To stunt is to slow or hinder. Some people say that drinking coffee will stunt your growth when you're a teenager — they worry that you won't grow any taller.
Poor nutrition can stunt your growth, and bad soil will do the same for a plant — a lack of moisture or nutrients will stunt the development of your lettuce or tomatoes. Another meaning of stunt is a dangerous trick, the kind performed in an action movie or by planes in an air show. The root of "check the growth" is the Old English stunt, "short witted or foolish," while the "trick" kind of stunt comes from nineteenth century American college slang.