Like all living things, the soil food web has a lifecycle with different phases. We typically refer to these as growing phases. At Grassroots, we consider five different growing phases: pre-plant, seed, transplant, vegetative, and reproductive. Read on to learn more about the different growing phases.
The pre-plant phase is the period for reinvigorating the soil. Whether your garden of fabric pots or beds is new or established, you can nurture the soil food web long before planting. If you already have an established garden and are utilizing the no-till approach, this is also the period when the roots from your previous crop are composting.
During this phase, consider planting cover crops like clover, vetch, or fava beans to improve soil health, enhance water availability, increase biodiversity, and even attract pollinators. To further nurture the soil food web, consider some soil amendments during this phase.
Soil Amendments During Pre-plant Phase:
Seed (Clone) Phase
The seed phase is when you should be planting and germinating seeds for your next crop. What and where you are growing determines when you should start your seeds. As an alternative to seed germination, some gardeners grow from clones. That means taking a cutting from an established plant and helping it take root.
Whether germinating seeds or growing from clones, consider starting indoors in small fabric pots, like our 1-gallon Transplanter or Bottomless. Fill your pots with soil from a fresh bag of seed-starting mix. Regular potting soil isn’t ideal in this phase. Also, consider soil amendments to further encourage seed germination.
Soil Amendments During Seed Phase:
The transplant phase is when you’ll take your seedling or rooted clone and move it to a larger fabric pot or bed. If you plan to grow outdoors, transplant is typically after the last frost. The act of transplanting can put a lot of stress on a seedling. These baby plants can be at risk of transplant. If you’ve grown your seedlings in our Transplanter or Bottomless pots, much of the shock of transplanting is avoided. To further support your seedlings, consider taking some other preventative measures.
Soil Amendments During Transplant Phase:
To condition the soil prior to transplanting your seedlings, mix SuperFood Mycorrhizae in powder form directly in the soil. Use 1 Tbsp of SuperFood Mycorrhizae per yard of soil.
Mix 1 gallon of water with 100/ml of Microbe Builder and ½ cup of SuperFood Mycorrhizae. Remove your seedling from the Transplanter pot and dip the entire root ball in the mixture immediately before planting in a larger fabric pot or bed. This will help reduce transplant shock.
Once roots are established, your plants begin to focus on new above-ground growth. During this vegetative phase, your plants are growing significantly in height and size overall. Plants are also actively engaged in photosynthesis. Actions taking in this phase ultimately determine the size, shape, and yields of your mature plants. In the vegetative phase, it is critical that your soil and plants have all the nutrients needed for flowering and reproductive growth in the next phase.
Soil Amendments During Vegetative Phase:
Mix 1 gallon of water with 100/ml of Microbe Builder and 1 Tbsp of SuperFood Veg. Apply as a weekly root drench or foliar spray to activate the soil microbiology.
Reproductive (Bloom) Phase
During the reproductive phase (also called bloom or flowering stage), your plants are becoming adults. Vegetative growth will slow as crops develop for harvest. In this phase plants typically need equal amounts of darkness and light, as well as nutrients high in phosphorus to encourage production. See our recommendations below for feeding your soil and plants.
After you have harvested your crop, chop your plants at the soil. This will allow the roots to continue to nourish the microorganisms in the soil during the pre-plant phase before the next growing season.
Soil Amendments During Reproductive Phase:
Mix 1 gallon of water with 100/ml of Microbe Builder and 1 Tbsp of SuperFood Bloom. Apply as a weekly root drench or foliar spray to activate the soil microbiology.
For a printable guide with instructions for each growth phase, download our Microbe & Plant Food Feed Chart.