The Gardener’s Handbook:
How to Chit Potatoes for the Best Yield

Welcome to the fascinating world of chitting potatoes. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting, learning how to chit potatoes can help you get a head start on your potato crop and increase your yield. In this guide, we’ll delve into the art of chitting, answering common questions like “Is chitting potatoes necessary?” and “Should you chit potatoes in the dark or light?” We’ll also explore how to chit potatoes fast, how long to chit potatoes, and the debate around cutting chitting potatoes in half.

The History of Chitting Potatoes

Chitting potatoes is a practice that has been around for centuries. It was traditionally done in the late winter months when gardeners were eager to get a start on the growing season. The process involves encouraging potatoes to sprout before planting, which can give your crop a head start, especially in colder climates where the growing season is shorter.

What Does Chitting Mean?

When gardeners talk about how to chit potatoes, they’re referring to the process of encouraging potatoes to sprout indoors before planting them out. This can be done with both early and main crop potatoes. Chitting is not always necessary, but it can give your potatoes a head start, especially in colder climates where the growing season is shorter.

How to Chit Potatoes

When to Start Chitting Potatoes

Early potatoes can be started indoors in February and then planted out just before Easter. By mid-Summer, they should be ready for eating. If you’re using a main crop variety, plant them out in your garden in early April. For more details on the best times to plant different varieties, check out our guide on what to grow in November in the UK.

Choosing the Right Potatoes for Chitting

It’s recommended to buy seed potatoes as they are certified disease-free. Avoid using potatoes from the supermarket for chitting. If you’re wondering whether cutting chitting potatoes in half is a good idea, it can be done, but it’s not usually recommended. Each piece needs to have at least one good ‘eye’ or sprout, and you must allow the cut surfaces to dry out before planting to prevent rot.

How to Chit Potatoes: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Place your potatoes in the egg box with the “eyes” facing up.
  2. Once your potatoes are prepared in their egg boxes, leave them in a warm, light place to sprout. This answers the question of whether to chit potatoes in the dark or light – light is better.
  3. When the sprouts are around 2cm in height, it’s time to plant them out.

How to Chit Potatoes Fast

If you’re wondering how to chit potatoes fast, the key is temperature. Potatoes will chit faster in a warm room, but be careful not to put them near a direct heat source like a radiator, as this can dry them out.

Chitting Potatoes in a Greenhouse or Water

Chitting potatoes in a greenhouse can be a good option if you have one, as it will provide plenty of light and keep the potatoes out of the way. However, it’s not necessary to have a greenhouse to chit potatoes successfully.

As for chitting potatoes in water, this is not usually recommended. While potatoes can sprout in water, it’s generally better to chit them in the air to prevent the risk of rot.

The Science Behind Chitting Potatoes

Chitting potatoes is more than just a gardening practice; it’s a science. When you chit a potato, you’re tricking it into thinking it’s time to grow. The warmth and light tell the potato that spring has arrived, and responds by sprouting. These sprouts then turn into the plant’s stems and leaves once the potato is planted in the ground.

Common Mistakes When Chitting Potatoes

While chitting potatoes is a relatively straightforward process, there are a few common mistakes to avoid. One is leaving the potatoes in a too warm or cold place. Another is not giving the potatoes enough light. And finally, some gardeners make the mistake of planting the potatoes before the sprouts are the correct size. Wait until the sprouts are about 2cm long for the best results.

Alternative Planting Methods
How to Chit Potatoes

If you’re looking for a space-saving option when planting out, consider using an old plastic bag, such as a compost or fertiliser bag. This is a good reuse of plastic and a great lesson in intercropping.

Learn More About Gardening

Interested in learning more about our gardening courses in Somerset? Explore our horticulture courses to develop your gardening skills further. You can also learn more about John’s vast experience in the horticultural world and how we can help you build your gardening skills on our Blog page.

Let’s round things up

Chitting potatoes is a simple yet effective technique that can give your potato crop a head start. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, understanding how to chit potatoes can make a significant difference in your yield. Remember, gardening is a journey of learning and discovery. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you and your garden.

For more gardening tips and advice, check out our other blog posts, such as our guide on how to take semi-ripe cuttings or our guide to garden management and pest control.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to chit potatoes?

The best way to chit potatoes is to place them in a cool, light place with the 'eyes' facing upwards. This encourages the potatoes to sprout before planting.

What is the fastest way to chit potatoes?

The fastest way to chit potatoes is to place them in a warm room, but not near a direct heat source like a radiator, as this can dry them out.

Do you chit potatoes in the dark or light?

Potatoes should be chitted in a light place. This encourages the potatoes to sprout before planting.

What month do you chit potatoes?

Early potatoes can be started indoors in February and then planted out just before Easter. Main crop varieties can be planted out in your garden in early April.

What happens if you don't chit potatoes?

If you don't chit potatoes, they will still grow, but chitting gives them a head start, especially in colder climates where the growing season is shorter.

Do you completely cover potatoes when earthing up?

Yes, when earthing up potatoes, you should completely cover the plants with soil. This protects the tubers from the sun and helps increase the yield.