There is nothing quite like a freshly dug potato…boiled, mashed, roasted or chipped, it doesn’t matter! Home-grown is head and shoulders above any supermarket spud when it comes to quality and taste.
Now is the perfect time of year to start ‘chitting’ potatoes in preparation for planting out from March onwards.
The term ‘chitting’ means exposing potato seeds (or tubers) to light so they develop short green sprouts before they are planted into the ground to produce a crop. It’s a similar method to growing seedlings in a propagator before planting out, effectively giving the growing process a head start to achieve better results.
Here’s what to do:
- Take your potato seeds and lay them in a shallow box, tray or egg box. If there are any buds showing already, make sure these are facing upwards
- Place the tray in a light, cool and frost-free place – a windowsill is ideal if you have the space, otherwise a porch, utility room or outhouse etc
- After two to three weeks, shoots will begin to appear. Different varieties of potato can chit at different speeds (see below on the different varieites available)
- After the sprouts are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, the seed potatoes are ready to plant in the ground (usually from March/April once the ground is ready)
- Before planting, rub off all but two to three of the largest and strongest sprouts, this will produce a better crop
There are three types of potato, all can be ‘chitted’ now and planted out from March/April:
- First Earlies (or ‘new’) – Mature after about 14 weeks. Good if you’re short on space, and less likely to encounter pest problems as they are lifted earlier in the year
- Second Earlies – Mature after 16-17 weeks
- Main Crop – Mature after 18-20 weeks. Take up the most space in your garden but good if you want some for storage
All varieties can be left in the ground for at least a month once they reach maturity, however first and second earlies are best lifted once mature and cooked as soon as possible (ideally the same day!), this is because their sugars start to turn to starch once lifted, and this can effect the flavour.
FIRST EARLIES (harvest June/July)
Duke of York
Red Duke of York
SECOND EARLIES (harvest July/August)
MAIN CROP (harvest September/October)