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My seed potatoes have been chitting since the last weekend of January, so nearly six weeks now. I have kept them on the windowsill in an unheated spare bedroom, where they have developed much better than in previous years when I had them in the garage, which was really a bit too cool. I suspect that many people have difficulty finding an ideal place for chitting potatoes. It needs to have a “good” amount of light and warmth – not too sunny, not too dark, not too hot, not too cold!
Yes, of course potatoes will chit even in less-than-ideal conditions, but the shoots may be long thin and pale. What I look for is short, fat, dark-coloured shoots, like the ones in my photos below. The different potato varieties have all produced different styles of chit. They look very weird when viewed in close-up.
I think some of my potatoes are ready for planting now, so I will probably be planting them in the next week or so. The outside temperature is still not high, particularly at night, when it has been going down to just 3 or 4C, but I will put my first potatoes into containers that fit inside my two “Seedling Greenhouses” where they will have at least some protection from frost, wind and rain.
|The potato pots, all ready for planting.|
I will be planting my First Earlies in the protected pots, and then a bit later on I’ll plant Second Earlies and a couple of Maincrops in the bigger (unprotected) pots. If the weather turns really cold after planting, I’ll drape a length of fleece over the containers to stop frost settling on the tender potato shoots.
A bit of advice for beginners.
Potatoes fall broadly into three types:-
1. First Earlies – the ones to grow if you want small “new potatoes” early in the season – are normally planted mid-March to end of April and take approximately 10 weeks to mature, so harvesting is normally late May to end of June. They do not generally store well, and are best eaten immediately after harvesting.
2. Second Earlies – Harvested as bigger tubers than First Earlies but not as big as Maincrops (see next). They usually take approximately 13 weeks to mature. Can be planted at the same time as First Earlies if required, but usually a few weeks later in order to extend the harvest. Harvest in July or early August. Can be stored if desired.
3. Maincrops. Bigger tubers, suited for longer storage (e.g. over the Winter). They are normally bigger plants and take much longer to mature – usually about 20 weeks, so harvest from September onwards.
To these types I think we must also add a 4th category – the so-called Second Cropping ones, which are planted in June or July in order to mature round about Christmas time. They usually need protection from Autumn frosts and for this reason are typically grown in pots or bags, sometimes under cover in a greenhouse.
If, like me, you decide to grow your potatoes in containers, I urge you to get big ones. The best containers I have are 35-litre black plastic pots, which seem ideal to me. The smaller ones I used in times gone by were really too small, and the compost / soil in them dried out too quickly. When growing potatoes in containers it is vital to make sure they are kept well watered, otherwise your plants will be stunted and will die back too soon, leaving you with a very meagre crop.
If you need more advice on growing potatoes in containers, (or if you’re just interested to see how I have fared), I have written about this subject many times, so use the “Search this blog” facility in the side-bar on the right, and put in the word “potato”.
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