I get a lot of questions here at Learn How To Garden from subscribers and viewers. I had an interesting one recently from Claire that’s very timely
“I keep reading about chitting potatoes, what does it mean and how would I chit potatoes”
Quit simply chitting is the process whereby we get the seed potato tubers to produce shoots before planting then into the ground or container.
This means the potatoes have “eyes’ small, nodes on them where the new shoots emerge and this happens quite naturally as the temperature rises in Spring .
The interesting thing is that this process is recommended in most books but has been shown in fact to have very little, if any, affect on the earliness or weight of the potato harvest
The one exception to this is with First early salad potatoes normally referred to as ‘New Potatoes’ as these are harvested as soon as they are of a viable size to eat and as we want them as early in the Summer as possible, letting the seed potatoes develop some shoots then planting into a bag or raised bed with warmer compost, can bring this forward so we can crop them in as little as 70 days from planting.
Conversely main crop and late main crop potatoes can take up to 140 days to mature and they are allowed to grow as large as possible and are left in the ground until the foliage wilts. In their case there is little point in chitting as its makes no difference to yields.
To chit your seed potatoes, simply place your potatoes into a open egg box and keep them in a cool light room from February, planting out when the soil is warmer. Remember that any foliage that is produced is susceptible to late frost and this would cause more setbacks than starting later and this is why I grow all my early potatoes in either bags or containers as it allows me to keep them in a frost free cool greenhouse if frost is predicted.
Heres how to grow potatoes in a bag
I wanted to share with you a film on an experiement I conducted this year to see just how little effort you could put into a potato crop and still get a viable return. These potatoes were sown directly onto some well rotted manure which had been placed on top of three layers of cardboard on totally uncultivated ground. They were then covered with 3inches of well rotted manure and left to their own devices. At its simplest this could be considered a no dig method and whilst I would not recommend this if you have a small space it has cultivated the ground quite deeply and has produced a much more than acceptable crop of the three varieties I choose for this experiment.
The 3 variety i used for the experiment were
Pink Fir Apple – very knobbly so can be a pain to clean but very nice taste eaten hot or cold
Vitelotte – also called Vitelotte noire, Négresse or Truffe de Chine, is a gourmet French variety of blue-violet potato.Great taste doesn’t crop as heavy as some modern variety’s having been bread around 1860 but I always make room for some as its my personal favorite
Harlequin – This was my first time growing Harlequin as I like to try at least one new variety each season.The crop was fantastic ,double Pink Fir Apple which was one of its parents and I think the taste both hot and cold is equal to it.
Not included in this experiment but which I also grow and would recomend are BF15 – High-yielding first early salad potato, as delicious as its name is unromantic, which I also grow in bags for Christmas and Mayan Gold another with great taste.
Remember if you are storing your potatoes they need to be in Paper or hessian sacks with the light exclude or they will turn green and not be fit for eating
If you dont want to devote the space to growing main crop potatoes in your garden or you would like to new potatoes with your Christmas dinner the best way to grow them is in a container or bag. I have never seen the point in paying good money for a ‘specific potato growing bag’ when they are perfectly happy in a recycling bag supplied by yoru local council. Just 12 weeks after planting these potatoes I show you what sort of crop you can expect from them.
With snow covering most of the uk i took advantage of a short break in the weather to film this quick update on the No-Dig bed i built in under 30 mins earlier in the year
Its really amazing how much this No-Dig bed has produced and i think for most people with an average garden they are the perfect way to grow vegetables