Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chitting Potatoes

There's still plenty of time to plant potatoes. They can be safely planted until the Fourth of July here. Most years you can start planting a few on St. Patrick's Day for good luck, but not this year--too much rain!

After you buy your seed potatoes, let them sprout "eyes". Just put them in a sunny location (not too warm) and they will naturally start sprouting. This pre-sprouting is called "chitting". Even store-bought spuds will sprout, but they've been treated with growth retardants, so I don't recommend using Safeway as your source of seed potatoes (you'll get smaller and fewer spuds). After a couple of weeks, you will have several of these eyes growing. You can plant the smaller potatoes whole, or cut a larger one into smaller chunks. As long as there are at least two eyes growing, you'll be fine. These sprouts that are growing out of the spud are actually the roots. A seed will always send out their roots first to check out the environment and get established before sending up the more fragile stem. When you plant your seed potatoes, plant them so the roots can grow down.

Many sources recommend letting your potato sit for a few days after cutting them. Some even recommend using fungicide on the cut sides. This is not necessary if you chit them. Plant your strongest chitting potatoes, toss any that do not sprout into your compost bin, and you should get a good return on your investment.
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