Friday, July 29, 2011

Well, CHIT!

Didn't really think that you had heard enough did you?

I know Jody had asked about chitting and I'm sure there are others out there that may come across my blog, or some other blogs and want to know more.  Chitting was originally the word used for pre-sprouting or green sprouted potatoes. Like this:
It helps to ensure that if you are planting in wet or colder climates the potato won't rot before the plant itself has a good start. The roots tap into the potato for food, and the little tiny buds will eventually become the bushy foliage we all know and love. Without chitting most potatoes would rot long before the plant has the opportunity to get large enough to grow on it's own. The potato is a bit of an anomaly as most root vegetable do NOT like to be transplanted after they have started to  grow. Things like carrots, parsnips, turnips they will grow forked and deformed if not handled extremely carefully once the radicle or main tap root has been formed.

It's a practice that can be extended into most of the non-root vegetables. And here in the Deep South where the humidity and monsoonal rains can easily take out most seedlings, chitting helps immensely. You'll also see your young seedlings much stronger because they grow slightly differently when started this way.

Here is a picture of one of my tomato seeds after a few days in a moist and warm environment.

Now let's talk SCIENCE!
The radicle is clearly visible and if you look closely you can see the end of it is getting slightly hairy. Each of those hairs will become a (lateral) root to feed the growing plant. The embryo remains inside the seed coat still at 3 days old but after only another day it will begin to push out. In less than a week the Cotyledon leaves will emerge at which point this little baby will need to have already been put into it's first pot for the best start.
Seedlings grow both up and down when in the ground, but by forcing the seedling in this way or 'chitting' the root emerges prior to the plumule or what will be the stem. In effect making the root stronger. It also means that the embryo gets an extra couple of days before it has to truly begin putting forth effort to produce the energy that is required to get out of the seed coat.

Did I lose you? OK - it means that the seed can use less energy to get going - thereby hopefully making a stronger seedling in the long run.
What seeds are best to do this with? Well here in lovely super duper buggy and moldy Florida beans, corn, peppers and tomatoes are absolutes for me. Sure they can be planted without this step but fewer of the plants make it to maturity then.
For peppers and tomatoes I do what you can see in this picture and what I see most people across the good old US of web do - put them in a moist paper towel, in an open ziploc and stick them somewhere warm.
For corn and beans? Aw, now that's too easy. A nice warm bath in a bowl of water for a day will do. Amazingly after only one or two days I can usually already see the little radicles peeking out! It's helpful with the larger seeds like this not to wait too long because they are far more fragile and those little bitty roots will pop right off if you aren't careful. So soaking for just overnight or 24 hour is usually plenty for these types.

What's that? You do this? You just didn't realize it was called that? Ah, well - No Chit!?
Aw, C'mon don't think any less of me now. I have 3 kids at home, remember? They think (especially the twelve year old) this type of humor is just OH so punny...
Stay tuned - I'll be back in a little bit with bug pics!

Oh and something back in the garden after a slight reprieve...
My how I've missed my little cuke friends. Enough that I already ate half this before I took the picture. LOL Welcome back, friend!

'Till next time!



  1. Two chitty posts in a row? You're just full of chit!

    Hey, I got my first cucumber of the year this week. It was kinda small and deformed, but Mr. Granny thought it was good.

  2. Yes, indeed Granny. I am. It seems you may share my sense of humor at least! :-D That first cucumber is usually devoured warm from the sun around here. Never makes to salad status. I'm glad Mr. Granny enjoyed it.

  3. Thanks Barb. Now I know.