What does chitting potatoes mean?

Chitting potatoes
It’s that time of year, when my kitchen windowsill fills with egg boxes full of chitting potatoes.

When I began growing my own fruit and veg back in 2006, there were a whole host of horticultural terms and phrases that I had never come across before. Throughout the last decade, I’ve picked up a fair amount of knowledge (I don’t think you ever stop learning and adapting when you’re growing your own), and a bit of a gardening vocabulary as well.

One of the first definitions I picked up was ‘chitting potatoes’.

In short, chitting potatoes means leaving them out in a cool, light space so that the potatoes can start to grow a few sprouts from the speck-like ‘eyes’. Chitting can usually start with earlies and main crop potato types from January or February, and usually a cooler windowsill with a sunny aspect will do. Always opt for seed potatoes (available online or from your local garden centre),  as these will be carefully bred and selected without diseases, and chit ‘blunt’ side up where you’ll likely find the most eyes for sprouting.

Whether you chose to chit your potatoes or not before planting them out when the soil is warm is entirely your choice. There is still an ongoing debate as to whether chitting actually helps the potatoes grow any stronger, faster or more prolifically. Me? I’m of the opinion that if you can give them a head start, then why not.

Chitting Seed Potatoes – Charlotte Again

Oh chit!

Sorry, it had to be done.

Yes, I’ve already started chitting these second early Charlotte potatoes. Actually, I bought them a couple of weeks ago and put them out to chit a few days after. I wanted to improve on last year’s efforts – I bought three or so bags of seed potatoes, proceeded to leave them out for a few weeks and then had to pick my way through a slightly spongey selection to find chittable potatoes.

Am I inventing a whole host of new chit-related verbs? Chitting..chittable. Hmm. Works for me.

Anyhow! My Charlottes have been on the windowsill in the kitchen for a couple of weeks, and already the little sprouts have started stirring. I’m not expecting anything magnificent. After all, the kitchen windowsill is only marginally warmer than our conservatory at the moment. And our unheated greenhouse is currently missing two roof panes, so is a complete no-go area at the moment. But I did struggle a bit last year to get everything in on time, so this year I thought I’d just have a go at getting my second earlies to sprout a little earlier. That’s the plan, anyway. Not that my crop of Charlottes weren’t good last year, they were just perhaps somewhat later than expected. But then I could blame that on the ‘Summer That Wasn’t‘…

But Mum and I have definitely decided not to plant maincrop potatoes at the allotment. Don’t get me wrong. I ADORE potatoes (eating, obv.), possibly more than I should. Especially maincrop ‘fluffy’ varieties like Maris Piper. But from an economical and space point of view, both here at the Smallest Smallholding and on the allotment, I just think that it makes much more sense for me to buy a bag of maincrops for £5 or thereabouts from my local farmer, and dedicate my space to less space-hogging veggies, herbs, salads and fruits. Oh, I don’t know. Sitting here and pondering it, if I manage to dig out another plot here I might use some maincrop potatoes as a first-year weed control scheme. But the fact is is that my back has been dreadful, so I don’t hold out much hope, unless Rich is feeling particularly valiant with a spade. Hah – *snort*.

My back makes me feel about 86, not 26. I went for a big treatment session today, which has left me tired and bruised, but I know it’s one of those ‘no pain, no gain’ scenarios. I’ve been given a whole host of exercises to do, and it’s been suggested that I need to do Yoga at least 3 times a week on top of my swimming. So there goes another reason why I need to get my life more organised and in order. And another GREAT reason why I don’t have to dig. Yes, that’s right. REASON. Not excuse!

Actually, I’ve been researching and writing a short article about straw bale growing (no digging!). Mum tried it a couple of years ago with some tomatoes, but wasn’t too impressed. However, I’ve got a few tips up my sleeve now that I may blog about later, if I get around to giving it a go. Straw bale growing is cheap, which on my 2009 Year of the Low Budget gives it a definite thumbs up. And at the end of it you have a lot of compostable material, which earns it a few brownie points too. So we’ll see.

And an update on the woodland area – one of my local garden centres is currently doing an ‘early bird’  50% off seeds promotion. I found a special wildflower seed mix that featured the likes of ragged robin and harebell. I think you can start sowing in February so I’m definitely going to have a bash, once I get my next invoice in. I did have a scout about for some native woodland species at the nursery, but I’m being far too eager because it’s just too early. This is usually the part of the year where I start to get all wiggly and impatient about the growing year. But if there’s one thing gardening and vegetable growing teaches you, it’s patience. Which is a real pain in the backside when you’re a completely impatient person like me!