How To Speed Up Plant Growth (Just Get These Right)


If you want to make the plants in your garden grow faster, you’re not alone.  I decided to make a list of all the things you should do to make sure your plants are growing as fast as possible.

So, how do you speed up plant growth?  To speed up plant growth, optimize these factors:

  • Soil
  • Water
  • Spacing
  • Sunlight
  • Temperature
  • Protection

If you get these factors right, then your plants will thrive and will grow much faster.  Of course, the optimal soil composition, amount of water, spacing, and so forth will depend on the plant you are trying to grow.

Let’s get into a little more detail about how to speed up plant growth.

How To Speed Up Plant Growth

Most of the plant growth factors mentioned above will vary depending on what you are trying to grow.  Doing the research into what a particular plant needs is an important step in helping to speed up the growth of your plant.  Let’s take a look at soil first.

Improving Soil To Speed Up Plant Growth

Without good soil, none of the other plant growth factors will matter.  To ensure that soil is ideal for fast plant growth, you will want to look at the soil composition, pH, nutrient levels, and bacteria.

Soil Composition

Some plants, such as carrots, prefer sandy soil that drains well.  Other plants, such as lettuce, can do well in clay soil that retains moisture.

Before planting or treating your soil, be sure to read about the ideal soil type for the plant you want to grow.  That way, you can make the necessary changes to the soil composition.

For example, let’s say you want to grow bell peppers.  According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, bell peppers prefer soil that is “well-draining and rich in organic matter”.

purple bell peppers
To grow bell peppers, you will need well-draining soil. You may need to add some compost if you have clay soil.

If the soil in your garden is heavy clay, then you will need to make some changes before planting peppers.  One good way to improve the drainage of clay soil is to add organic matter, such as compost or decomposed manure.

For more information, check out my article on how to make your own compost, and my article on where to find sources of manure.

An additional benefit of using compost or manure in your soil is that you will also be adding some nutrients for your plants, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Of course, adding compost or manure to your soil is not the only way to improve drainage.  For more information, check out my article on how to make soil drain better.

As another example, let’s say you want to grow carrots.  According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “Carrots need loose, light, airy soil. Most of us need to add sand.”

carrots
If you want to grow carrots, you will need sandy soil. You may need to add some sand to the plot where you plan to grow carrots.

If the soil in your garden is not loose enough, you may need to add some sand.  This will make the soil looser and lighter, which is good for carrots.

You can also use a sifter to get rid of the rocks and dirt clumps in the soil.  That way, your carrots can grow long and straight without forking when they run into rocks or dirt clumps.

For more information, check out my article on how to remove rocks from soil.

Finally, be careful about walking over your soil before or after sowing seeds.  If the soil is too compact, it may inhibit the growth of your plants.

If your soil is too compacted, you might need to do some rototilling yourself, or hire someone to do it for you.  For more information, check out my article on the average cost of rototilling.

Soil pH

Soil pH is another important factor to consider if you want to speed up plant growth.  With the right pH, plants will be able to absorb nutrients and grow their best to produce a great harvest.

With the wrong pH, your plants may not be able to absorb the nutrients they need.  Even worse, they might get burned by an extreme pH level.

So, how do you determine the soil pH level in your garden?  The best way to do this is with a soil test.

You can buy a do-it-yourself soil test kit online or at a garden center.  You can also send a soil sample to the lab at your local agricultural extension office for testing.

The lab test will be able to give you more precise results, and will also be able to tell you about specific nutrient deficiencies in your soil.  They can even offer recommendations about how to treat your soil, as long as you tell them what you are growing.

If your soil pH is too low (acidic), you can add lime to raise the pH.

If your soil pH is too high (basic), you can add sulfur to lower the pH.

Just remember that it may take some time for these soil amendments to work in changing the pH.  For that reason, you may want to test your soil and start adjusting the pH in the fall, so that you have enough time before the next growing season.

For more information, check out my article on how to do a soil test.

Soil Nutrients

Even if your soil composition and pH level is healthy, you still need to make sure that nutrient levels are up to par.  A deficiency or excess of any one nutrient can spell trouble for your plants, slowing their growth or even killing them.

