A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Can I Speed Up Potato Sprouting?

Sorted potatoes and ripe Roma tomatoes
 Here's another question about growing potatoes:
"We just discovered that we can plant Irish potatoes at the end of this month, and were wondering if it is possible to sprout some of the ones from the grocery store (to have them ready by the end of this month).  I checked my potato bin in the pantry, and some potatoes have little eyes.....could I put a potato in some water, or would that just make them rot?" Ginny Lindsay - Paris Tennessee
Potatoes have a natural dormancy from the time they are harvested to when they begin to sprout, starting their next growth cycle. This can only be modified slightly by storage conditions. Though this dormancy varies from variety to variety, six-months is about average.

Sprouting potato, before dividing.
You can speed up the sprouting process slightly with increased moisture and warmth but putting them in standing water would lead to rot. We have had good success at layering potatoes in damp leaves and bringing them indoors to induce sprouting. Potatoes like to sprout in the dark however so don't expose them to light until the have begun to sprout. When the sprouts are about a half-inch (1 cm) long, they are an ideal length for "chitting". (See this blog-post for more details on chitting).

It is always best to use organically grown potatoes for seed as chemically grown potatoes have often been sprayed with a sprout retardant. While it doesn't usually stop potatoes from sprouting entirely, it can seriously slow them down.

Sprouting potato, after dividing. Each chunk is at least as big as a chicken's egg and has one or more sprouts.
Most varieties of potatoes take about 13 weeks to 17 weeks to mature. We like to stagger our plantings for several reasons. Planting succession crops gives you fresh-dug potatoes over a longer season. Also, if you save the seed-size potatoes out of each digging, they will naturally begin to sprout in succession too meaning that you will always have sprouting potatoes, ready for planting for next year's cycle of staggered crops.

Links to our other potato blogs, go to:
Sprouting Potatoes? What to do.

How to Plant Potatoes 
Planting Potatoes in Clay Soil

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