Chitting potatoes and rescuing frozen crops

Our potatoes are chitting beautifully, which is good, as there is precious little else going on. Actually that’s not true. I just went to the cold bedroom where we are storing the potatoes that are chitting and just paused on the way to look at the propagator that holds the celeriac seeds and we have two seedlings! Whoop whoop! Okay they are actually too small to photograph – which means they are miniscule indeed – and their filament thin shape suggests to me, as a novice celeriac grower, that they are going to be prone to damping off, but we have them! And five minutes ago, when I started writing this blog, it was going to be about impatience and how, despite knowing that I couldn’t expect to see any celeriac seedlings, I’ve been checking them three times a day since I planted them a week ago.

Anyway, back to the spuds. What you want to see in terms of chitting is dark sprouts. Dark sprouts are lovely healthy growth elements, drawing on the stored reserves of the tuber from which they appear. Pale sprouts are weaker, created by a lack of something (usually light) or a surfeit of something (usually warmth). On that basis I am thrilled by the lovely purple and green hues of these sprouts, as they bode well for good cropping in the ground.

We keep our potatoes in a cold bedroom near but not under a north facing window so they get good indirect light but no heat. Sadly, many of our allotment neighbours have got used to keeping their chitting potatoes in their allotment sheds and the fierce frosts of the past couple of weeks has meant that their spuds have frozen – and if an exposed potato gets frost blight, that’s pretty well the end of it. If this has happened to you, turn your potatoes and see if you can find any areas that haven’t been frost damage (which shows as black wet slime, very nasty). If you have undamaged areas, cut the damage away, put the good bit on kitchen towel and allow it to keep growing, spritzing it with cold water from a sprayer every third or fourth day, because it will need extra moisture to replace that lost through the cut surfaces. It won’t be as good as a whole spud, but as you can cut good potatoes up to make more when it comes to planting, it’s worth salvaging what you can now.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Saturday, February 7, 2009

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