboard that give each potato a little space.Carefully label your seed potatoes (name of variety and date) before placing them in a light, dry room, or a greenhouse with a cool to warm ambient temperature, between 7-12 degrees. .
If, Why and How to chit seed potatoes.
Some thinking is based in favour of both chitting and non-chitting, dependant entirely on whether the subject is early potatoes, second earlies or main crop.To chit a seed potato simply means to break the dormancy and encourage shoots to form prior to planting.Next, place the seed potatoes in a light, dry room or greenhouse with a cool to warm ambient temperature of between 7C and 12C.If the shoots are long and white then remove them and relocate the seed potatoes to a position that provides more light.Seed potatoes that have been prepared by chitting and then subsequently planted may send up their shoots while the danger of frost is still present.Plant the seed potatoes in trenches 15cm deep, placing the rose side facing upwards.In the south of the country for example, you could begin chitting during late January, whilst in the northern regions it would be advisable to wait until mid-February.Also, placing cloches or tunnels over the newly planted areas can help warm the soil and prevent excessive rain water from penetrating the trenches, which could otherwise cause the seed potatoes to rot.Seed potatoes that have been chitted need to be handled with care so that the young shoots are not damaged at planting time.However, another disadvantage is that disease can enter the tubers through any shoots that have been rubbed out, creating entry points for infection.As you can imagine it would be very time consuming for commercial growers to personally handle every seed potato and store them at just the right temperature to encourage shoots to sprout.They must also be stored in a dry airy place because any humidity or condensation in the air could cause damaging fungal growth.When it comes to the actual timing for planting seed potatoes, commercial growers will wait until the soil temperature hits the magic 6C-7C.Other important factors apply to depth of planting and spacing, which are similar to those that amateur growers would implement or recommend.If there is a conclusion, it is that commercial growers do not chit their seed potatoes due to labour, timing and cost considerations. .
How to Plant Seed Potatoes
They can be planted in the early spring two to four weeks prior to the expected last frost date in your area.Generally, potatoes will not grow until the soil temperature has reached at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit.However, potatoes are prolific growers and usually adapt to poor soil and climate conditions.Make sure to rotate where you plant potatoes in the garden, as soil-borne diseases can linger in the ground and affect future crops.Before planting, examine the seed potatoes and discard any that have soft spots, cracks, bruises, or signs of rotting. .
How and when to chit seed potatoes
Chitting is the process of encouraging seed potatoes to generate sturdy sprouts ready for when it’s time to plant them in the ground.By exposing your seed potatoes to plenty of light and warmth, you spur them out of dormancy and into growth mode, the result being an earlier harvest and hopefully a somewhat more bountiful one too.First early potatoes like ‘Red Duke of York’ have a head start when they’ve been chitted.In fact, all it requires to become a threat is two consecutive nights when the ambient temperature fails to drop below 10C.Clearly, early spring is the best time to get your spuds into the ground and growing, and well-chitted potatoes with strong sprouts are more robust and therefore less susceptible to disease too – the benefits of chitting are manifold.Start chitting your seed potatoes about six weeks before you hope to plant them – from late January is about right.Place the potatoes into old egg cartons or seed trays, in a single layer, with the rose end facing up.To remove unwanted extra sprouts, just carefully rub them off or cut them with a sharp knife to prevent them from re-sprouting.Although some gardeners don’t bother to chit their potatoes, we say it offers a distinct head start and helps to avoid the dreaded blight. .
