I bought my seed potatoes from the allotment shop yesterday. After much deliberation, I went for Pink Fir Apple and Estima, both varieties I’ve never grown.
I chose the Estima on the advice of the allotment head honcho and sort-of shop manager Ron, after telling him I wanted to grow a few potatoes fit for baking this year. Ron grows half his batch of Estima as earlies and then leaves the rest in the ground to grow into big guns.
Interestingly, Ron’s other advice was not to chit the potatoes. His reasoning was that chitting ‘takes the energy out of them’, and that I should stick the potatoes straight into the ground as soon as I can.
Now, I’m not going to question the wisdom of someone who’s been growing veg longer than I’ve even been on the planet, and has forgotten more about allotments than I know.
(Well, okay, maybe I am).
Chitting potatoes is such a time-honoured tradition, I’d always presumed it was something you just did, without question, like loving our trains even though they’re invariably late, or pressing ahead with a barbeque even despite the torrential rain outside.
Reasons for Chitting
My understanding is that a potato will not do much whilst the soil temperature is below 10 degrees or so, and if left to their own devices the soil won’t warm up enough for a potato to sprout early enough, meaning that a crop won’t be ready until Autumn.
This means we’re forced to introduce artificial growth using light, warm parts of our houses to bring on the new shoots and give the potato the kick up the backside it needs to start growing, thus reducing the cropping time.
I suppose, when you think about it logically, it is only earlies that need chitting. Maincrop, which I normally store and use over winter, have plenty of time to grow.
A 2012 Target: To Grow a Big Potato
One of my favourite things about GYO is constantly changing and evolving goals. I’ve added Grow a Proper Baking Potato to my initial thoughts and goals for 2012. I normally get a fair crop of potatoes, but often this is made up of mostly small ones.
I want some corkers this year, so am going to feed them. I don’t normally even water them, which is daft, and may go a long way to explaining why I only tend to get small potatoes.
Anyone else feeds their potatoes? Any success? I’d be interested to know what you use.
To Chit or Not to Chit?
And so, back to my original question: to chit, or not to chit?
Results aside, there is a big part of me that feels like I’m missing out if I don’t. Chitting is one of the first real growing jobs of the new season, and already there are lots of chit chat on Twitter and allotment blogs. I’d feel a little left out if I didn’t have anything to share.
And I’ve got to say, I’m not really “rock the boat” kinda guy. I reckon there are some things out there that just should be questioned.
My wife is always right, the only certainties in life are death and taxes, and potatoes should always be chitted.