Should I add CO2 to my garden?

Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, occurs naturally in the environment and works to help plants to create energy. CO2 does not directly supply the plant with energy, but allows for the plant to create its own source of fuel. CO2 is taken in through the plant's stomata where it meets with a water molecule. The CO2 and H2O molecules bind, forming a sugar molecule and oxygen. The sugar molecule works to help fuel plant functions, such as growth, while the oxygen molecule is released through the stomata into the environment.

CO2 occurs in the environment at a rate of about 300-400 PPM, however the plant can use up to five times as much CO2. When introduced to greater levels of CO2, a plant will begin to grow at an accelerated rate. Because of this expedited growth, the plant will also consume extra amounts of water and nutrients with increased CO2 levels. The introduction of CO2 can increase yields anywhere from 20%-100% when all other needs are met. CO2 is not a miracle addition to a garden and will not cure poor gardening practices. In order for CO2 to be effective all major aspects of the plant's needs must first be met (some examples of these needs include: proper watering, humidity, temperature, pH and nutrients).

There are two main ways to add CO2 to an indoor garden: a CO2 injector or a CO2 burner. A CO2 injection system runs off of a CO2 tank, release valve, a CO2 monitor and a regulator. The amount released depends on the size of the room and size of the plants. This option is best for smaller rooms because it takes a little while for the CO2 to penetrate the entire room. Injection system are one of the most inexpensive ways to add CO2 to an indoor garden. One drawback of this type of system is that the cylindars need to be refilled relatively often, which means several trips back and forth to a supplier.

For larger rooms or a more permanent CO2 solution, some growers chose a CO2 burner. The CO2 generator systems burn either liquid propane or natural gas and produce CO2 from the system itself. Although these systems are more costly than injection systems intitially, they eliminate the need to refill cylinders and can be a more cost effective option for long term use. However, it is important to monitor the temperature and humidity when using a generator because it can cause both of these environmental factors to rise quickly.

Another option is the use of quick dissolving CO2 tablets. Compacted pucks are placed in a small amount of water where they fizz and dissolve. As the puck dissipates, it releases small amounts of CO2 into the environment, lasting about 6-8 hours.This option is good for a small number of plants in a small area and only requires a small container of water to work. However, this system is the least consistent and it may be difficult to monitor the exact levels of CO2 being released. Also, the pucks can be expensive especially when used for a long period of time.