Chitting potatoes refers to placing your seed potatoes in a warm area for several weeks to induce sprouting. Also called greensprouting, this technique can reduce time from planting to harvest by 10 to 14 days and is highly recommended by the potato experts at Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine.
Potatoes grow best in cool climates such as Maine and Idaho, so timing is important in warmer regions where spring is brief and summer heat comes on quickly. Wood Prairie advises to always avoid planting in cold, wet soil. Wait until the soil has warmed to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Chitting your potatoes will give your crop a head start and will help you take full advantage of the cooler days of spring and early summer.
To greensprout your potatoes, start about four weeks before you expect soil temps to reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Place uncut tubers in a dark spot at 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit for about a week. Then move the spuds to a cooler location (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit) and expose them to light for about three weeks. The light will make the sprouts turn green and stay stocky.
When the soil is warm enough, plant out your seed potatoes 1 to 3 inches deep, 12 to 18 inches apart. You can plant whole potatoes, or cut them up so that each seed piece contains at least two eyes. It will probably take about 3 weeks before you will spot the sprouts coming up.
Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on Google+.