Seed potatoes are readily available from garden centres and seed merchants from early January, offering many different varieties to chose from. Produced to be disease-free they offer the best possible start with growing your own potatoes.
You may have come across a gardening term called ‘chitting’ or ‘chit’, so what does this mean exactly? Chitting simply means encouraging a seed or tuber to sprout before sowing or planting, this gets the crop off to a good start. When it comes to potatoes, chitting is particular useful for first and second earlies which are planted out earlier in the year, but there isn’t a hard rule that says you must chit them – they will still grow perfectly fine as long as the ground isn’t water logged.
To chit seed potatoes simply stand them in egg boxes or trays with the eyes facing upwards towards the light, keep them in a cool, light and frost-free place. They will soon produce short dark green shoots (chits) which will help give an earlier crop when planted, if the shoots are long and pale they need more light.
Potatoes can stay in their trays until planting conditions are right, usually from March onwards for first and second earlies, ready for lifting around June. Main crop can go in a few weeks after earlies and second earlies, they’ll be ready for lifting anytime from late August through to the end of the year, depending on variety.