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Indoor Garden 101

Environment, Air Temperature & Humidity

Most plants grow well with room temperatures between 50° and 90°F, with a median temperature of about 75°F. Your specific plant's needs will vary: think about where your species of plant originates and try to recreate a similar environment. Plants also need a certain amount of water vapor, or humidity, in the air to help control transpiration (breathing) and prevent wilting. On average, a relative humidity between 25 and 75 percent is good, with the median range around 50 percent. If your room is too hot or too humid for you, it is probably too hot and humid for your plants. Excess heat and humidity should be vented away from the growing area with exhaust fans. Alternatively, you can add a heater if the air is too cold, or a humidifier if the air is too dry. Environmental control equipment can be used to turn on fans when temperature or humidity rises, then turn them off when levels have dropped. You can also use a small circulation fan in your garden area. This fan can run all the time to provide air movement around the plants, strengthening plant stems and providing fresh air to the stomata (the calls on the undersides of leaves where the plant "breathes").

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is probably one of the most overlooked requirements for good plant growth. Plant respiration is opposite of human respiration—they breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. Normal air contains 300-400 ppm of CO2, but growing plants quickly use this amount when confined to a small space. If you exchange your air regularly—by using a vent fan to bring in fresh air and another fan to exhaust stale air—you can usually give your indoor plants a CO2 level similar to what they would have outdoors. However, if you add much greater amounts of CO2 to the air you can speed up photosynthesis, resulting in faster growth and greater yields. For every increase in CO2 up to 1500 ppm, there is an increase in growth rate. This is called the "point of diminishing return," after which point each increase causes a corresponding decrease in growth rate. You can add CO2 to your grow room by installing a CO2 tank with a regulator and a solenoid valve, then attach this unit to a timer to disperse measured amounts of CO2 at regular intervals. Always place distribution tubing above your plants because CO2 is heavier than air and "falls" as soon as it leaves the tubing. You can also introduce CO2 using special generators which run off natural gas or propane. Test kits are available to determine how much CO2 is in your air.

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