You’ve Got to be Chitting Me

This weekend the weather was amazing.  The sun was out, it was warm, and we all got sunburned.  It was the first really nice weekend of the year.  So nice in fact, that I was completely unmotivated to sit down at the computer inside and write a single line.  I had plenty of blog inspiration though.  I took no less than 76 photos this weekend.

Since the weather is so nice, we’re thinking we’ll be able to open the beehive in a couple of weeks and actually get some cool photos (and possibly harvest some honey), so I decided to put off the beekeeping 101 boot camp until then.  The bees were doing some housekeeping this weekend, and I saw of them coming back to the hive with pollen even, so I know it’ll be good news on the bee front.

We got started on some of the early spring to-dos.  We cleaned out the flower beds and checked on the garlic.  I have some kohlrabi that looks like it has made it over the winter, and we got a jump on removing the grass and from some new beds that we hope to plant this year.  And we hacked out a place for some potatoes since the neighbor is using his garden for other crops this year.

Once we got some of the prep work out of the way, Rick went downstairs and got our seed potatoes out of the cellar.

You might imagine that we were surprised to see the spuds with eight-inch long sprouts sticking their tips out of the top of their box.  From everything we’ve read, you are supposed to “chit” your potatoes around January, letting them begin to get sprouts, and then plant them out with one-inch long sprouts.

In case you’ve never heard of this before, chitting potatoes means you are encouraging the eyes of your seed potatoes to sprout before you plant them.

I don’t know if we left the lid open too early or what, but they were a-growin’.  The potatoes, fingerlings, were a little soft, spongy even.  We were feeling a bit panicky, unsure if our chits were ruined or if they had a head start.

We decided to go ahead and plant them.  What is the worst that can happen?  We’ll get a lousy yield?  If we didn’t plant them, we wouldn’t get any.  So in the ground they went.

This year, since our space is pretty limited, we decided to experiment with a tower.  Most of the potatoes are in rows, but we had room for one tower.  I’m excited to compare how they do.  From what I’ve read, fingerlings are good candidates for towers.

I stated by digging a round hole about eight inches deep.  I put some loose soil and finished compost in the bottom, and then spaced my super-chitted spuds in a circle around the hole, sprout side up. I lightly covered them with soil.

I had some half-decomposed leaves lying around, and since potatoes are heavy feeders and the tower is in a newer bed without the best soil ever, I layered in some leaves with the soil.

I alternated layers of soil and leaves until the sprouts were completely covered.  Then I put an old cage over the top.  Notice, there is still a pile of soil there on the left and some leaves on the right of the tower, so I can continue to hill-up as the sprouts poke through.

I’m very excited to see how this comes out.  I was completely surprised at the chits having such long sprouts, and so I’m looking forward to how they do.  And I’m excited to see how the potatoes in the tower do compared to those in the rows that we planted at the same time.

Have you planted potatoes in a tower?  What about our super long sprouts on the spuds; ever had something like that?  Do tell!

Categories: Garden | Tags: , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “You’ve Got to be Chitting Me

  1. I just put my potatoes in this weekend… there was a layer of softish ones left from last year’s harvest, and they all had big, long sprouts on them. I put them in rows, though, having never heard about the tower. I look forward to hearng how they do!

  2. Wow, those are some super-long sprouts! Still, I’m betting they’ll be ok, especially since you’re putting them into such well-prepared ground with the compost and leaves.

    I’ve not tries tomato towers with taters before – will you be hilling them up in there as they grow, or is it to support the plants themselves? I’m contemplating trying a potato box this year, as I always wrestle with properly hilling them up without walls.

    We had an unseasonably warm winter up here in Michigan, but I’m still hesitant to put anything into the ground yet, for fear of a vicious cold snap before April. Going to get started on seeds inside this week, though! \o/

    • Hilling as they grow. It’s the same concept as growing them in tires except you use a cage instead of the tire. I plan to wrap the cage as the plants get bigger so it’ll look kind of pretty. That’s the plan at least. 😉

  3. I’ve never planted potatoes, but I’ve always wanted to . . . I live in Idaho after-all. I’m anxious to see how yours come out.

  4. Sorry, I can’t offer help -this is my first year growing potatoes. I let them get too high before their seconding hilling so I am hoping they are still going to produce well.

    • We only hilled once last year and we got 90 pounds of potatoes!! Just let them grow until the plants die off. This is only our second year though, so I’m not an expert on potatoes yet. 😉

  5. Wendy

    I’ve never tried the tower, but I’ve tried growing potatoes in trash cans the past two years and both were a complete and utter bust. I give up.

    • Bummer. Maybe not enough air? But if tires work??? Maybe they can’t get enough light in the can while they are young? Hmmm…

  6. You can also make “towers” of old tires. Put tire on the ground and fill with dirt. Put in taters. As they grow you just keep adding a tire, filling with dirt and keep letting the tops of the taters grow. Add tires till its as high as you want them to be then just let them grow. When its time to harvest, just flip off the tires and the taters, which have been growing in all that dirt, will just fall out. Pick them out of the dirt and you’re done. 🙂

  7. tory

    This is our third year with tater tire towers. We usually go three high and have had a excellent success with fingerlings, yukons, and even reds.

  8. Sorry to be dense, but I need to understand. If you plant them in towers the chits grow up into the tower and produce potatoes above ground? – Jen

    • Kind of. As the potatoes grow you keep hilling them higher and higher inside the tower. The tower (which as it gets filled will be secured a bit more to keep the soil in) is sort of like a contained, high hill. It is the same concept as using tires, but with a cage instead.

    • JoAnn J

      Thank you for asking ~ I was wondering myself!

  9. laura h

    Yes, it made me think of planting in tires. Plus wire cage. Nice job!

  10. Scottlikesapples

    We’ve been using trash cans for a few years and have had massive success. This year we are going to try a tip from a friend and use Straw instead of soil to hill the Potatoes. Apparently it works just as well and in the end all the taters come out super easy and clean!

  11. I’ve never had a problem with my potatoes growing super long roots like that before planting. Living in Alaska, they’ve got a lot of winter during which to start shooting out. (The come out of the ground in either late August or September, and I can’t plant until late may or June.) Even in towers (I grow in old tires) they should do just fine.
    Of course, our one advantage here is that we don’t have the pests you do so it could very well be different for you.
    Don’t worry about the shriveling, either. To grow the sprouts they’re canibalizing the former tuber. They’re even still edible, although you probably don’t want to eat them. (They’re very dry at this stage.)

  12. Cynthia in Denver

    I just got the 9 beds built over the past few days!! I was a bit leary about how I was going to do potatoes until this posting! Thanks Anisa! I’ll give it a try!

  13. Isn’t it amazing how quickly potatoes will go to seed. I have not had any luck gardening. Come and read my blog to learn my problems. We will try again this year

  14. So more or less that same thing happened to me this year and I have a blog post in the works about it – will you be ok if I do a chitting post too, within the next week or so, or will that be stepping on UH toes? Let me know. XO, E

    • I don’t mind at all. 😉 I’ll be interested to see your chits and what you guys do with them.

  15. Pingback: Potato Chitting Problems: Pale Shoots

  16. akgpodcast

    The problem isn’t that light got into the box, it’s that it didn’t. If you want nice, short ‘chits’ rather than long, white (and very fragile) sprouts on your seed potatoes then they need to be in a cool, light place. Yours probably got a bit too warm, which started them into growth before you were ready.

  17. We’re about to plant our potatoes too. Our experiment with tires flopped horribly–and we were left with tires lying around the yard that are very difficult to get rid of. I think our problem was we used straw instead of dirt for hilling. This year we’re trying trenching. We’ll see what happens!

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