If you’re interested in starting your own cannabis garden, you’re probably wondering where to begin. The most important thing to consider before you buy seeds or make any purchases is what you want your garden (and your overall experience) to look like. Luckily, you have a couple of options. Whether you grow weed indoors or outdoors is up to you, but you should still be aware of the pros and cons that come along with each method. Here’s everything you need to know about growing weed indoors vs outdoors.
Benefits of indoor growing
There’s a lot to love about growing weed indoors. People who grow indoors have better control over the environment their plants grow in, which can make for higher quality bud at the end of your cycle. Indoor grows may also protect your plants from the harsh climate outdoors as well as prying eyes and pests. We’re breaking all of that down below.
1. Better control over climate than outdoors
Cannabis requires specific lighting, temperature and humidity levels to thrive and produce big swollen buds. With an indoor grow, you can utilize lots of technology and equipment to create the perfect environment for your plants. You can control your lighting with a timer, run a humidifier with a sensor, utilize fans to cool lights and reduce odors, fans to simulate wind for stronger branches, and air conditioners to keep things at the ideal temperature. You can fully automate your indoor grow to ensure the perfect environment for your plants at all times.
2. Indoor plants are better protected from the elements, pests and diseases
Running a grow indoors means a safer environment for your plants. Outdoors, plants are at the mercy of nature, and can be eaten by bugs or foraging animals, destroyed in a freak storm, or catch a disease. Inside, you don’t have to worry about that. Your indoor grow will run in a tent or in a spare room to keep the weather out as well as pets. While it isn’t unheard of for indoor plants to get sick or get bugs, the risk is significantly lower than it would be outdoors. Just be sure to clean yourself and wash your hands before entering the grow, and don’t wear the shoes you wear outside into your grow room.
3. Indoor plants are safer from prying eyes
Indoor grows are much more discreet than outdoor grows, especially during the harvesting season. In your home, your plants are protected from people who might want to take them or destroy them. More importantly, you can control the smell indoors with a carbon filter. Outdoor grows during the harvest season can be smelled from miles away, which can be risky depending on where you live and how you’re growing. Indoor grows are usually hidden from sight and odor-controlled, making them the superior option if you’ve got discretion on your mind.
4. Indoor grows produce higher quality flowers at harvest
Indoor grows are known for a better finished product. Because you have so many different growing techniques at your disposal with an indoor grow, it’s easier to flush the plants for harvesting and drying. If your goal is to grow a high-quality medical strain, indoors is the way to grow. Outdoor plants usually have to be washed thoroughly to remove bugs and other impurities before they’re safe to smoke. Indoor plants on the other hand are usually free from pests and dirt.
5. You can keep an indoor grow in perpetual harvest
The final benefit of growing weed indoors vs outdoors is that you can keep your grow running nonstop. Outdoor plants can only utilize one growing season, but indoor plants can be harvested and replaced with clones fresh out of veg. With that said, you can keep your grow room in perpetual flowering and cut your harvest time to every 3-4 months. While you’ll get smaller yields with an indoor grow compared to outdoor plants, you’ll get to harvest more plants so it balances out. To keep your indoor grow in perpetual flowering, you can cut clones from your plants before you flip them into the flowering stage. You can keep those clones in the vegetative cycle until you harvest your flowering plants, and then immediately replace them with the clones you’ve been vegging.
A few drawbacks of indoor growing
There’s good and bad in everything, and growing weed indoors is no exception. Here are a few potential downsides of growing indoors to be aware of— they may make or break your comfort and experience.
1. Space is limited in indoor grows
Indoor grows are typically set up in a spare room or in a grow tent. These areas can be cramped, so oftentimes people opt to grow a few large plants instead of several smaller ones. You don’t want your plants fighting over light and space because each of your plants could produce different yields. You might get one super high yielder, but the rest won’t reach their potential. You also have to consider the equipment you’ll have taking up space in your grow and have enough room to walk around your plants to provide them with the care they need during their growth. With limited space, many people simply have to grow less plants.
2. Indoor grows are more expensive to build and run than outdoor grows
Cost is another important factor when comparing indoor vs outdoor growing. Indoor grows are significantly more expensive than outdoor grows, especially at first. To run an indoor grow, you need to buy lights, ducting and ventilation, fans, air conditioners, humidifiers, trellis netting, pots, soil, or hydroponics systems and trays. With everything plus the cost of seeds or clones, electricity and water, you’re up for spending a pretty large investment up front and throughout your growing cycle. You may also not see a return on your investment for a few harvests. However, the ROI eventually catches up if you stick with it.
3. Indoor grows tend to yield a little lower than outdoor grows
Because of limited space and the power of artificial lighting, many indoor grows see lower yields compared to outdoor grows. That’s not to say that you won’t have high yields, though— you definitely will. But if you’re looking to pull down football sized colas once a year, you might want to opt for an outdoor grow. Keep in mind also that while you may experience a smaller harvest, you’ll be able to harvest more times every year than outdoor grows, so it kind of levels out.
