Now is the time to start chitting potatoes. This is when you carefully place your seed potatoes with most of the eyes facing upwards so that the sprouts start to develop before they are planted.
The term ‘seed potato’ is something of a misnomer as they are not seeds but tiny potatoes. Although it would be possible to collect seed from potatoes they would take longer to develop into productive plants. Moreover, they would not be ‘true’ to the plant from which they had been collected as they would be the result of sexual reproduction and combine characteristics from both parents (including some unexpected, and perhaps unwelcome, characteristics from past generations). By using tiny potatoes we are able to make clones of the original parent which means that the plants are exact reproductions of the one from which it was taken.
I was therefore able to choose a variety (Arran Pilot) which I know will have a waxy texture which is perfect to serve in a salad and another (Red Duke of York) which is more floury and suitable for roasting. They are both ‘first earlies’ which are the quickest to be ready to harvest. I expect to harvest both of these before the end of the summer term. ‘Second earlies’ and ‘maincrop’ potatoes on the other hand will probably be ready in the summer holidays or when the current cohort of children has moved on to the next class.
The Potato Council has a project called ‘Grow Your Own Potatoes’ which sends potatoes and growing bags into schools for children to grow. Sadly, registrations are closed for this year. However, it is still worth taking a look at their website which is full of materials about growing and weighing potatoes.
If you plan to grow potatoes in bags you will only need a few. I managed to find bags of six in Yorkshire Trading. It is no doubt an expensive way to buy potatoes if you are adding up the cost of each potato. However, I have purchased two varieties for less than a larger bag in which all of the potatoes would have been the same. If you can’t find any small bags why not put a shout out in your school news letter or website. You may well have a gardening parent or grandparent who would be more than happy to donate a few seed potatoes.
- find out and describe how seeds and bulbs grow into mature plants
- identify and describe the funcions of different parts of flowering plants: roots, stem/trunk, leaves and flowers
- (The World ELG) make observations of plants, explain why some things occur and talk about changes
- (The World 30-50 months) develop and understanding of growth, decay and changes over time