Growing Cannabis Indoors Versus Outdoors: 3 Key Differences

Weighing up the pros and cons of each...
MarijuanaBreak Staff / Updated on October 18, 2018

Growing Cannabis Indoors Versus Outdoors: 3 Key Differences

In the grand scheme of things, the prohibition of marijuana is a relatively new state of affairs. Weed is actually one of the world’s oldest crops, with evidence that it was cultivated over 12,000 years ago!

For millennia, it was possible to grow weed in its natural outdoor environment without fear of persecution or prosecution. Alas, this pleasant state of affairs did not last, as marijuana underwent a swift transition from herbal remedy to illicit substance within the last century or so.

It began with a ban by the state of Massachusetts in 1911, and culminated with the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 – which placed cannabis alongside heroin and ecstasy as a Schedule I drug – was the final nail in the coffin.

| “These vile laws against marijuana meant that cannabis production methods were changed significantly.”

In order to stay out of sight, indoor cultivation was adopted to protect the grower. Initially, growers found it tough to succeed when growing indoors, but technological advances soon expanded knowledge of the plant. Eventually, it became possible to grow marijuana indoors just as proficiently as you would outside.

Today, the relaxation of marijuana laws means that growers in regions such as northern California and southern Oregon have the option to grow outside again. If you are an aspiring cannabis farmer but don’t know whether to grow inside or outside, this guide is for you. It provides you with three key differences between growing weed inside and outside, and will help you decide if you prefer the old-fashioned method, or new-world techniques and advanced technology.

Growing Weed Indoors vs Outdoors: A Case of Controlled vs. Natural Climates

The controlled growing environment and stable habitat you enjoy with indoor marijuana cultivation is unquestionably a huge advantage. Imagine having the ability to control temperature, humidity, CO2 production, and lighting. In fact, you don’t need to use your imagination any longer, because it is all possible when you grow indoors.

Indoor Growing – Pros

There is ample information available online that helps you understand the right growing conditions for indoor marijuana. All you need to do is follow the instructions, and you should be rewarded with fast harvests. You can boost the power of the lighting to ensure your crop grows even faster. (Obviously, though, you must ensure your plants don’t get too close to the light).

Rather than waiting for a growing season, you can grow and harvest whenever you like. The lack of seasonal growing also means you can enjoy multiple harvests per year; even a novice farmer can expect to grow a minimum of eight ounces every two months. With 3-4 harvests a year, you’ll end up with a substantial amount of marijuana.

Also, there are special lighting and watering systems available which practically eliminate the majority of risks associated with outdoor cultivation. An increasing number of states allow indoor growing, and it normally makes it easier to abide by the law. For example, in California, your plants must be hidden from public view. That’s a lot easier to do when you grow inside.

Indoor Growing – Cons

Although indoor lighting normally helps you grow aesthetically beautiful flowers with high THC percentages, no light system is a match for the power of the sun. For reference, the sun produces enough energy to power 2,880 trillion light bulbs. It also hits our planet with 35,000 times the amount of energy required by those of us who use electricity on Earth!

As a result, marijuana plants grown in California’s glorious sunlight will dwarf the smaller yields of indoor plants.

It is also a myth that your plants are safer from pests indoors. With no natural protection, your plants are in severe danger if exposed to aphids or spider mites as they can quickly get out of control. As you will see in the next section, growing marijuana indoors also comes with an extremely hefty price tag.

Outdoor Growing – Pros

First and foremost, outdoors is the natural habitat for the cannabis plant. It has been grown outside for tens of thousands of years, and has perfectly adapted to its preferred climate.

| “It is a fact that weed grown outdoors offers a more organic product, with a more pleasant taste and smell.”

Generally speaking, outdoor farms have significantly higher yields than their indoor equivalents.

As you know, all plants require carbon dioxide (CO2) to thrive. This essential gas is easily accessible outdoors. You can replicate or even enhance CO2 levels inside, but that requires a costly ventilation system. Once you plant your weed in the soil, it feeds off the nutrients. This means you must purchase fewer nutrient solutions and fertilizers. From an environmentally friendly perspective, there is no comparison; outdoor crops leave a much smaller carbon footprint.