What Is Chitting Potatoes: A Guide To Pre-Sprouting Those Taters
The world of gardening is full of odd terms (such as chitting, which sounds rather vulgar).While chitting potatoes isn’t necessary before planting, it provides a jump start to the growing season and can help to shorten the time from planting to harvest, and possibly increase yield for early varieties.Not only are they versatile in the kitchen (enjoy them mashed, scalloped, baked), they also keep for a long time.The biggest problem with potatoes is that they take a long time to grow.Well, it’s not for everyone, but depending on your local climate and the type of potatoes you’re growing, you may reap a few benefits.Chitting potatoes is common practice in Europe, and in certain U.S. states and Canadian provinces.One study shows that chitting potatoes leads to less incidence of rhizoctonia, or root rot (3).If you live in a southern state, or an area with a warmer climate, get the most out of the cooler spring months before the heat strikes by getting your pre-sprouted potatoes into the ground earlier.However, the practice of chitting comes in handy in certain climates, and particularly if you want to enjoy early potatoes.According to The Royal Horticultural Society, here are four main categories of taters according to their time of “lifting.”.Early or “new” potatoes are smaller, have thinner skin, a sweeter flavor, and are generally used in salads as they hold their shape well.Tip: There really isn’t much benefit of chitting potatoes if you’re planning on leaving them in the ground as a maincrop.When it comes to chitting potatoes, timing is everything (especially if you live in a warmer climate where springs are short, and summers are long and hot).Give yourself 4–6 weeks prior to the expected planting date to chit your potatoes.Planting the same type of crop in the same location leads to soil nutrient depletion, and possibly a buildup of pests and diseases.Warm climate: Start chitting potatoes in January; plant in March.Cool climate: Start chitting potatoes in February; plant in April or May.Or, better yet, if you have a gardener friend who has saved seed potatoes from a healthy known variety from last year’s harvest, this is the way to go.A greenish tint on potatoes indicates the presence of solanine, a neurotoxin that may cause headaches, nausea, and in severe cases, death.Egg cartons also work great as they hold each individual spud in place.If temperatures are too warm and there’s not enough light, you’ll get lack-luster leggy, pale sprouts.Tip: Remember, each eye or sprout needs a sufficient size chunk of potato to promote healthy growth.If you’ve cut your seed potatoes into chunks, you’ll want to cure them anywhere from several days to a week to allow them to harden and firm up before planting.Air-dry: Simply allow the cut pieces to harden in a warm area with plenty of air.Simply allow the cut pieces to harden in a warm area with plenty of air.This often isn’t achievable in the average garden though, especially if you’re growing other crops that prefer a more neutral soil range.McKeown, Alan W. (23 September 1993), Evaluation of chitting to enhance earliness of potatoes grown in southern Ontario.The presprouting of seed potatoes: factors affecting sprout growth and subsequent yield. .
Chitting your early potatoes will be giving them a head start which will result in an earlier, slightly improved harvest.This sprouting process is speeded up by giving the seed potatoes plenty of light and warmth and the result will be an earlier and slightly better harvest.Any extra sprouts can be carefully rubbed off although some gardeners prefer to cut them out with a sharp knife to prevent them re-sprouting. .
Preparing Seed Potatoes for Planting
Pre-sprouting, or chitting, is not necessary but will get your potatoes growing earlier in the garden, and will give you higher yields.This is important because the productivity of potatoes falls in weather above 90 degrees and anything hotter than that may even kill the plants.It is a great Plan B having a couple of spare eyes or more just in case the main sprout gets chewed on or freezes off.By cutting them into multiple pieces, you’ll get fewer but bigger potatoes than you would if you planted them whole.This curing is important if you are going to plant in damp, cold soil to prevent rot and fungus growth.According to the downloadable .pdf at Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply, you can break dormancy and induce early sprouting by putting your seed potatoes with apples, bananas or onions in a paper bag.It is best to choose the variety that best fits your garden and local climate, or else you’ll have to put up with a lot of hit-and-miss before finding the cultivar that thrives in your area.Keep them in a warm, bright spot with constant temperature like the kitchen counter for 2 to 3 weeks or until sturdy green shoots appear.This is the only time when it’s alright for potatoes to turn green; the color usually indicates the presence of an inedible and harmful nerve toxin called solanine.If you have to postpone planting because of weather or some other reason, move them to a cooler spot, to slow down their growth.I had great success growing potatoes in a laundry basket on my deck over the last several years and I will probably try that process again because it is so fun.What’s more, store bought potatoes are readily available, there are no shipping fees, and they’re often found lying already fully sprouted in that cool, dark corner of your pantry.There are multiple reasons for steering clear of growing store-bought potatoes but the key takeaway is disease prevention.Yes, the soil will need THREE whole years to recover from a potato disease and likely lots of amendments for a full recovery.If you plan on feeding your family from that first batch of certified (heirloom) potatoes for years, that’s the only big investment you’ll need to make as potatoes clone themselves and you’ll have disease-free tubers for as many years as you grow them.Store bought potatoes can be safely grown in an enclosed container so that you don’t risk spreading any disease across the entire garden soil.Just imagine what an anti-sprouting agent, which works by hampering natural cell division, can do to your body in the long run.This way, you’ll have spuds absolutely ready for planting before the last frost date in your area.Chitting is not a resource-intensive process and has a fairly high rate of success if you manage to give the little guys the right temperature and light conditions. .