Your seed potatoes will usually be sent out by seed companies a month or two before they are needed to be planted, but what to do with them in the meantime?
Can you put potatoes in a dark cupboard?
No. They would produce long white shoots which are no good for a successful harvest. You could rub them off and start again but the seed potato has already put energy into producing a shoot you can’t use, the more this is done the weaker the potato becomes.
What is ‘chitting’?
Chitting is the process of placing seed potatoes in a light, frost-free place such as a windowsill or shed, and allowing the potatoes to slow produce stumpy green shoots during the weeks between them arriving at your home and planting.
What are the benefits of ‘chitting’?
A few years ago tests were run by a leading magazine who found that harvests which used chitted potato seeds compared with seed potatoes being directly planted, yielded a harvest 3 weeks earlier compared with the non-chitted crop.
How to stop Potatoes from falling over?
Cardboard egg boxes are the best. If you can’t eat enough eggs to save the boxes or don’t like eggs, try asking for the large egg trays at your independent grocers. Mushroom boxes are also useful and these can also be found via the grocer. Seed Cell Trays are a good alternative.
Do chitting potatoes need protecting from frost?
If frost is forecast and you are chitting your potatoes in the shed, cover them with fleece overnight. In the morning remove the fleece to release any trapped moisture. Frost can damage seed potatoes. A light frost won’t do much harm but if there are many overnight frosts this will take its toll on the potatoes and give you a poor harvest.
How to cope with frosted potatoes?
If your seed potatoes have been touched by frost you will find damp patched over their surface. You need to slowly dry the potatoes. I’ve always found that frosty mornings are followed by sunny days so I take any frosted potatoes and place them in the window of the shed. This slowly dried the seed potatoes, sucking any moisture out of the seed potatoes. By mid-afternoon I then get them ready to be fleeced overnight. One sitting in the sunshine is usually enough to dry them out in my experience.
Other useful tips
Seed potatoes usually come in plastic netting. Carefully open the nettling to get the potatoes out and recycle the netting if you are growing Melons. They make handy holders to keep the heavy fruit from breaking away of the main vine while growing.