What is chitting potatoes? Why do we want to chit potatoes? Basically it is ‘prespouting’ the potato ‘seeds’ to force healthy new sprouts before you plant the them. It will knock off a couple of weeks to harvest time so you’ll get be able to harvest sooner. Potato seeds are not seeds at all but the actual small potatoes. We keep potatoes we want to eat in the dark so they won’t turn green and quite often they start to develop smaller flimsy white sprouts while in the dark but what you want is thicker healthier sprouts that are either green or purple. If you missed the opportunity to chit the potatoes, it’s ok to just plant them when the time is right. This year I’m growing fingerlings-French fingerlings.
Here’s how to ‘chit ‘ them (sounds southern doesn’t it?!)
1. Get a couple of egg cartons so you can stand the potatoes with the pointed side down. The blunt side generally produces more sprouts so keep that side up. The egg cartons make it easy to support them this way. Sometimes there is no pointy side which you should then just look at your potato and put the side with the most ‘eyes’ or sprouts up.
2. Put them in a cool space that gets good indirect light in your house and they will develop thick sprouts in 2-4 weeks instead of those flimsy one that grow in the dark.
3. Plant them outdoors when the soil is 50°F or warmer. Use a compost therometer to see how warm the soil temperature is. There are many ways to plant potatoes which you can research on the net but if you plant in a bed, dig a deep trench about 10 inches deep in heavily amended fluffy soil.
4. Place the presprouted (or chitted) potatoes with the sprouts up-the sprouts become the leaves, not sideways and bury them 4 inches deep depending on the size of the potato. BE CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK OFF THE SPROUTS. Spacing them 12 inches apart and rows 12-24 inches apart.
5. After the leaves come up, start filling more dirt around the plants till they are almost covered. Bury the whole plant-leaves and all except leaving the top 3 inches of plant exposed. Continue doing this every time they get about 6 more inches tall Basically till you run out of soil. The potatoes will grow up above the potato seeds in the dirt above it. Below the potato seed the roots will grow for the plant.
6. You should see sprouts/leaves come up through the dirt in a couple of weeks. If it is still freezing at night, I will cover the plants with row cover.
7. Potatoes will start producing tubers when they flower.
8. Fingerling potatoes should be ready to harvest when the plants die back in about 90 days. Other potatoes may take less time or more. Leave them in the ground 2 weeks to harden off before harvesting. In fact, you can leave them in the ground until just before a hard freeze happens. That way you can harvest a few as you go and the rest in late fall. Don’t leave in over winter.
For more information on growing and buying good potato seed go to: http://www.irisheyesgardenseeds.com/growers10.php