To Chit or Not to Chit, that is the Question
Chitting could save you a few weeks
There are as many ways to grow potatoes as there are different varieties! Here at Potato House, we think that chitting your potatoes is the best for most of the UK, however if you live in the tropics of Cornwall and Devon there might be little advantage!
- Chitting is simply waking the seed potato up after its winter dormancy ready to grow.
- It is definitely a good idea to chit, but to do this you need to get your seed nice and early – maybe January or February if you are in the South of England and March or April if you are in the North of Scotland. The aim is to have your potatoes come through the ground after the last frost in your area as the new plant is susceptible to frost.
- Chitted seed will be ready to grow much quicker once Spring arrives and the soil warms up. Chitted seed should come through the ground in about 2 weeks, whereas unchitted would be around 3-4 weeks.
- If you buy your seed in April or May, however, then there is little or no advantage in chitting since the soil temperature will be ok for planting, though the unchitted seed will take 3-4 weeks to come through the ground.
- You may not think the benefit is worth it, but it is worth remembering that harvesting a couple of weeks earlier in the summer might mean that you may miss some blight.
- There is no right or wrong way though, and it depends on where you live and personal preference.
How to Chit your Seed Potatoes
Remove the seed potatoes from the net as soon as you receive them (as the shoots will grow through the nets and can break if you try to remove them) and put them in an egg carton in a sunny window sill (make sure it is frost and vermin free if you are doing this in a greenhouse or shed). The shoots will start to sprout and when they are around an inch long they will be ready to plant
If they haven’t been in the light, the shoots will grow long and spindly as they use energy to find the light.
You are looking for strong sturdy shoots. After about 4 weeks they will be ready to plant - but don't be tempted to plant too early! We have a significant percentage of customers who buy more potatoes in March as they have lost their first order due to frost.
April / May is the time that most people plant their potatoes in the UK.
Some people will cut the tubers, we don't advise this as infections can enter the tuber.
My Tubers have not sprouted
There is nothing worse than looking at a potato every day that appears not to be sprouting.
Potatoes go through a period of natural dormancy after harvest and are only beginning to waken up in the spring. It also depends on the variety – some are “asleep” longer than others. Chitting wakes them up however, even if you have had your potatoes chitting since the start of January the natural cycle can only be altered slightly.
Just as the end product looks different, they will have different coloured flowers and be of different heights. The shoots will be different colours and will emerge at different times.
The database where we get all our information regarding disease information is the official Agriculture and Horticulture web, they are beginning to list dormancy, but this information is anecdotal and not complete, which is why we don’t include it.
Keep them on a sunny window sill and you will see growth soon 🙂 It may be just that the sun isn’t strong enough yet to stimulate growth. Be patient – spring is coming!
If you really think that your seed potatoes are not growing after a month of chitting, please send us some pics.
Are you Chitting me?
Potatoes will naturally start to sprout in the spring. Potates in garden centres were bagged up in December and so begin to deterioate. We keep our Seed Potatoes in cold storage so they are in optimum condition for you for on THE WEEK THAT YOU WANT. Our delayed delivery service is very popular with the end of February being the most popular date, but we have orders reserved from now till April.
Do you chit your potatoes? Are you a first time grower? What method are you going to try? To Chit or not to Chit, we want to know what you are doing with your spuds/tatties this year.
If you use social media, please tag @potatohouseuk on any pics you post. We love to know how you are getting on.