As mentioned earlier, a soil test done by a lab is the best way to find out if you have a nutrient deficiency.  However, there are some signs, such as yellow leaves, that can indicate nutrient deficiencies in plants.

For more information, check out my article on nutrient deficiencies.

Also, keep in mind that it is possible to over fertilize your plants.  For example, too much nitrogen will cause fast growth of leaves and vines.  However, this can delay or prevent the plant from flowering or fruiting.

fertilizer burn on leaf
Over fertilizing your plants can lead to fertilizer burn, so be careful and test your soil before you add anything to it!

For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing and my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.

Soil Bacteria

One final issue with regards to soil health is bacteria.  All soil contains beneficial bacteria that help plants to grow.

For instance, some bacteria work to decompose organic material, which makes nutrients available to plants.  If your soil does not have enough of these beneficial bacteria, you may see slow or stunted growth.

compost bin
Adding compost to your garden will introduce beneficial bacteria if they are lacking. It will also add some nutrients for your plants to use for growth.

A good way to encourage these bacteria is to add compost or decomposed manure to your garden soil.

Optimal Watering To Speed Up Plant Growth

Giving your plants the right amount of water is critical to speed up their growth.  Too much or too little water can cause stunted growth, delayed fruit, or even death for your plants.

The amount of water will depend on the type of plant you want to grow.  For instance, beans can grow in dry soils with less moisture, which might be too dry for other plants.

Another consideration is the plant’s stage of growth, such as seed germination, seedling, or mature.  For example, the soil should be damp, but not wet, in order to encourage seeds to germinate.

It is possible to either under water or over water your plants.

Under watering can occur for several reasons:

  • You may forget to water your plants, or forget to ask someone to do it when you go on vacation.
  • The plant’s water needs increase during a critical stage of development (such as tree fruiting).
  • The sun and wind may evaporate water from the soil quickly, even after thorough watering.
  • Your soil drains too quickly and does not retain water for long enough for plants to absorb it.

If you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.

dry soil
If your soil is too dry, you might have a problem getting anything to grow in it.

On the other hand, over watering your plants can occur for a few different reasons:

  • You are inexperienced or are trying a new crop, and you overestimate the plant’s water needs.
  • The weather is cool, damp, and overcast, preventing evaporation of water from the soil.
  • Your soil retains too much water and does not drain (clay soil has poor drainage).

For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.

garden hose
Be careful not to over water or under water your plants!

The best way to keep tabs on soil moisture is to use your fingers to feel the soil.  Check to a depth of a few inches, at least once a day.

If the soil feels dry, you can go ahead and water the plant.  If it is still moist, leave it alone.

You may want to check more frequently during heat waves (hot, dry weather), and you may want to put off watering if a summer thunderstorm is coming.  Check the weather report and use common sense, and your plants should do well.

Ideal Spacing To Speed Up Plant Growth

Another important factor to speed up plant growth is using ideal spacing between plants.

When you put your plants too close together, they will compete for soil resources, such as water and nutrients.  Too much of this competitive stress can stunt the growth of all of your plants.

Don’t put your plants too close together – leaving enough space in between prevents competition for soil resources and lets them grow faster.

There is not a one-size-fits-all number for plant spacing.  The space between plants will depend on what you are trying to grow, and even the variety within the plant species.

You can find recommendations for spacing between plants in a catalog (hard copy or online) when you order your seeds for the year.  You may also find spacing recommendations on containers if you buy established plants at a nursery or garden center.

Generally, you want to leave enough space between plants so that they will not touch.  This will prevent the spread of diseases or pests that grow or feed on leaves, vines, or fruit.

You will also want to leave enough space between rows of plants.  This will make it easier for you to water, fertilize, pull weeds, prune plants, and harvest fruit.

Another important factor for speeding up plant growth is staying on top of weeding.  Weeds will compete with the crops you want to grow in your garden, so pull them out if you see them!

If you are pressed for time, you may not be able to pull weeds all day.  A good alternative is to prevent the weeds from growing in the first place.

