Chitting potatoes

by Jane Moore

If you ask me, there's very little that beats home-grown potatoes from the plot. They're so easy to grow... and produce an abundance of lovely spuds throughout the season.

Chitting potatoesIf you ask me, there's very little that beats home-grown potatoes from the plot. They're so easy to grow, pay little heed to the vagaries of our weather and produce an abundance of lovely spuds throughout the season.

In short, potatoes are one of the treasured crops of the allotmenteer and vegetable gardener.

Potatoes are generally grown from seed potatoes, which are small versions of the potatoes you'll harvest. I grow a few varieties each of first early, second early and maincrop potatoes. First early varieties are planted in March and produce lovely little 'new' potatoes in June. Second earlies are planted in April and lifted in July and August, while maincrops are planted in late April and harvested from August through to early October.

I harvest most of my maincrop potatoes towards the end of September, dry them off in the garage and then bag them up to store and eat through the winter. We're still eating them now.

To ensure a good crop you should 'chit' your potatoes before planting them. This simply means getting them to produce nice little sprouts - just like they do when you've kept them in the cupboard for too long! Chitting potatoes is essential for producing good crops of early varieties and can also make a difference to maincrop harvests.

Set your seed potatoes out in egg boxes or trays with the 'rose end' facing up. (The rose end is the end with the most 'eyes' in it.) Place them in a light, frost-free room - the greenhouse or spare room is fine - and leave them be for a few weeks. It takes about four to six weeks for potatoes to sprout shoots, by which time you'll be ready to plant them out.

If you want to get out and buy organic seed potatoes, why not visit Ryton, in Warwickshire, where the Garden Organic Public Potato Day is taking place on Sunday 3 February? You'll be able to choose from a variety of organic poatoes and get expert information on how to grow them.

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Gardeners' World Web User 03/02/2008 at 06:18

we have just got our allotment so we are very new so any advice will be welcome,

Gardeners' World Web User 04/02/2008 at 20:17

To get around the rotation in my two raised beds and to ease my back, I have been very successful with using old car tyres. Take the first tyre and fill with compost and plant the potatoes. As the stems grow put another car tyre on the first one and fill with compost. Keep this going until you have about 4 car tyres and keep the compost well watered.

When it comes to harvesting you just remove the tyres one by one and all your lovely potatoes are there to be gathered. No backbreaking hoeing up or digging. The spent compost can either be recycled on the compost or sometimes I just lay over flower beds to improve the soil. I do not believe in using the same compost two seasons running.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/02/2008 at 19:50

we have an allotment, and are constantly fighting bindweed, in large amounts, can anyone help please!!!!!!!!!!! thank you

Gardeners' World Web User 26/02/2008 at 20:20

In reply to Jean, the only way to get rid of weeds such as bindweed is to carefully spray Glysophate on its leaves. Best time to do this is when the sap is starting to rise (say mainly springtime) & also just before the plant goes into dormancy (before winter). The poison gets absorbed through the leaves and taken down to the roots and then withers and dies. The chemical is harmless to the soil and only affects the plant its sprayed onto. It wont work if you then pull the leaves off in a frantic moment to get rid of them after spraying, its best to leave the stuff to do its thing. I garden and grow veg organically, and its the only thing I use when I have to resort to chemicals. Happy spraying and check which way the winds blowing.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/03/2008 at 19:43

Hi a few years ago I had problems with bindweed, I used roundup mixed as per instuctions but did not spray it on the bindweed. I put some of the weedkillier in a glass jar and put some of the plant into the jar and let the bindweed absorb the weed killer, this seemed to have better results than spraying. (stablise the jar with bricks to stop it tipping over). Good luck.

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