Friday, 6 February 2009

Chitting away

We bought our potatoes recently - I honestly can't remember if it was last weekend, the one before that, or even the one before that. We seem to be at the nurseries every weekend and all the trips are melding into one. I think I need to get out more!!

Anyway, we got 'Maris Piper' again ~ main crop tatties. We grew them last year and they were excellent. I didn't used to eat potatoes - they make me feel very sleepy, but recently that's changed. First, your own taste so superior to any supermarket variety and Secondly, well I haven't minded feeling sleepy, better than anxious any day!

So, here they are, on the window sill of the dinning room, which is yet again off limits to humans as the radiator has been turned off in there so the potatoes don't get too warm. They are 'chitting', a word I find rather funny, say it a few times, throw it into a conversation or two - it's funny (or else I'm very easily amused, maybe that's it)! We have them sprouting side up-most in a tray lined with newspaper. They are cool, but not freezing and get lots of natural light but not direct sunlight. I gave them a squeeze this morning and yip, they are firm too.

This 'chitting' phase is very important for the humble spud. It's best to have them ready to grow before you plant them, with sturdy little green shoots on them - the number of shoots is really up to you ~

if you want lots of little potatoes keep all the shoots on the seedling spud

if you want bigger, potatoes nip the shoots down to one or two.

The idea is that the new spuds are grown on 'stolons' which come from the stems. If you have lots of stems the energy the plant has goes into all the little babies, however, fewer stems means the same energy is produced but it goes into fewer, bigger spuds. It's up to you.

Also, at this time is a great idea to feed the bed that your darling little sprouting babies will be placed. Lots of well rotted manure, compost and seaweed etc. They're hungry plants and will eat it all up in no time. Don't plant them out for a good while though - this weather just isn't pleasant, for anything (except maybe garlic - they like a good frosting) and as Mr Middleton says, they'll "just wait there, shivering and uncomfortable till the soil gets warmer, and by that time they have caught a nasty cold, and it takes them some time to get going" [Digging for Victory, pg113]

Aim for around the end of March, or even April, when our soil is more welcoming. Put yourself in the potatoes' metaphorical shoes - Burr!, they won't thank you.

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