‘Chitting potatoes’ means leaving your seed potatoes to sprout in a cool (frost-free) place with lots of light. February is a good time to do this.
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Potatoes are a really easy vegetable to grow and, of course, incredibly versatile and tasty! First and second early potatoes can be planted outside in March and April and main crop potatoes in April. That’s not long away! So now is a good time to be chitting your seed potatoes.
Chitting gets your potatoes sprouting indoors before planting outdoors in the spring. You don’t have to chit your potatoes, but it does give them a head start on potatoes that are not chitted. Remember to buy proper seed potatoes which are specifically for planting and virus-free and not regular potatoes from the supermarket. Find a cool spot with lots of light and then leave your seed potatoes with eyes up for around 4 to 6 weeks. You can stand your potatoes up in anything you like (egg cartons are good), but make sure there is are gaps between them to let air circulate.
After about 4 to 6 weeks you should have sprouts that are about 2 to 3 cm long. These will be ready for planting. If you want to grow big potatoes, rub off most of the shoots leaving only 3 or 4 of the largest, strongest shoots. If you prefer to have lots of smaller potatoes, don’t rub off the excess shoots.
Now is also a good time to be planning your vegetable beds. Potatoes can be grown in almost any soil, but don’t like alkaline, heavy clay or very wet soils. Loose soil is ideal so that the tubers are free to enlarge and the soil should be enriched with lots of good quality organic matter. And don’t forget about rotating your crops each year. Before potatoes you might have had legumes, onions & roots or brassicas and after potatoes brassicas or legumes, onions & roots.
Potatoes are a member of the Solanaceae family which also includes aubergines, peppers and tomatoes. The most common way to group vegetables for crop rotation is in their plant families as they have similar soil requirements and are susceptible to similar pests and diseases. Crop rotation reduces the chances of crop-specific pests persisting and soil deficiencies developing.