How to chit potatoes

Filed in Blog, Videos by on February 15, 2011 8 Comments
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Everything you've wanted to know about chitting potatoes!

Everything you've wanted to know about chitting potatoes!

Here’s a bonus post for you this week!

Growing some of your own food is a great way to reduce packaging waste and one of the easiest and most delicious crops to grow is potatoes!

Contrary to popular belief you do not need a lot of space to grow potatoes – if you live in a high rise flat with only a balcony, you can grow a few potatoes in a pot.

Like the famous poem, ‘Cats sleep anywhere’, potatoes GROW anywhere! You can grow them in an old dustbin, a compost heap or a black bin liner – they’re not fussy at all.

If you want to grow salad potatoes (our favourites are Charlottes) then now is the time to buy them ready for chitting.
Don’t know what chitting is? Then watch our video for the What, Where, Why, how and When of chitting potatoes. For those of you who prefer the written word to the spoken one, here’s some notes taken from the video:


Potato chitting is a way of encouraging the potato to sprout before planting. Unlike leaving a potato in the bottom of a sack by accident, chitting produces small, dark sprouts, The sprouts produced by a forgotten potato are long, white and straggly…


Fans of potato chitting say that chitted potatoes grow faster and you benefit from an earlier crop. They also believe the crop is healthier and the yield larger. Other people think chitting is a waste of time and don’t bother doing it. Whether you do it or not is up to you, but maincrop potatoes don’t need chitting.


You need to start chitting your potatoes 4-6 weeks before you want to plant them. For first earlies you can chit them at the beginning of February and for second earlies you can chit them from Mid February.


Take a few empty egg boxes and fill the cavities with seed potatoes, crown side up. The crown is the end which contains the eyes and it’s usually rounder and slightly ‘blunter’ than the other end.


When you’re chitting potatoes, they need to be kept in a light place such as a windowsill or greenhouse. You don’t have to do anything them, just leave them until you’re ready to plant.

What about you – do you bother to chit potatoes or not?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (8)

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  1. Hazel says:

    After Gardeners World did an experiment about chitting potatoes a few years ago I’ve chitted earlies but not maincrop.

    However, I’ve been reading recently that it may not make that much difference if you don’t get it exactly right (not sure how you get it wrong?) and if you break off a shoot that’s not good. So, my plan this year is to chit half my earlies and just put the others in as they are, and review yields when I harvest. I still won’t chit maincrops (no window sill space by then anyway!)

  2. Julie Day says:

    Now I’ve heard of chitting.

    Rae. Result – got reply from Sainsbury’s saying that they are passing my comments on to the store manager of my local branch who will investigate with his team to ensure that the bins are emptied regularly. Pays to complain.

  3. Carol Henshaw says:

    I put mine in the greenhouse as usual (earlies) and the mice have nibbled them so it’s start again!

  4. Karin says:

    Like Hazel, I’ve heard that chitting first earlies gives them a head start, but you don’t need to bother with later varieties. However, they do tend to sprout anyway.

    Although we have a veg garden it’s not all that big, so I am always looking for space to grow potatoes. This year I plan to put them in a flower bed that has become rather overgrown, so I shall clear it as best I can and then put the potatoes in to keep the weeks under control. I’ll use Charlottes to do this. On Sunday I picked up a small packet of first earlies, just 10 seed potatoes in the packet, and have already put half in a large reinforced plastic bag sold for the purpose of growing potatoes. They came ready chitted, so I put in those that had the longest shoots. I grew potatoes in these bags a couple of years ago and we had a reasonable crop.

  5. Poppy says:

    We have the first batch of potatoes in already. Bit early I reckon, but Mr P isn’t known for his patience. I did try to put the cats in the bag as well Mrs G, but they wouldn’t stay put :p 😉

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Hazel: Can’t wait to hear the results of your experiment Hazel – first hand experience is always the best. I’m not chitting my maincrops either.

    @Julie Day: Great news on Sainsburys Julie- well done for highlighting the issue!

    @Carol Henshaw: Oh noooooo, how frustrating! Well at least you have time to start again. Will you keep them in the house this time around?

    @Karin: The overgrown flower bed sounds an ideal place and potatoes are great for breaking up the soil – good luck!

    @Poppy: You’ve planted already!! It will be interesting to see if yours come up before ours then, or whether things catch up once the weather warms. Good for kitty; were you hoping she might sprout into 10 tiny kitties?

  7. telsa says:

    I don’t bother to chit potatoes any more and haven’t found it makes a huge difference really. One week or so makes very little difference to me and its far easier to bung them in and forget about them a few weeks before the mayhem of march/april seed sowing.

    What I do find makes a difference is water and tend to grow in the ground for that reason as it’s easier to keep them at the correct levels.

    As to when to plant I’ve been reading an article recently where they were planted in autumn and I’ve certainly had many a healthy potato plant from a potato left in after harvest so it’s ceratinly possible to start early I would think, only problem is if they come up too early the late frosts can check growth if it’s particularly cold.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @telsa: Hi Telsa, thanks for sharing all your experiences. We have clay soil and I think might be why potatoes do so well – the soil is always moist where they are growing, even in the height of summer! I’ve left potatoes in over the season as well and they’ve been perfect… Happy growing!

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