Yes, it’s that time of the year again. It’s time to start getting seed potatoes ready for growing. The first stage in that process is what we call ‘chitting’ potatoes.

What is chitting?

Chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to start growing before they’re ready to plant outside and the good news is that it’s really easy to do. All you need, apart from your seed potatoes, are some shallow trays or old egg boxes.

Look carefully at each potato to find the end of the potato where most of the ‘eyes’ are crowded together. This is the top of the potato and those ‘eyes’ are the potato’s dormant buds.

Then, stand the potatoes upwards in the trays or egg boxes with the ‘eyes’ uppermost in the air and place them in a light, frost-free, well-ventilated place. Don’t forget to label each tray or box with the name of the variety. This is especially important if you’re growing a mix of first and second earlies and main crop varieties.

Leave the potatoes ‘chitting’ for about 6 weeks before planting each group of potatoes outside.

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What happens next?

You should see the potatoes start to sprout after a couple of weeks and they’ll be ready to plant out when the shoots have reached about 3cm in length. Ideally leave just three or four of the strongest looking sprouts on each potato, remove the others by rubbing them off the tuber.

Be careful not to keep the tubers too warm or too dark as this will result in long spindly shoots which are not good for encouraging large numbers of potatoes to grow.

Also, be careful not to plant them outside too early as those tender shoots can freeze and be damaged. The potato will produce more shoots, but it will have set back the plant growth and production of the crop by several weeks.

When preparing the outside area where the potatoes will ultimately be grown make sure that you plant them in rows running north to south. This way the plants will get the maximum amount now sunlight as they grow but will not shade other crops.

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Start chitting from late January or February to get potatoes ready to plant. It’s an easy job for the month and will help give your potatoes a head-start this growing season.

Find out more about growing veg at home:

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Growing veg at home
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