Although outdoor plants are susceptible to pests and disease, they get help from a natural source in the form of ants, ladybugs, and wasps. These insects prey on mites and other pests. Finally, there are certain types of marijuana which become enormous. You can’t grow a 15-foot plant indoors unless you have access to a warehouse!

Outdoor Growing – Cons

Crops grown outdoors have a longer gestation period, and you are completely reliant on their natural life cycle. As a result, you may not be able to harvest your crop more than once in a year. It is also a fact that nature throws up its fair share of challenges. If your local area is experiencing an unusually dry or wet season, it can play havoc.

For instance, too much rainfall can lead to plant mold and/or bud rot. Excessive heat can also kill your plants. And of course, there is the small matter of things like fires, tornadoes, and storms that can destroy an entire crop in a matter of hours.

Larger predators such as deer are also known to invade fields and ruin cannabis plants, and whether or not you believe in climate change, there is no question that the weather has become less predictable in recent times.

Finally, you may not be legally allowed to grow outdoors. Although states such as Colorado allow it without a commercial license, most states that permit growing only do so with the proviso that it takes place indoors, and out of sight. It is also important to note that regulations and limitations can vary according to city and county – sometimes within the same state.

Prices of Growing Cannabis Indoors Versus Outdoors

There is no question that it is far more expensive to grow marijuana indoors. In fact, first-time growers are routinely shocked by the list of equipment they need. An indoor climate control system can cost thousands of dollars to operate, and if you grow indoors, you have to go through almost continual turnover. Things like pruning, watering, feeding, trellising, and harvesting are just some of the tasks.

Indoor vs Outdoor Marijuana Growing: Price of Indoor Grows

Although you can benefit from several harvests per annum, it means constant work. Lighting alone can be a total bank breaker. We’ve heard stories of home growers who face monthly energy bills of over $4,000!

Also, if you choose a non-soil growing medium, you have to pay for nutrients. Other equipment includes a hygrometer for measuring humidity, a thermometer for ensuring your plants are growing in the ideal temperatures, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, ventilation systems, and much more!

On the plus side, you can hopefully recoup some of the costs because you’ll produce 3-4 harvests a year. Let’s say the strain you grow is $250 an ounce, and you grow 20 ounces per operation, four times a year. You’ll end up with $20,000 worth of cannabis per annum, and will also get to cultivate strains that are not suitable for your local outdoor environment.

However, many states don’t allow home growers to sell weed for profit, so bear that in mind before you set out to become the world’s first billionaire pot grower.

Indoor vs Outdoor Marijuana Growing: Price of Outdoor Grows

Most of your outdoor growing costs will occur during the operation’s start-up. Assuming you live in an ideal climate, you don’t have to concern yourself with the cost of lighting or ventilation systems. If you have fertile soil, you don’t even need to pay for nutrients! However, you will need access to a reasonably large plot of land that is hidden from the public eye.

If you own land already, that’s great news. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay to rent AND ensure the owner doesn’t mind having weed grown on his property. Also, if you have a large operation, you’ll have to hire a few employees. And of course, it is necessary to invest in security measures to protect your crop from things like pests, bad weather, and thieves.

Quality of Cannabis Grown Indoors vs Outdoors

The quality of cannabis grown indoors has improved exponentially. Technological advances and a huge amount of information readily available make it possible for a neophyte gardener to grow fat and juicy buds.

Indoor Growing

All in all, the combination of a controlled environment and the ability to expedite breeding means you end up with stunning strains complete with gorgeous flavors and scents.

As long as you keep your growing environment secure and sterile, indoor cannabis avoids the issues faced by its outdoor counterpart including wind and rain.

As a result, the buds remain in almost perfect condition throughout the growing process and only begin to degrade after harvest. Unless you are a commercial grower, it is easy to harvest when your weed is still in peak condition because you are only dealing with a few plants at a time. The same holds true when drying and curing.

