The vegetative stage is extremely important when cultivating every type of plant. It precedes flowering, during which plants develop leaves, growth tips, stems, and branches. In this article, we provide guidance to new growers on understanding this stage, controlling it effectively. Let’s review how to supply necessary nutrients for the vegetative stage and optimise plant growth!

Tomato young plants ready for transplanting and vegetative phase.
Tomato young plants ready for transplanting and vegetative phase.

Understanding the Vegetative Growth Stage and Plants

Whether growing from seeds, seedlings, or clones, plants must undergo a vegetative phase before flowering and fruiting.

 

The seed germination stage will be the moment you germinate the seeds in water, moist paper towels or directly into the soil or alternative growing medium such as coco coir or rock wool. The length of the seedling stage will vary between species. In general, the vegetative period can be considered to begin once the seedlings have grown large enough to develop a healthy root mass and the first clusters of leaves and are able to stand up and support themselves.

 

Let’s simplify the lifecycle of a plant into five stages:

1. Seed Germination
2. Seedling
3. Vegetative
4. Flowering
5. Fruiting and Harvest


Controlling the Vegetative Phase with Grow Lights

There are plants that flower depending on the light.
There are three types of plants according to their light requirements – photoperiod – for flowering.

Short-day plants flower when the day length is below a certain threshold.
Long-day plants flower when the day length is above a certain threshold.
Day-neutral plants for which light is not the determining or triggering factor for flowering.

 

Although they are called short, long or neutral day, it is known that, in reality, plants measure the hours of continuous darkness rather than the hours of light as you can see in the graphic.


Graphic explaining how the flowering of a short-day plant works.

When growing indoors, we can manipulate the hours of light to trigger plants to flower or not.


Essential Nutrients for Plant Growth. There are specific nutrients for the vegetative phase?

For novice growers, soil typically provides essential nutrients for plant growth. The primary nutrients NPK—Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium—along with secondary nutrients like Calcium and Magnesium, are necessary for a plant’s life cycle. We cannot forget about trace elements, required in tiny trace amounts, but vital as well. Balancing these nutrients throughout the plant’s life cycle is necessary to keep them alive, healthy, and productive.

Detailed shot of the NPK values in the Growth-C label.

Nutrient Management and Root Development

Healthy roots during vegetative growth ensure effective nutrient uptake, photosynthesis, leaf health, and canopy structure. To optimise plant health, products like Rootbastic, ATA Rootfast, ATA NRG Root – C and B’Cuzz Root Stimulator.


3 Strategies for Optimal Vegetative Growth

If your goal is to produce large-yielding crops, then you will want to get your plants big and bushy during the vegetative period. Below are 3 top tips to consider, helping you grow the best plants possible.

 

1. Ensure Adequate Air for Roots

Big roots mean big fruits, so take the time to make sure your growing medium is capable of retaining high amounts of water as well as air pockets. The more oxygen and warm air present, the greater the root mass will become. Avoid dense growing mediums that become heavy when fully saturated. Peat or coco light mixtures are perfect for this purpose. They improve oxygen levels, allowing the promotion of root mass without restricting growth.

 

2. Give your plants the nutrients they need.
If you grow in pots, the nutrients in the small portion of soil that supports your plant will eventually run out. In that case, you will need to add nutrients to your plants on a regular basis. This can be by using slow-release solid fertilisers, such as Upgrade, or by using fast acting liquid fertilisers such as B’cuzz Soil A&B. Also, as your plants grow, you will need to increase the pot size, which tends to stress them and slow down their growth. To help your plants cope better with stress, so that it doesn’t affect their growth and production as much, there are solutions like B’cuzz Booster Uni that provide them with micronutrients and plant extracts that relieve stress and improve the plant’s photosynthetic capacity.

 

3. Utilise Foliar Feeding

Mild nutrient solutions like ATA NRG Alga -C, sprayed onto plant surfaces, foster healthy leaf and stem growth. Cease foliar feeding by the third week of flowering and ripening to avoid rotting or fungi mediated diseases.

Spraying leaves with specific solutions such as Alga-C can help correct small localised deficiencies and improve plant health.

4. Manage Temperature and Humidity

Maintain high humidity levels (~60–80%) and temperatures (~22 degrees Celsius) during outdoor/indoor vegetative growth. Most productive plants thrive in warm, humid conditions, particularly during seedling and vegetative stages.


Conclusion

The vegetative stage is where a plant will focus on root, leaf, stem, and growth tip development. How productive your plants will become will depend on how well they have grown during the vegetative period. The correct balance of plant nutrients is also a fundamental part of having top-of-the-line final harvests. Foliar feeding is an excellent and inexpensive method of providing plants with a wide range of primary, secondary and trace elements. Remember, mimicking natural conditions—warm and humid—is key during the vegetative stage.

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