Chitting potatoes

Question ...

When and how should I chit my potatoes? Should I leave all the shoots to mature?

Answer ...

Chitting is the process of placing seed potatoes in a cool, but frost free, light place to encourage strong sturdy shoots to grow before they are planted in the ground. If you want to grow very early varieties, such as Maris Bard, and to harvest them as early as possible, then chitting is essential. All potatoes will start to sprout early in the year and if they are not offered the right cool, light conditions they may develop elongated and white shoots (or chits). The aim is to have a small number of sturdy shoots, not masses of elongated sprouts, which dissipate the energy of the seed potato. If you rub sprouts off, then you'll get a smaller crop but larger potatoes.

Keep seed potatoes in a cool but light situation, rose end upward. This should encourage a small number of eyes to sprout. Commercial growers never bother to chit their potatoes and it seems to make little difference to the yield. However, they are able to keep their seed potatoes dormant by providing very exact storage conditions and this is very hard for the home gardener to do. You can plant out when the soil is warm enough - test it with your hand, or watch for flowering dandelions (always a good indicator that warm Spring has arrived!)

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