In nature, healthy soil contains an abundance of beneficial micro-organisms that produce a multitude of enzymes known to accelerate plant growth. The soil, the micro-organisms contained within the soil and the plants that uptake minerals have a synergistic relationship that has been finely tuned over millions of years by evolution.

Enzymes are the glue that hold together this incredibly intricate relationship between minerals, microbes and biological creatures. The role an enzyme plays in these reactions is unique because the enzyme itself is not responsible for the reaction but rather the speed at which it occurs. In this way, enzymes become a biological regulatory system for many of the chemical reactions that affect plant life.

In order to maximize plant growth in an artificial environment, like an indoor garden, scientists and hobbyists are trying to recreate nature to the best of their abilities. Lighting, ventilation and mineral nutrition are the foundation on which any successful indoor garden is built. However, if growers want to advance their indoor gardens even further, they must take additional steps to emulate all of nature’s complexities.

Micro-organisms, vitamins, hormones, amino acids and enzymes are all becoming popular supplements in indoor gardens and this shows the increasing desire to replicate every one of nature’s influences over plant performance. When indoor gardeners realize the important role enzymes play in plant vitality, they immediately want to get started adding them to their fertilizer regiments.

Enzymes are highly selective catalysts made up of amino acids, proteins or RNA. These invaluable biological molecules are responsible for countless chemical reactions that sustain all life. They differ from other catalysts in their selective nature. Enzymes only react with their specific, predetermined substrate. When enzymes are formed they take on a certain shape to ensure that only particular reactions will occur.

The place on the enzyme where the reaction occurs is known as the “active site.” This active site is like a key hole and will only bind to a specific mineral or substrate, the key. Throughout the entire reaction process the enzyme is unchanged. After the reaction has occurred, and the resulting chemical reactions take place, the enzyme is ready for a new reaction.

Just like other catalysts, enzymes are able to increase the rate of chemical reactions by lowering the activation energy required for the given reaction. This is the reason enzyme formulas have become so popular in indoor horticulture, especially in hydroponic systems. By supplementing additional enzymes, growers can ensure they are maximizing the rate at which nutrient absorption can occur.

The two most common ways an indoor horticulturist can supplement enzymes into his or her garden are directly or indirectly. Enzyme formulas that are comprised of the actual enzymes (usually in liquid form) are an example of direct enzyme supplementation.

Adding beneficial microorganisms which, in turn, increase the amount of enzymes present in the medium is an example of indirect supplementation. Even carbohydrate formulas aimed at increasing microbial life in the medium are indirectly influencing the amount of enzymes present.

With the majority of fertilizer manufacturers producing their own enzyme formulations, choosing the right formula for your garden may be confusing. Some enzyme formulas are comprised of a specific enzyme designed for a specific purpose while others are a combination of multiple enzymes.

Many of the popular individual enzyme formulas focus on root stimulation or decomposing dead, organic matter around the rhizosphere. The formulations that use a combination of multiple enzymes are designed to serve a variety of functions, usually targeting the uptake of multiple minerals.

Examine the label on any enzyme formula closely to identify the purpose of the enzyme(s) contained within and the expiration date, as some enzymes have a long shelf life while others may spoil rather quickly. In order to find the best enzyme formula for your garden experimentation is necessary. Don’t be afraid to mix and match manufacturer brands. Enzyme formulas are compatible with virtually all fertilizers on the market.

Direct or indirect supplementation of enzymes is essential to optimizing the performance of an indoor garden. Regardless of the method chosen by the grower, the benefits of enzymes are too valuable to miss out on. With adequate enzyme supplementation, indoor horticulturists can reduce the activation energy required for multiple plant functions and will literally accelerate their indoor garden’s performance and bring their garden to the next level.