There has been some debate over recent years whether to chit seed potatoes or not. Most garden growers and allotment plot holders will likely do it, while you would be hard pushed to find a commercial grower chitting their seed potatoes.
What Does ‘Chitting’ Mean?
Chitting is basically another word for sprouting. What you do when you chit your seed potatoes is basically to speed up the ageing process of the potato, by exposing it to light and, more importantly, a bit of warmth. This will cause the eyes of the seed potato to start sprouting. The sprouts should be small, knobbly, and green/purple in colour. If you end up with long, white coloured sprouts, it means there’s not enough light, or you’re sprouting shop bought potatoes.
Why Do You Chit Potatoes?
The reason for chitting potatoes is that you start the growing process off before planting your seed potatoes, so once you do plant them out in the soil, you’ve given them a head start. In an ideal world, this also means that you will get an earlier harvest, and a slightly better crop as well.
How To Chit Potatoes
Potatoes will start chitting when exposed to light and heat, so place them somewhere warm and light. A temperature of around 8C-10C should do the trick, but most importantly, it must be done in a frost free space. A porch, conservatory or a garage, getting a bit of heat from your house is ideal, or you could use your greenhouse if you’ve got one.
Place the seed potatoes in a single layer with a large amount of eyes facing up. If you’ve only got a small amount of seed potatoes, recycling old egg boxes for this purpose is ideal. For larger amounts, use seed trays with ruffled-up newspaper at the bottom, to keep the tubers upright. You could also consider buying wooden chitting trays, which will double up as storage trays for your harvest.
Once each of your seed potatoes have got 2-3 good sized ‘chits’ or sprouts on them, it’s time to plant them out in soil, whether you grow them in the ground or in containers. If any tubers have more than 3 chits/sprouts on them, rub the excess off. This is to ensure a better harvest, as there will be less underground shoots to share the goodness sent underground by the plant, so you might get less tubers, but the ones you get wil be bigger.