Potatoes are one of the first crops to prepare for the garden and are easy to grow. There are a huge range to choose from. I like growing salad and new potatoes like Charlotte as they can be planted closer together and harvested earlier. This year I thought I’d also try Maris Piper as, even though you can buy them in the shops, they are my husband’s favourite.
Chitting is the term used for when potatoes start to sprout. When you buy your seed potatoes you need to put them in a sunny place with no frost so they can start to chit.
Experts say don’t plant supermarket potatoes that have sprouts – best to buy seed potatoes. (By the way, if you buy potatoes to eat that have a layer of dirt on them, they will keep longer as the dirt blocks the light and stops them sprouting. Dirty potatoes are often sold from a sack in farm shops).
You should start chitting about 6 weeks before you want to plant the potatoes, giving time for the sprouts to grow to about 2cm long.
How to Protect Potato Plants from Frost
You want the ground to have warmed up from mid-March before you plant your potatoes out. The traditional method is to dig a trench about 6 inches deep and line it with grass clippings or other organic matter and space your seed potatoes along the trench (distance will depend on variety) and cover with soil. As the shoots appear, keep earthing them up so there will end up being a mound around each plant.
When potato seedlings first appear they are vulnerable to frost. But our neighbour Hilly recommends this easy way to protect them when you know a frost is forecast: