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Potatoes are grown mainly from seed potatoes. But you cannot just plant the seed potatoes directly in the garden. One of the important parts of growing potatoes is to sprouting the seed potatoes.
In this post, we will discuss how to sprout a potato, if you want to learn more about potato gardening see our other posts on growing potatoes.
What is A Seed Potato:
Seed potatoes are small cubes of potato tubers cut into chunks that have at least two potato eyes in them. These potato eyes form new tubers after they sprout.
Why Sprout Potatoes:
Generally, it takes 70-120 days to harvest mature potatoes. If you sprout potatoes before planting you can reduce the total growing period by 3-4 weeks. It will also help you reduce any trouble in getting potatoes to maturity.
Sprouting potatoes is more like growing seedlings. But unlike a seedling, you won’t need any growing medium to sprout potatoes.
Before you plant the seed potatoes it is very important that you break their dormancy and sprout them, so that the growing process in the potato plant gets started.
The dormancy in potato tubers starts when they are harvested from the ground. The main reason for dormancy is to protect the plant in hostile environments.
Chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting is also known as chitting potatoes.
When your seed potato is in dormancy, it won’t grow. To break the dormancy the first thing to do is to bring them to a higher temperature (50 to 60 Deg F). you can do that by placing them under indirect light, a bit of humidity (so they don’t dry out), and warm environment.
If you live in a warmer climate, start chitting in late January. Whereas if you are from a cooler climate, start in February. Generally, it would take 4-6 weeks for the sprout to get ready for planting.
How to Sprout Potatoes:
Spread the seed potatoes on the ground and cover them with mulch or moist burlap bags. Within 30 days you will see small sprouts emerging.
Another way to grow is to use egg cartons. Each seed potato has a more rounded end that has a number of ‘eyes’. Place the tubers with the blunt end uppermost in trays or old egg boxes, with plenty of natural light. This will stop the seed potatoes from rolling around.
Once the sprouts grow 0.5-1 inch they are ready for planting. Be careful in handling those delicate potato sprouts.
Don’t sprout your potatoes in water. Chitting potatoes in water can cause rotting.
Small vs Big Potatoes:
You can use both small and big potatoes for the chitting process. With big potatoes, cut a whole potato into small pieces keeping in mind that each piece should contain at least two eyes.
If you use small potatoes, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter, instead of cutting, use them as a whole. We generally recommend smaller potatoes as they reduce the risk of diseases.
Can I Use Store-bought Potatoes for Sprouting:
Store-bought potatoes are usually treated with chemicals to prevent them from sprouting. So although they make a very good choice for cooking they are not very helpful as seed potatoes.
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