In this article i will discuss the various steps involved with how to get potatoes to sprout eyes to prepare them for planting.
So you have decided to plant some potatoes, but you are unsure what steps if any are needed for this to happen. Past experience has taught me that preparation is key to many things, and growing potatoes is no exception.
Finding A Seed Potato Supplier
Before you plant your seed potatoes in the ground you need to decide where you are going to buy them, depending on the amount of seed you require, you can purchase your seed from a number of different vendors.
I would encourage you to find a reputable seed potato supplier rather than just use ones left over in the bottom of your bag purchased at the supermarket or farm shop, as the potatoes purchased from a seed potato supplier should have been inspected either by the Department of Agriculture or a similar reputable body.
Now while you might think this is a bit extreme, and it will be ok to use the small potatoes in the bottom of the potato bag, some of these potatoes may be at their last planting.
These old seed potatoes have been degrading from the time of their first planting and you run the risk of having a poor to non existant crop and/ or introducing disease into your garden or plot of land and having nothing to show for it at the end of the years work. If you start with bad seed, you are not giving yourself a very good chance of growing a great crop of potatoes.
Grading Seed Potatoes
The grades of potatoes which are inspected by the department of agriculture in the US can be seen from this link:
If you grow a lot of potatoes you will usually go to a registered seed potato producer who will will sell you seed potatoes from half a ton upwards. Depending on the grade they could be from $200 to $600 per ton, but there is nothing to say he couldn’t sell you a 5olbs bag or even a handful, it all depends on the person and your relationship with him.
There are some seed potatoes for sale on the internet but they can be expensive and I’m not sure what sort of grading standards they work by- it all depends on your situation which way you choose to get your seed. I would recommend visiting your local potato farmer unless you don’t have one.
Chitting Seed Potatoes
When you have sourced good quality seed potatoes the next thing to do is to stand the seed potatoes upright either in a slatted wooden box or in an egg carton and place them somewhere cool but free from frost and with plenty of light with the potato (eyes) facing upward.
This will encourage buds to come on the seed potatoes to give you a head start when you plant them and it will also mean you can harvest them earlier. This practice is known as chitting seed potatoes.
It is important that the place you put them is not susceptable to frost as this will kill your seed and make it unusable, it is also important that the place is not too dark as this will encourage long soft white buds which will break off easily if knocked- which will be a waste of your time.
If you do notice that your buds are slightly white you can bring them out into the light ahead of your planting date and the white buds will turn into green leaves if they get long enough. You should aim to have your buds 1cm to 2cm long on your planting date.
Above: A potato with good buds- green and not too long.
Above: A badly chitted seed potato- soft white buds getting long.
The majority of your potatoes should only have a few chits or buds.
If you find there are a few potatoes with lots of buds you can remove the excess to leave 2-4 buds. This will help to ensure there isn’t too many stems fighting for competition leaving you with lots of small potatoes instead of a few large ones.
Removing Excess Buds From Seed Potatoes
This practice of removing buds is something easily done if you only have a few potatoes to plant or if you are planting in a bag or a small container, if you have boxes upon boxes of seed potatoes I would not worry too much about it. It is more important that the buds you do have are green and not too long.
If the room you have the seed potatoes in for chitting is quite warm, I would advise you bring the seed outside to a cooler area three to four days before planting. This will toughen the seed up before you plant it in the ground and take the shock out of it coming straight from warmish room to being planted in cold soil. This can set the seed back a few days growing as it adjusts to the soil temperature.