Outdoor Growing

As you’re doubtless aware, outdoor weed is at the mercy of its natural environment. As a consequence, it will probably lack the ‘perfect’ appearance of indoor weed, although it should boast a superior flavor and scent profile

If you have ever seen outdoor grown weed in your local dispensary that looks kind of ‘busted,’ you can probably blame commercial cultivation laws.

Even today, outdoor cannabis farms in states where it is legal still have to worry about being arrested by federal law enforcement.

In states where outdoor growing is not legal at all, even at a state level, growers take enormous risks. The fear of being caught means outdoor cannabis is often harvested at the wrong time while curing and drying is close to non-existent. Rest assured, marijuana grown outdoors legally will look, smell and taste absolutely amazing, as long as the growers follow the right protocols.

Final Thoughts on Indoor vs Outdoor Cannabis Farming

All in all, there is no single ‘right’ answer to the question “Is it better to grow marijuana indoors or outdoors?’

In reality, you simply need to ask yourself which one is best and most convenient for you. If you live in a suitable climate and have access to a decent-sized plot of land that is well secured, you should consider growing indoors. Your start-up costs will be a lot less, and you’ll enjoy organically grown weed once it is harvested.

If you live in an unsuitable climate for growing marijuana, you have little choice but to grow it indoors.

Downsides of indoor growing include extremely high start-up costs, and a ton of maintenance. On the plus side, you can grow several batches of crops per year, and once you get used to indoor farming, you’ll find that it is much easier than you initially imagined.

Today, there has been an increase in commercial greenhouse farming, as it strikes a balance between indoor and outdoor growing. To date, weed grown in this manner has produced high-quality results, which is an exciting development. Above all, it is crucial that you continue to educate yourself if you wish to grow marijuana. Ultimately, the more you learn – and the more you grow – the better the results will become.

Growing Cannabis Indoors Versus Outdoors: 3 Key Differences
October 18, 2018
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1 comment
  1. William
    Costs are exaggerated a little.

    The costs that you state are a little inflated. No offence intended. But I have grown all ways. Including aquaponic. Something you didn’t mention. The outdoors costs can be high if you go to all the stores to buy what you need. I grew 24 plants one year outdoors and the cost was $750.00. That’s ehat I had to do the job and that included rental of a big tiller to lessen labor.
    As for indoor lighting costs. I’ve used HPS , fluorescent, and led. HPS was the most costly thing. Fluorescent lighting T-5 ho cut costs a bit but didn’t produce the fatties your looking for in an indoor grow. I finally went to LED lighting and that is the ticket. LED’s with a full spectrum duel chip set up including a grow phase and a flower stage work the best.
    As for growing medium. I used soil first and for many years. It grows well in soil indoors but are limited by pot size. I tried soilless medium and hydroponic growing. Using advanced nutrients, grow then bloom. Very expensive but very good for hydro. Both of these were fairly costly. And with soil I might add you may bring bugs into your indoor grow and that is extremely hard to cure. I finally went to an aquaponic system with LED lighting and allowed a time of eight months to settle in the fish and the natural process to take hold. This method has been a blessing. No organic chemicals to buy, no medium for roots, and costs for my 6 plants indoors awuponically is about $75.00 per month. I turn 4 crops a year this way.
    Altogether you are right there is no real way of saying what is best but I tend to really like the foavor of properly grown outdoor cannibis. Aquaponic would be next then soil indoor, and finally hydroponic.
    Of course I’ve experimented several ways and yes through the years it was expensive but paid for its self every time. Cannibis is a highly sought after product and quality cannibis is truly hard to find anymore. It’s all mixed up and grows easy because of this.
    One other thing. Indoor has one advantage that I took to the heart. You can grow a cannibis plant that has a 15 week flower period or a 6 week period all with great results.
    Nice article, and very close to the mark. Experience is how you grow good cannibis not money. You can germinate a cannibis seed and plant in right in the soil of your back teas with no costs at all but water and get great cannibis so it’s really how perfect must your cannibis be to suit you is the question.

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