To chit or not to chit?

AS winter becomes spring and gardeners’ thoughts turn to the approaching season, it’s an argument no doubt heard on every allotment from Land’s End to John O’Groats. So, when it comes to seed potatoes, are you a chitter or non-chitter?

For the uninitiated chitting is the process of placing seed potatoes in a cool, dry place – usually in egg cartons –  ‘rose-side’ up (that’s the spot where most of the eyes are), to allow the tubers to sprout shoots. The theory behind chitting is that by forcing shoots your crop will mature earlier, deliver bigger spuds, and, hopefully, avoid being decimated by the dreaded potato blight.

As with many topics, not everyone is in agreement. There is a school of thought that chitting is pointless, because placing chitted spuds in ground that’s too cold will simply slow any growth. Many growers also believe the longer seed potatoes are chitted, the more it depletes the energy stores within the tubers themselves. It’s a convincing argument, particularly when you consider that high yield commercial growers can’t possibly chit their spuds prior to planting.

Potatoes that have been chitting for a long time may also have lots of shoots, which can snap off when handled. Of course many growers snap off weaker shoots anyway, as they believe it promotes growth, but this can also leave the tuber more vulnerable to disease and pests.

However there is one benefit to chitting. Even the best quality tubers don’t always sprout. So chitting your potatoes allows you to sift out any dormant spuds, ensuring you don’t waste time planting them.

Either way, chitter or non-chitter, dodge the pests, avoid disease and with a little luck 2019 will see  bumper crop.

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