Pre Sprouting Potatoes is called chitting or greening
I love potatoes, especially fingerlings. The organic ones are pretty spendy though, so I grow my own when I can.
Since potatoes don’t have seeds, growing them is a different process than is used for other vegetables. Pre-sprouting, or chitting, is not necessary but will get your potatoes growing earlier in the garden, and will give you higher yields.
Who doesn’t want a jump on the season?
Potatoes are a cool weather crop and should be planted about one month before your last frost date. In my Zone 8, the last frost is Mar 15. This is important because the productivity of potatoes falls in weather above 90 degrees and anything hotter than that may even kill the plants. I plan on starting my seed potatoes by February 1st so they can be out in the garden by February 15th.
You can pre-sprout and plant whole seed potatoes (2 inches and under) or cut them into pieces with multiple eyes.
In general, 4 to-5 eyes on your seed potato will yield more crops, but they will be smaller. One or 2 eyes per piece will yield less crop, but larger potatoes.
If you do cut them in pieces, give them a day or two to callus over and cure. Some old timers dip them in wood ash to help the process. This curing is important if you are going to plant in damp, cold soil.
If you are using newly dug potatoes from your own garden, you need to break their dormancy and awaken them. According to the downloadable pdf at Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply, you can induce sprouting by putting your seed potatoes with apples, bananas or onions in a paper bag. The Ethylene gas given off will initiate sprouting.
The chitting process is fairly easy:
Spread out your seed potatoes in an open top shallow box or egg carton with the seed end pointing up. The seed end has little dimples in the tuber there the sprouts will emerge and the strongest sprouts will form.
Keep them in a warm, bright spot like the kitchen counter for 2 to 3 weeks or until sturdy green shoots appear. If you use moderate light, and keep them at temperatures in the 60-70 degree range, you can speed up the process a bit. This way, the sprouts will grow stocky, sturdy and dark green.
This is the only time when it’s alright for potatoes to turn green; the color usually indicates the presence of an inedible and harmful nerve toxin.
You can plant as soon as the chits are ½ in. – 1 in. long. If you have to postpone planting because of weather or some other reason, move them to a cooler spot, to slow down their growth.
Dig a shallow trench and cover them with 3 inches of soil. As they grow you will be hilling more soil around the plant.
I had great success growing potatoes in a laundry basket on my deck last year and I will probably try that process again because it was so fun. I also plan on growing my potatoes vertically to save space. Check out my Pinterest Board – Potatoes | Goodness Unearthed – for all things potato related.
Have you had success pre sprouting your potatoes? What is your favorite potato variety to grow in the home garden?