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Master Seed Potatoes: Chitting, Planting and Growing Techniques

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Growing your own potatoes starts with understanding the fundamental steps of using seed potatoes: chitting, planting, and nurturing them through to harvest.

This article will guide you through each of these crucial stages, providing practical advice to ensure your potato crop is healthy and abundant.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, mastering these techniques will enhance your gardening skills and lead to successful potato cultivation.

Understand Seed Potatoes

Seed potatoes are not your ordinary store-bought potatoes. These are specially selected tubers intended for gardening that have not been treated with growth inhibitors which are commonly used on eating potatoes to extend their shelf life.

Using certified seed potatoes is crucial as it ensures they are disease-free and primed for planting. This initial choice significantly influences the health and yield of your crop.

The Chitting Process

Chitting is the practice of pre-sprouting potatoes before planting. This process accelerates the growth of strong, healthy shoots from the eyes of the potato, giving them a head start when planted in the ground. Step-by-Step Guide to Chitting Seed Potatoes:

1. Selection and Preparation

Choose firm, healthy seed potatoes with no signs of rot or damage. Medium-sized potatoes are ideal as they provide ample surface area for shoot growth without being too bulky.

2. Setting Up

Arrange the seed potatoes in an open egg carton or a shallow tray with plenty of light. The end with the most eyes should face upwards.

This exposure to light is contrary to the common misconception of chitting in the dark, which actually leads to weak, leggy sprouts.

3. Ideal Conditions

Place your setup in a cool, frost-free area with good light and a temperature of about 10°C (50°F). These conditions encourage the development of short, stubby shoots that are less likely to break when planted.

4. Timing

The chitting process typically takes 4-6 weeks. The potatoes are ready when they have several shoots about 1-2 cm long.

Overly long sprouts often result from insufficient light or overly warm conditions and are vulnerable to damage during planting.

Avoiding common mistakes is vital for chitting success. Resist the urge to start too early in the season, as prolonged chitting can weaken the sprouts. Also, ensure the area is free from pets and pests that might disturb the setup.

Planting Techniques

After chitting, your seed potatoes are ready to be planted. This stage is about getting the timing and soil conditions right to maximize growth.

When to Plant

The best planting time depends largely on your local climate. In general, seed potatoes should be planted once the risk of frost has passed in your area. For most temperate regions, this is usually from mid to late spring.

Soil Preparation

Potatoes thrive in loose, well-drained soil. Before planting, turn the soil to a depth of about 10-12 inches and mix in compost or well-rotted manure to improve fertility and texture. Potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil, with a pH of about 5.0 to 6.0.

Planting Depth and Spacing

Plant seed potatoes about 4 inches deep with the sprouts pointing upwards. Space them approximately 12 inches apart in rows spaced 2-3 feet apart.

This spacing allows the plants enough room to grow and makes hilling easier, which is crucial for potato development.

Caring for Growing Potatoes

Once your potatoes are safely in the ground, the next phase is their care and growth management, which includes watering, hilling, and pest control.


Potatoes need a consistent supply of moisture, especially once the tubers start forming. Water your plants evenly to maintain moist but not waterlogged soil.

Over-watering can cause the tubers to rot, while under-watering can lead to poor yields. Aim for about an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or supplemental watering, depending on weather conditions.


As the potato plants grow, gradually mound soil around the base of the plants. This process, known as hilling, helps cover the growing tubers to prevent them from being exposed to sunlight, which can turn them green and toxic.

Hilling also helps to improve drainage and reduce the likelihood of the tubers coming into contact with soil pathogens.

Perform hilling when the plant is about 6 inches tall, then repeat every few weeks until the plant’s growth peaks.

Pest and Disease Management

Potatoes are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. Common pests include Colorado potato beetles, aphids, and potato tuber moth.

Monitor your plants regularly and use organic pesticides or introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs to control pest populations.

Diseases like blight can be mitigated by ensuring good air circulation around the plants and using disease-resistant varieties. Rotate your potato crops each year to prevent the buildup of soil-borne diseases.

Harvesting and Storage


Potato maturity varies depending on the variety, but generally, potatoes can be harvested when the foliage begins to die back. For new potatoes, harvest them earlier, as soon as the flowers in your potato plants start to fade.

Maincrop varieties, which are stored for winter use, should be left in the ground longer until the foliage has completely died back. Use a fork to gently lift the tubers, being careful not to puncture them.

Post-Harvest Handling and Storage

Once harvested, allow your potatoes to dry on the soil surface for a few hours to cure, which toughens up their skin.

Afterward, store them in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place. Ideal storage temperatures are between 4-6°C (39-43°F). Properly stored, your potatoes can last several months.

From chitting and planting to care, maintenance, and harvesting, growing potatoes requires attention to detail but rewards you with abundant yields of one of the most versatile crops in the garden.

Experimenting with different varieties and techniques can enhance your experience and potentially your harvest.

Gardening not only brings the satisfaction of growing your own food but also connects you with the rhythms of nature.

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