Chit your potatoes

Prepare them now for a healthy head start before planting out

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Seed potatoes for planting this growing season are now available in garden centres or from mail order companies. Depending on where you live in the UK, planting early varieties of potatoes is usually done between mid-March to mid-April, or when the soil naturally starts to warm up. However, once you’ve got your seed potatoes you can start to prepare them ready for planting. This is known as chitting and is when the dormant buds or eyes at the top of the tuber are gradually started into growth to develop into short, green shoots.

Although seed potatoes can be planted and will grow perfectly well without being chitted, those that are started into growth will get off to a head start once they are in the ground.  Normally it’s only first and second early varieties that are chitted as they’re the ones that are planted early in the growing season. To start them into growth stand the tubers, eyes upwards, in trays or old egg boxes and place them in a light, frost-free place. An ideal temperature is between 5C-10C. If too cold they remain dormant and if too warm, the growth will be thin and spindly! The process takes around six-weeks for the shoots to develop properly, so early to mid-February is a good time to get them started.