Potatoes Chitting Questions At This Time Of Year Include What Does Chitting Potatoes Mean, Should I Chit Potatoes, Why Chit Potatoes, How to Chit Potatoes, Where to Chit Potatoes? In this Article I’m Answering a Wide Range of Potato Chitting Questions.
The RHS claim “Before planting, you need to ‘chit‘ your potatoes.” It’s a bold generalisation in my view. In fact I’d go as far as to say that in many cases this advice is very poor advice. It’s not that I’m against chitting potatoes, there are benefits. But there are also disadvantages and I discuss both below. But before discussing that, what exactly is chitting? What does it mean?
What Does Chitting Potatoes Mean?
Chitting is simple. It just means to sprout. And we can encourage tubers, such as potatoes to sprout, or chit, by putting the in a light but cool place. It doesn’t need any special equipment and is a natural process, so not complicated. Potatoes will eventually chit whether you want them to or not.
Why Chit Potatoes?
Chitting is often used to get the potatoes into growth quicker than if they were planted in much colder soil. By chitting them it means they start growth earlier and this potentially means earlier harvest and bigger yields. But nature doesn’t give any free prizes, there is usually a price to pay for anything that looks too good to be true.
The Benefits From Chitting Potatoes
Growth commences much earlier.
Crops mature earlier.
Harvest is potentially earlier.
Yields can be higher.
The Disadvantages From Chitting Potatoes
Earlier growth means increased frost damage risk.
Chits can be too long and get damaged at planting.
If we get a cold wet spell and can’t plant you have chitted potatoes that need planting but can’t be. Long chits get damaged and yields drops.
Chitting takes time and space that not everyone has.
Early crops suffer frost damage
Is Chitting Potatoes Necessary?
Think about the odd potato you miss at harvest time. What happens to it?
It sits in the soil, grows when its is warm enough and still gives a good crop.
So clearly potatoes grow without chitting. Nature doesn’t chit potatoes.
Farmers that grow early potatoes often chit their earlies but don’t bother with main crop potatoes .As a reference point I looked at the 15th edition of The Agricultural Notebook, published 1968, which was edited by my college principal, Dr Ian Moore. In it it gives advice on potato chitting houses. The chapter was written by JB Paterson (Jock) who tried to teach me about agricultural building and machinery. (Jock has also written a textbook on buildings and during lectures students would sometimes ask which page he was on!).
Paterson refers to using greenhouses and purpose built chitting houses on farms. Today, the large potato farmers have huge barns in which they chit some potatoes. But, many potato growers don’t chit at all. It really depends on the reason for doing so as not all potato growers, for example those growing to manufacture crisps, aren’t looking for early potatoes. They want yield, consistency, texture and quality.
Do I Have To Chit My Potatoes?
No, there are benefits in some cases but it isn’t obligatory.
Which magazine undertook some chitting trials and reported it made little difference. Their trials were very limited and need following with caution but are worth looking t.
How to Chit Potatoes?
For the gardener that wishes to get an early crop and decides to chit they can easily do so by putting their seed potatoes in containers such as recycled egg trays. These can be placed in a light but cool place to chit. Many say to put them on a sunny windowsill but I advise against it. The potatoes are going to get very warm and could dry out in the sun. Plus the chits will etiolate .. go leggy .. and that’s to be avoided as it makes for poor growth and is easily damaged.
Where to Chit Potatoes?
As suggested above potatoes can be chit indoors on a window sill. But in nature they naturally grow underground and only see light when they beak through the soil surface.
Chitting Too Early
The biggest problem I see is trying to chit far too early. Gardening isn’t a race. Sometimes enthusiasm needs curbing with a bit of patience. I know its hard but don’t start chitting too early.
Gardeners often worry that their potatoes go green when chitting. They recall that green potatoes are poisonous and think that their green tubers can’t be planted. Don’t worry. They are perfectly safe to plant and will produce new tubers.
Thin, Straggly Shoots
If the chits are thin and straggly it’s because they don’t have enough light, The cure is to give them more light throughout the process. Its no good giving light once they become drawn, its to late at this stage.
If kept in direct sun light the tubers can overheat and dry out. Tubers need light o chit but not hot direct sunshine that causes them to shrivel.
If your tubers go mushy, smelly etc. it’s an indication that they had a disease of some sort. That’s not great but better they rot at this stage rather than when you’ve spent hours planting them!
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