To do this, put down a layer of mulch to smother any weeds that are already growing, and to prevent weeds from growing in the future.

compost
You can use leaves as ground cover to prevent the growth of weeds in your garden.

You can use wood chips, grass clippings, or leaves as your layer of mulch to help control weeds.

Optimal Sunlight To Speed Up Plant Growth

Another important factor to speed up plant growth is the amount of sunlight your plants get.

Many plants require full sun, meaning at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.  The seed packet or catalog will indicate the level of sunlight that a plant needs.

sunlight through forest
Make sure that your plants get plenty of sunlight, and don’t put them too close to tree lines or buildings.

There are a few reasons that your plants may not be getting enough sunlight:

  • Neighboring plants are growing tall and blocking sunlight for shorter plants.
  • Trees near your garden are growing taller or getting new branches, which shades your garden.
  • Your garden is near a shed, barn, garage, or house that blocks sunlight for part of the day.

There are a few steps you can take to prevent these problems.

First, ensure adequate spacing for your plants.  This decreases that chance that taller plants will block sunlight from getting to shorter plants.

Second, trim branches on any trees that are shading your garden.  If this is impossible, you should consider moving your garden.

Finally, if your garden is too close to an existing structure, you may need to move the garden somewhere else to avoid the shade.

Ideal Temperature To Speed Up Plant Growth

The ideal temperature to speed up plant growth will depend on the plant, and also on its stage of development.

It is impossible to control nature, but it is within your control to plant your seeds or transplant your seedlings at the right time of year.

For example, lettuce and other leafy green plants will often “bolt”, or grow flowers and become bitter, when temperatures get too hot.  To avoid bolting, you should plant lettuce earlier in the spring, rather than in the late spring or early summer.

There is not much else you can do to protect your plants from hot temperatures if a heat wave comes.  However, there are ways to protect plants from late spring frosts or early fall frosts.

One method to protect younger plants is to cover each one with a cloche.  A cloche is plastic or glass covering that traps heat and keeps the plant warm.

cloches
A cloche does not need to be this fancy – you can use a plastic water or milk jug with the bottom part cut off.

A method to protect older plants is to use row covers to wrap them before a cold night comes.  This can give you an extra week or more of growing season, which is helpful if you live in a northern climate with a short season.

For more information, check out my article on protecting your plants from cold and frost.

Provide Protection To Your Plants To Speed Up Growth

Protecting your plants against pests and diseases will help them to grow faster.

Some pests, such as aphids, can slow down the growth of your plants by sucking precious water and nutrients out of them.  For more information, check out my article on how to get rid of aphids.

aphids
Aphids can weaken your plants and slow their growth, so take steps to keep them at bay.

Other pests, such as worms (larvae of moths) will weaken plants and slow their growth by eating the leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit.

For more information, check out my article on worms in your garden.

As far as diseases go, the best way to protect your plants is to prevent disease in the first place.  Your first step is to choose plant varieties that are resistant to disease.

For example, you may see the letters “V” or “F” in a catalog.  This means that a plant is resistant to verticillium wilt (V) or fusarium wilt (F).

If you do notice signs of disease in a plant, it may be best to pull it out and dispose of it, to prevent the disease from spreading.  For example, late blight can completely devastate an entire crop (or garden), since it can spread between tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants.

late blight on tomato stem
Here we see late blight on a stem – this disease can devastate an entire crop or garden.

For more information, check out my article on how tomato plants get blight, and how to protect them.

Which Fertilizer Makes Plants Grow Faster?

This all depends on what your plants need, which should always be determined by a soil test.  If your soil is lacking, you can find fertilizers (commercial or natural) that will supplement the necessary nutrients.

For more information, check out my article on high-nitrogen fertilizers, my article on high-phosphorus fertilizers, and my article on high-potassium fertilizers.

Conclusion

By now, you have a much better idea of the factors that go into plant growth, and how to speed it up.  You also know where to look to find out how to optimize each plant growth factor.

I hope that you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.  If you have any questions about how to speed up plant growth, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

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