Once you have bought your seed potatoes the question is whether or not you need to chit them and this is a question that has been long debated. We at Suttons believe it to be vital with first early and second early varieties and still a good idea, although not essential, with main crop varieties.
By chitting your seed potatoes you are giving them a head start which will result in an earlier, slightly improved harvest.
So what is chitting?
Chitting is the process of encouraging seed potatoes to produce sturdy sprouts before planting. This sprouting process is speeded up by giving the seed potatoes plenty of light and warmth and the result will be an earlier and slightly better harvest.
How do you chit potatoes?
Chitting should begin about 6 weeks before planting so from late January. Planting will be when the soil is starting to warm up so between mid-March to early April, dependant on where you live.
Seed potatoes have a blunt end, called the rose end, with eyes from which the sprouts will form. Place the potatoes singly in the sections of old egg boxes or in seed trays, in a single layer, with the rose end uppermost. Then place them in a light, frost free room such as a spare bedroom or greenhouse.
Ideally the sprouts should remain small, about 2.5cm long, and knobbly and be a green/purple colour. If they grow long and white then there is insufficient light. Too many sprouts will result in small potatoes, you really only need 2 to 3 sprouts with earlies and 3 to 4 with main crop varieties. Any extra sprouts can be carefully rubbed off although some gardeners prefer to cut them out with a sharp knife to prevent them re-sprouting.
Planting your seed potatoes
When the time for planting arrives do handle the potatoes with care. You don’t want to knock off any of those sturdy sprouts!