Is it necessary to sprout potatoes? (The Facts)


harvested potatoes lying on the soil

Potatoes are a staple in most diets, and many gardeners plant potatoes each year. You may be considering adding some potato beds to your garden, but you’ve never grown them before and want to make sure you have a good harvest. One of the questions you may ask yourself is if it is necessary to sprout potatoes before planting them in your garden. Please read below for the facts on potatoes and sprouting, or greening/chitting as it is sometimes called.

Potatoes do not grow from seeds like many other vegetables; therefore, it is not necessary to sprout potatoes before planting in your garden or container. You can get a bountiful harvest by placing the seed potatoes in the ground and letting them sprout there.

Because of their unique growth process, pre-sprouting or greening is not a required step in successfully growing potatoes. The only real benefit of chitting or greening is an earlier potato crop because you start the plant growth ahead of the regular season. If your area has already had the last frost of the year, sprouting will not speed up the growth rate of your potato crop (depending on the variety of potatoes, the growth rate is 75 to 110 days to maturity).

Sprouting also does not increase the number of potatoes each plant will produce. The increased harvest comes from earlier crop times and an extended growing season through indoor sprouting, allowing you to plant some pre-sprouted potatoes alongside those you didn’t chit.

Sprouting can have some benefits, but this is a step you can skip and still have a great potato harvest.

What is Sprouting?

Sprouting is when a plant is started indoors or in a smaller container before being placed in a garden. Sprouting is sometimes also called chitting or greening. It is used in several vegetables to help promote growth and increase the amount of harvest. Sprouting is most often used in vegetables that grow from seeds or plant cuttings. Since potatoes are neither seeds nor plant cuttings, sprouting is not a step you must take to have a crop.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sprouting as sending out new growth. Like all plants, potatoes are designed to reproduce. Potatoes have areas on them called “eyes.” This is where the potato will produce sprouts which in turn will grow into plants that form tubers. You have probably bought potatoes from the grocery store and forgotten them only to find they have started to sprout in your pantry.

What are the benefits of Sprouting

Even though it is not necessary for a good crop, sprouting your potatoes can give you a two to four-week head start on your harvest. When you plant your seed potatoes that have sprouted indoors, you will be able to harvest your crop earlier. Sprouting can also protect your plants from a late frost or cold snap. If you start your plants indoors, they are in a more controlled climate that encourages growth.

According to gardening-advise.net, if you live in a cold climate, you should chit your potatoes for three to four weeks before planting them outdoors to reduce the risk of crop loss.

Sprouting also helps you glean out the seed potatoes that may not be good producers. You can see how healthy the sprouts appear on the seed potatoes and discard those who do not produce good sprouts.

If you have an early variety of seed potatoes, sprouting can also be beneficial in helping expedite your harvest time. Later variety seed potatoes are not impacted in harvest time or yield when you sprout them before planting.

What Type of Potatoes Should You Sprout?

Seed potatoes are the best option for growing a potato crop, but you may be asking if it is possible to grow more potatoes from your grocery store potatoes. While it is possible to grow potatoes from those in the grocery store, it is not recommended to have a good crop.

Grocery store potatoes may or may not produce a potato harvest because they are designed to inhibit sprout growth. Even if you sprout them inside, planting them is not guaranteed to grow like seed potatoes.

Also, since they are designed to inhibit sprout growth, sprouting grocery store potatoes negates the benefit of an earlier crop since they will take longer than seed potatoes to produce sprouts.

Seed potatoes are also tested for any potential diseases that could kill your potato crop or damage the soil for other plants.

When Should You Sprout Potatoes?

The area you live in will determine when you should start sprouting your potatoes. The ideal time is two to four weeks before your normal growing season. You want to make sure your potatoes are ready to be planted after the risk of frost, or a cold snap has passed, but before it gets too hot for the plants to thrive.

How to Know if A Potato Would Benefit from Sprouting

There are generally two types of potato: determinate and indeterminate. Determinant potatoes are your early varieties. They tend to grow in more shallow dirt or garden boxes and are similar to salad potatoes. Determinant varieties usually grow in a single layer. Indeterminant potatoes have a much longer growing season and thrive in deeper soil with multiple layers of potatoes.

