The arrival of seed potatoes is one of the events that marks the start of a new gardening year for us. We usually receive our parcel in January or early February. Our choices tend to be mainly first and second early potatoes to try and ensure a decent crop has formed if blight sets in. We also like to get out potatoes out of the ground early to cut down on slug damage.
Living in Yorkshire, January is too early to be starting the seed potatoes into growth and so we store them in our garage where it is cool and dark and hopefully this will prevent them from producing shoots too early.
We don’t want long weak shoots to develop before planting. Advice is to start chitting six weeks before the intended planting date which for us is usually early April.
Once out seed potatoes have been moved into the greenhouse to encourage chitting we have a layer of fleece handy so that we can give the tubers some protection should frost be predicted.
Seed potatoes protected with fleece.
So what exactly is chitting? Chitting is the way in which we encourage seed potatoes to produce small shoots before they are planted out in the ground. This is to get the potatoes off to a good start and encourage the potatoes to crop earlier.
To do this seed potatoes are placed in trays or egg boxes in plenty of light with the blunt end facing upwards The eyes are mostly at the blunt end and it is from these eyes that shoots will develop. Eyes are small indentations in the potatoes.
It’s suggested that you start to chit the potatoes about six weeks prior to planting as you don’t want long straggly shoots to form. We keep our seed potatoes in the dark in our garage until we are reafu to start chitting.