QUESTION: How do I sprout potatoes? Do potatoes sprout faster in the dark? – Van S.
ANSWER: Yes, potatoes do sprout in the dark, but if you’re chitting potatoes (sprouting prior to planting), it’s best to do so in a light location that’s cool yet frost-free. Light is necessary for potatoes to grow healthy and strong.
Gardeners use the chitting process to get potato plants sprouting sooner than they would in the garden, which means an earlier harvest. As a bonus, the first early crop is normally harvested before potato blight can become a concern if you chit your potatoes. Chitting begins in late January or early February. Optimal locations for chitting include greenhouses, sunny windowsills, and porches. Position potatoes with the “rose” end up—a blunt, rounded end that has lots of eyes. Rub off all but three or four of the shoots that grow from the seed potato before you plant it in the garden to encourage faster growth and larger potato size.
Whether or not you chit your potatoes, it’s advised that you use certified seed potatoes to plant in the garden. Potatoes from the grocery store that aren’t organic are likely to have been treated with a spray that inhibits sprouting. You may see some people recommending you use organic potatoes from the store, but certified seed potatoes are better because they are guaranteed not to carry disease.