Of the two, determinant varieties are the ones that would most benefit from sprouting to get a head start on your potato crop. Sprouting your early variety of potatoes can help you kick start your potato harvest.

Adding mid-season and late-season varieties to your potato beds at the regular planting time without sprouting them can help you have a garden full of different variety potatoes all season long.

The video below tells you when it is beneficial to sprout potatoes and when it is not beneficial. I will show you tips and tricks if you do sprout and how you can preserve the potatoes if you don’t sprout.

Early Varieties

Early variety potatoes reach maturity in 75 to 90 days; therefore, sprouting can help you get to the harvest quicker in the growing season than for the outdoor planting season before starting your potato crop. Several early variety potatoes include Alta Blush, Alta Rose, Bellantina, Carlton, Eramosa, Norland, and Yukon Gold.

Mid Season Varieties

If you live in an area prone to a late frost or cold snaps, mid-season variety potatoes may also benefit from starting via sprouting. The various mid-season potatoes include Catalina, Gold Rush, Viking, Yukon Gem, Red Pontiac, and Purple Viking. These potatoes mature in 95 to 110 days.

Late Season Varieties

Late season potatoes usually mature in 120 to 135 days. This makes them suitable for later planting to extend your potato harvest into late summer/early autumn. These types include German Butterball, King Harry, Desiree, Canela Russet, and All Blue.

How to Sprout Potatoes

Sprouting potatoes is an easy process. First, buy your seed potatoes about three weeks before you want to plant them. If you buy earlier than that, you run the risk of the seed potatoes sprouting too soon and rotting or having the sprouts break off. Put the potatoes in a container under indirect light. You want to avoid direct sunlight because the potatoes may sprout too fast or dry out. You will see the potatoes putting out sprouts in the next two to three weeks.

What to do next

Your sprouted potatoes are ready to plant. Carry the entire container to your garden to plant your seed potatoes. If they are large, you can cut them into smaller chunks of approximately one to two inches. Please make sure the chunks you plant do have sprouts or eyes on them to ensure you get potato growth. Handle the sprouted potatoes carefully because the spouts can easily break off the potato.

Once the sprout breaks off the potato, it dies and will not produce a plant even if you put it in soil. Only those sprouts still attached to the eye will grow to maturity and produce more potatoes.

Transplanting Your Sprouted Potatoes to Your Garden

With the sprouts pointing up, plant the seed potatoes one inch in the soil and cover them with dirt. You can lightly pack the dirt over the potatoes; however, do not pack the dirt tight because potatoes grow best in loose soil. You also want to ensure you have prepped the soil beforehand by removing any other plants and tilling the earth.

Make sure your potatoes are in full sun with soil that drains well. They will need one to two inches of rain per week; however, they will need less water when the foliage starts to yellow. At this point, the potatoes are starting to “cure” (this means the skin is hardening to protect the potato).

Growing Potatoes in a Container

When planting your potatoes in containers, this is another area sprouting is beneficial. Sprouting potatoes for planting in containers allows you to start your crop earlier in the season. You can start sprouting them at any time during the winter months and transplant the sprouted potatoes to indoor containers long before the growing season.

Additionally, once you have reached the point where late frost or a cold snap is not likely, you need to move the entire container outdoors for your plants to continue to grow and produce tubers. Make sure your container does not retain excess water. Soil that is too wet will cause your potatoes to rot before they are ready to harvest.

Planning for Next Year’s Crop

You can save smaller potatoes from your harvest for next year’s crop. To keep them from sprouting, you want to store them in a cool, dark place that does not promote growth. You also want your potatoes to stay dry to avoid rot. When you are ready to start your garden the following year, you only have to start the sprouting or planting process all over again.

Conclusion on is it necessary to sprout potatoes?

Overall, growing potatoes can be a great way to increase your garden’s output. Potatoes are a versatile vegetable with many uses. Sprouting or chitting your potatoes is not required or necessary for having a bountiful harvest. It is simply one way to get a head start on the growing season and extend your time to grow a potato crop.

While sprouting is not required or necessary for you to have a potato harvest all season, there are a few advantages to sprouting. You can avoid loss of your crop from late frost, you can harvest earlier in the season, and you can extend your gardening season by several weeks.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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