While you’re waiting for your seeds to arrive, what do you have in your kitchen already, that might grow in a garden? In our fridge, we found potatoes.
Growers recommend ordering seed potatoes from our favorite potato catalog. This is wise for two reasons: 1. Growing potatoes from the grocery store might spread potato diseases to your soil. 2. Commercial potatoes often have growth inhibitor which stops the potatoes from sprouting. We noticed that some in our fridge are trying to grow, anyway. If you want to use a few potatoes just for fun of discovery with the kids, you might want to consider planting them in a container, like a 5 gallon bucket.
The ones from the store, if you notice that where the eyes are have black dots, they might have growth inhibitor on them to stop them from sprouting in the store. So first, we washed them really well in cool water.
Then, we put them in a tray. Any kind of tray is good: an egg carton, or a box. I like one that has sections so the eyes can stand up. This time we used a silicon ice cube tray, and we put them in the window sill to sprout. This is called “chitting.” It gives you a week’s head start when planting, if you are waiting for spring, but you actually don’t need to do chit potatoes. Its optional. If your bed is ready and it’s warm enough out, you can just plant them right away.
Some people keep them in the dark for a couple weeks first, and that really gets them started, but then you should put them in the light for a while to grow strong, or the sprouts get too leggy and break off too easily.
Sometimes I put a damp washcloth on top of them and moisten it every day, to give the potatoes a hint that its time to grow! But I don’t think you need too. These are some that we chitted a couple years back. We grew three kinds! But that’s nothing. In the Andes mountains, where potato cultivation originates, people grow hundreds of varieties to protect genetic diversity. One farmer grows four hundred kinds!
Potatoes are great to grow in spring because they can be planted as soon as the ground thaws out, and you get a lot of food from planting just a few. Any time after the dandelions bloom, that’s when you can plant them. I saw a blooming dandelion growing out of someone’s retaining wall today, so I think its just about time.
They are easy! If you don’t have a garden plot, you can grow them in a 5 gallon plastic bucket of wet compost on a sunny porch, or in a deep box with some wet leaves and seaweed. Potatoes love seaweed and composted manure, so sometimes I get some of that to put in with them. If you can get them started in the ground by the first week of April, then if they are an early maturing variety, you can dig them up in late June or early July, after the plants flower. Potato farmers in the Andes wear flowers in their hats while they plant, to encourage the potatoes to flower soon.
Show us your pictures of potatoes you are chitting and where you are planting them. We’d love to get inspired by your experiments!