January Week 4: Chitting Potatoes, To Cit or Not To Chit, Badgers In January (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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January Week 4: Chitting Potatoes, To Cit or Not To Chit, Badgers In January
9:26am Monday 19th January 2009 in Opinion
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD WITH DIRTY NAILS JANUARY, 4TH WEEK CHITTING POTATOES Potatoes are a valuable and versatile vegetable. By growing different types of spud, Dirty Nails is able to keep his family well supplied with these tasty tubers for much of the year. He grows ‘First Early’ spuds, which offer ‘new’ potatoes fresh from the earth around mid-summer, ‘Second Earlies’ which are ready later in the season, and ’Maincrop’ varieties which will store well for use throughout the winter. Growing a ’Salad’ potato such as ’Pink Fir Apple’ is a good idea if ground is available. Cooked ’til tender, then tossed in an olive-oil based dressing or similar, they add another dimension to potato consumption. As well as different types of spud, there are also numerous varieties. They each possess their own particular strengths and qualities. It is well worth taking the time to find out what varieties are suited to the locality where they are to be planted. With this in mind, Dirty Nails prefers to select ’Concorde’ First Early and ’Kestrel’ Second Early because they taste so wonderful, and succeed on his plot. He likes to experiment with Maincrop varieties, reading the technical blurb to guide him, and trying a new one each year.
Dirty Nails won’t be planting spuds until March, weather permitting, but work for this year’s crop begins now. He has purchased his stock of Certified Disease-Free seed potatoes this week. He likes to have them in hand early in the year and set them out for ’chitting’. Each spud has a number of ’eyes’ which are barely discernable now, but will soon produce shoots. These shoots, which should be dark and stout, are the ’chits’. For chitting, Dirty Nails sets his spuds out in trays, touching and in a single layer, with eyes uppermost. He keeps them in a cool, light and frost-free place. The greenhouse is ideal. If severe weather threatens, he will cover the trays with newspaper to protect them from any risk of frost. No water is needed, just a check-over from time to time. If the shoots appear spindly and / or pale in colour, then more daylight is required. Spuds demand careful handling at all times, as they bruise easily. Chitting potatoes always gives Dirty Nails a little thrill, because it heralds the beginning of his annual spud growing rituals.
VEGETABLE SNIPPETS: TO CHIT OR NOT TO CHIT “To chit, or not to chit, that is the question”! Pre-sprouting spuds prior to planting has been part of the potato grower’s list of essential jobs-to-do throughout the long and glorious history of this most versatile of vegetables, but need it be so? A qualified “yes” is the answer, depending on what the home producer wants to dig up for dinner.
Fast-growing First and Second Early potatoes do crop earlier and heavier if chitted. With Maincrops, which have a longer growing season before reaching maturity, chitting actually makes little difference to the final haul. However chitted Maincrop tubers will come to maturation quicker. This is worth bearing in mind, and can be a useful tactic employed by the gardener in order to beat the disastrous and devastating blight. This is a fungal disease which is rife across the country and can strike in warm, humid conditions anytime (usually from high-summer) when conditions are right.
Individual chits can be thinned out if desired, to three or four strong, good looking ones. Generally speaking, more chits equals more spuds but smaller, whilst less chits translates to larger tatties but less (ideal if a crop of decent sized bakers is required).
NATURAL HISTORY IN THE GARDEN: BADGERS IN JANUARY Look out for shallow holes and scratched up soil in and around the area of the garden. These are ’snuffle holes’ and are the work of badgers. These handsome black and white fellows, who have made a gentle living in our countryside for thousands of years, are pretty quiet and inactive at this time of year. However a mild spell will tempt them out of their underground home, or set, to look for earthworms, their favourite food, and beetles. How to Grow Your Own Food by Dirty Nails (ISBN 9781905862115)is available from www.dirtynails.co.uk or good bookshops.
In this section
- July 2nd Week; Harvesting Garlic, Developing Froglets, Working With Nature, Marbled Whites On Walnut Tree Farm
- July 1st Week: Harvesting Shallots, Potato Blight, Trinity, Jobs To Do This Week
- June, 4th Week: Red Cabbage, Watching A Drowning Bee Recover
- June, 3rd Week: Downy Mildew, A Much Needed Present, Mid-Summer In St James
- June, 2nd Week: Cylindra Beetroot, Working From Home, Weekly Jobs To Do
- June, 1st Week: Sunshine, Showers, Weeds & Tomatoes, Song Thrush
- May 4th Week: Cucumbers, Beans, Feast & Fast, Apples, 'Of the Woods'
- May 3rd Week: Succession Sowing, Bird Watching, Enjoying Pine Walk, Jobs To Do This Week
- May 2nd Week: Planting Out Kale, Looking After Water Boatmen, Christies Lane In May
- May 1st Week: Earthing Up Spuds, Greenhouse Slug Patrol, Tess' Story, Jobs To Do This Week