4. You’ll spend more time in an indoor grow than an outdoor grow.
If you go for an indoor grow, expect to spend a lot of time in there. Unless you automate your watering system, you’ll be in there every day making sure your plants are being watered. You’ll need to check in frequently to make sure the room isn’t getting too hot or too cold, and you’ll need to top and train your plants so they don’t grow into the lights and burn your colas. During veg and flowering, they’ll need to be weaved through trellis netting to keep their growth manageable regularly, and you may need to spend time in there trimming, diagnosing problems within the soil or nutrients. Indoor grows can be a lot more finicky than outdoor grows, so if you want something hands-off, you might want to choose an outdoor grow instead.
Benefits of outdoor growing
Like growing indoors, there’s a lot to like about growing outdoors too. Compared to indoor growing, outdoor grows don’t need nearly as much attention and they’re cheaper to build and run. More importantly, your plants have the room to spread out so they can grow to massive sizes, making them better yielders. Many growers swear by sun-grown weed claiming it tastes and feels better, too. We’re going more in-depth about that below.
1. Outdoor grows require less hands-on attention than indoor grows
Outdoor grows are usually just fine on their own when you let nature take the wheel. With an outdoor grow, you’re going to see massive plants and won’t really need to do much of anything for them outside of watering during dry spells. You may need to trim here and there to make sure water leaves aren’t going to cover bud nodes, or foliar spray organic pesticides to protect your crops, but at the end of the day they really don’t need much at all. This is a huge benefit over indoor grows that require a lot of hands-on attention.
2. It’s cheaper to build and run an outdoor grow
An outdoor grow is pretty simple. You just need some good soil, seeds and access to water. Like any outdoor garden, you might want something to protect the plants from hazardous weather conditions and build a fence to keep out foraging animals or other people. Since you won’t need artificial lighting or cooling and humidity systems, you’ll save a bundle on startup costs as well as electricity. Overall, growing weed outdoors is a lot cheaper than indoor grows, and you’ll usually see a significant return on your investment with the first or second harvest.
3. Outdoor grows allow for massive plants and higher yields than indoor grows
Outdoor plants grow insanely large. With optimal weather conditions and genetics, you could pull up to 17 ounces from a single plant. That’s incredible compared to the 5-ounce maximum from indoor plants. That said, there’s still a risk that you get no yield from an outdoor grow if you go with a bare-bones outdoor setup that won’t protect your plants from a big storm, high winds, fires, or hail. Outdoor grows are considered high-risk, high reward. But it’s worth it if you don’t have a lot of capital to start with.
4. Sunlight promotes better flavors than artificial light
Many professional growers swear that cannabis grown outdoors under sunlight tastes and smells better. Sunlight contains light rays that artificial lights don’t emit. Some of these light waves play a big role in the production of the resin glands that produce both terpenes and THC, so with that in mind, the more natural light your plants produce, the more potent and flavorful your final harvest may be.
A few drawbacks of outdoor growing
Like indoor grows, outdoor grows do come along with a few cons of their own. Here are a few other things to consider when trying to choose which growing method might be best for you.
1. Outdoor grows can only be harvested once per year
Unlike indoor grows which can be kept in a perpetual harvest and pulled down several times a year, outdoor cannabis can only be harvested once per year. Cannabis is an annual plant, which means that it will grow and die in one season, typically from spring to fall. During this time, the plants can become massive and produce a large amount of flowers by harvest, but you won’t be able to grow a second crop until the following year. That said, the yields between both indoor and outdoor grows per year are pretty close.
2. Outdoor grows are riskier than indoor grows
Outdoor plants are at the mercy of mother nature, and lots of things can go wrong. The weather can make or break your entire grow, as temperatures, humidity levels, and rain (or lack thereof) can stunt growth. Outdoor plants are also exposed to the elements, so they might look like a tasty snack for foraging animals and insects. You could also deal with storms and flooding, fires, hail, and other things that could wreck your entire operation. With proper planning, you can protect your plants from a lot of these potential threats, though.
3. Outdoor grows are much less discreet than indoor grows.
Outdoor plants are significantly harder to hide. Their size is one thing, but their scent is another. Indoor grows can be vented and the air can be scrubbed with a carbon filter to reduce odors, but outdoor grows don’t have that option. Right before harvest, they are extremely pungent and noticeable from large distances. That can be an issue for pests and animals as well as people who may want to steal your plants or destroy them. You’ll want to invest in some security measures to protect your crop, but if you’re in an area with a lot of neighbors, you’ll likely want to opt for an indoor grow instead.
At the end of the day, both options are fantastic, but whether you opt for an indoor vs outdoor grow comes down to how much money you have for upfront costs, how much time you can dedicate to your grow, and whether or not you want to take a risk with the weather. Use this guide to compare the prose and cons of indoor vs outdoor grows and choose the option that makes the most sense for you.