Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Potato Chitting

The Charlotte potatoes that I ordered arrived just before Christmas, a little earlier than I would have expected.  The first thing I did was to take them out of their delivery box and stand them upright in a tray, with the sprouting end upwards.  Egg cartons are a good  container for chitting potatoes, but I didn't have any to hand, but this tray will do just as well.  Some people cut the potatoes wherever there is an eye (this is where the sprouts form) , this way you can get possibly three times as many plants from just one potato.  Also if you cover the chitting potatoes with a little compost, roots will begin to form , making the plants stronger before they are planted out.

Chitting is a way of encouraging the potato to sprout before planting - they produce small dark sprouts.  It is said that chitted potatoes grow faster and you benefit from an earlier crop.  Start chitting your potatoes 4-6 weeks before you need them, probably the beginning of February as the soil begins to warm up - and keep them in a light, frost-free place till they are ready for planting out.

This year I am going to try a different method of planting, with a bulb planter, rather than digging a trench out, in line with my new policy of not disturbing the soil too much.  As the plants grow, instead of earthing them up I intend covering them with straw, grass clippings etc. to keep the light out.  This is purely an experiment to see if it is possible to get a good crop this way.  If not, I will go back to the old method.

I have noticed that when there has been a potato left in the ground after harvesting I have had a really good crop from it.  Possibly because it had grown deeper and that was why I didn't find it the first time round.  These odd potatoes seem to do very well on their own without me fussing over them.  So when my potatoes are ready this year I will try not to be as thorough as I would normally be in trying to find every one, then it should turn into a perennial crop, without my having to buy seed potatoes every year.


  1. You're ahead of the pack Elaine...I haven't even received my potatoes in the post yet!

  2. The words "early bird" spring to mind. I've got to stop myself doing things to early for the soil here. I've tried different mulches in the past and all worked well, but I had to buy them (plastic one year, straw another) so I reverted to the usual method.

  3. We are always told that leaving the little potatoes in the ground is "BAD", since it can encourage the propagation of viruses etc. Is this a ploy by the seed-suppliers to make us keep on buying their products? The idea of a perennial potato-patch is an intriguing prospect.
    I haven't ordered any potatoes yet, because I keep thinking that we are going to get a late Winter.

  4. We haven't even ordered our potatoes yet!

    For years now we have planted our potatoes using a trowel and have had a good crop - just the same as when dug trenches and this way the potatoes get planted quickly as used to be a mammoth operation. I've a piece of video on my website (linked from the blog)

    It's the bottom article on the grow it section. I haven't posted a link in case you don't approve of links

  5. I haven't even thought about potatoes yet, you're way ahead. I don't dig a trench when I plant my potatoes, I just dig a hole and drop it in. I'm growing mine in containers this year, earlies only, and freeing up some space at the allotment for other things.

  6. It is true that if you have had blight then any baby spuds left in the ground, they are called 'daughters' could harbour the blight. The spores live in the tuber and when the tuber sprouts and conditions are right the spores are distributed. But as Charlottes are an early crop that are generally harvested before blight is a problem then I guess it isn't an issue. I noticed a potato left in the ground had sprouted just before Christmas. Not sure what will happen with it.

  7. Charlottes are one of my favourite potatoes, and I've just a handful left to eat! I'll be getting mine in a week or two, along with the other varieties that I grow.
    I dug individual holes last year, using a bulb trowel, which I found much easier and quicker, and had a good crop so I'll be doing that again next year.
    I usually have a few orphans grow each year which produce good potatoes.
    Some books say not to cut seed potatoes, and to buy new every year.
    A good post, and comments, on the subject. Flighty xx

  8. well the early bird catches the worm so to speak!
    all i have done so far is collect some egg trays from work so far (im a chef) ready for when i get my potatoes!

  9. My seed potatoes havent arrived yet. I will be interested to see how your bulb planted spuds do. My soil is improving and due to the size of the beds I dont have to dig too much so this might be a good approach for me.

  10. Good advice on chitting Elaine and the picture is worth a thousand words.
    I have always been dubious about leaving old potatoes (volunteers) in the ground due to introducing disease. I don't cut them either, maybe I'm being too careful.

  11. Wow! You're off to an early start. I grew Potatoes under rushes last year and they did well. Very easy to harvest them digging.
    Best wishes to you and yours for a very happy New Year.

  12. Best of luck with the experiment. I would like to try this but I think I would need quite a lot of straw and I need to keep costs down. There is a field next to the plot that I have raked once it has been cut and carried tubs of grass back to my plot. Didn't cause too much weed seed formation. I will probably do it again this year, it was a great mulch. x

  13. Gosh that is early. Mind you the garden centres already had seed potatoes in when we visited the day after Boxing Day. I just looked:) Good luck with your experiment. Will be interested to hear how it progresses.

  14. I tried growing potatoes under straw here several years ago. It didn't go too well, maybe it's too hot and dry here. Better luck to you! How funny that you're trying a perennial potato bed! This year, after religiously rotating the potato bed each year, I finally decided to just leave it alone. It's so sad for me to pull out all those big, beautiful potato volunteers from the previous year's bed. This year, I'll be planting the seed potatoes in trenches in the same bed as last year and letting the volunteers do whatever they want.


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