🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur.
High quality cannabis can thrive in both indoor and outdoor gardens. There are pros and cons to either type of garden you choose to establish.
The type of environment you live in, your climate, how much land you have access to, your budget, your main objectives for growing, and previous gardening expertise are all factors to consider. Getting started growing outdoors is relatively easy. As long as you have a plot of ground that gets direct sun exposure for the majority of summer days, it’s likely good enough to cultivate at least a couple of plants outside. If your climate is conducive to growing tomatoes outside, it’s probably a good climate for cannabis.
If climate, sun exposure, access to space, or other environmental factors (like nosy neighbors) inhibit you from putting some plants in the ground outside, setting up an indoor garden may be a better option. Indoor growers are known for their resourcefulness and inventiveness in figuring out how to create specific conditions for cannabis plants to thrive while being removed from their natural environment. From micro grows in 2x2 grow tents to massive operations in warehouses, indoor gardens give cultivators flexibility in design and equipment to replicate the plants’ natural home.
Let’s take a quick look at a few of the inputs needed to setup each type of garden, some considerations you can anticipate, and several pros and cons of both indoor and outdoor cannabis grows.
Indoor gardens offer the grower control over almost every variable of the grow space. The type of lighting, grow medium, airflow, temperature, humidity, and more can all be closely monitored and adjusted based on the plants’ needs. Indoor gardens allow the grower to easily control the light cycle, flipping light exposure to 12/12 any time, which causes the plants to begin flowering.
Grow tents are a great way to get started with indoor growing. These enclosed spaces work like capsules within a larger space, so you can easily fit them into a basement or spare room. They can be outfitted with carbon filters to reduce odors, so the unmistakable smell of blooming cannabis flowers doesn't have to permeate throughout the entire home (unless of course that’s a bonus for you!).
Indoor gardens can be dialed in to the extreme, with all kinds of gear available to both customize and automate the environment. You can even apply advanced grow techniques like hydroponics, which are much harder to set up outside.
But the gear comes with a cost, and therefore setting up an indoor grow space normally requires more of an up-front cost than outdoor gardens. However, if your skills as a grower are up to par, the results will absolutely justify the expense.
Let’s review the pros and cons of the indoor garden:
- Greater ongoing control over environmental variables like temperature, humidity, etc.
- Can produce flower with superior bag appeal
- Don’t have to factor in weather events like rain, sleet, wind, cold/warm fronts, etc.
- Hydro is an option
- Can run 12/12 flowering cycle any time of the year; not dependent on seasonality for flowering
- Cost of running lights, fans, etc. (both economic and environmental)
- No artificial lights can match the full spectrum and power of the sun
- Upfront costs of building grow space
- Cost of equipment higher than outdoor gardens of similar size
Getting started with an outdoor garden can be as simple as germinating a few seeds inside at the end of winter and transplanting the seeds outside in the ground around springtime. All you need is some good soil, consistent sun exposure, and temperatures mild enough to suit common garden crops like tomatoes or peppers. Cannabis can be finicky, but all she really needs is fresh air, lots of sun, moderate climate, and good nutrients. Even if your local soil isn’t in the greatest condition, it’s easy to amend the existing soil with a bag of high quality potting mix.
Most cannabis varieties are photosensitive, meaning they are triggered to begin flowering when the daylight hours of late summer hit 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of darkness. This means that outside, your plants will switch from the vegetative to the flowering phase according to the number of daylight hours. You’ll want to be sure the plants can thrive in your climate for at least 8-9 weeks after the start of flowering. In Northern California for example, flowering begins around mid-summer with a harvest ready by mid-October.
You don’t need a lot of gear to grow cannabis outdoors, which is a major benefit to getting started with outdoor cannabis cultivation. Some good genetics, quality nutrients, and clean soil with good drainage is all you really need. And cannabis needs lots of water, so make sure a reliable water source is nearby.
A greenhouse offers a nice hybrid of indoor and outdoor grow spaces. Hoop greenhouses are a common design and allow for easy light dep modifications. Light dep is a technique to artificially block out the sunlight to induce plants into their flower. Dark plastic is dropped down around the outside of the greenhouse as soon as plants reach 12 hours of sunlight in a day, meaning plants can begin flowering even on long days when there is more than 12 hours of daylight.
Let’s look at some of the other pros and cons of outdoor growing:
- Lower operating costs
- Best light possible - the sun
- Potential for greater yields per plant
- Often a higher terpene content
- At the mercy of weather events (heat waves, wind storms, cold snaps, wildfires, etc.)
- Potential lack of privacy
- More vulnerability to pests, infestations, and diseases
- Hydro not feasible
- Makes a darker bubble hash than indoor
- Need to know and rely on changing seasons/length of days
Both indoor and outdoor gardens have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. One is not necessarily better than the other. The right garden for you depends on your personal situation, overall objectives, budget, climate, and other variables. Any way that you can manage to grow cannabis is a victory.
If you can’t decide which way will be the best way for you to grow cannabis, maybe you should try both! That would be the ideal situation for many growers, to have a garden running indoors and outdoors at the same time. Then you can compare results and see which one you prefer.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Which is better, indoor or outdoor?
One is not necessarily better than the other, it depends on your personal situation, growing objectives, budget, etc. Indoor can offer a lot more control over grow environment and inputs, outdoor requires less equipment and can provide bigger yields.
What’s the best thing about indoor growing?
One of the best things is control of all variables in your growing environment, from temperature to humidity to photocycle (when plants are in vegitatitve stage vs flowering stage).
What’s the worst thing about indoor growing?
Cost of equipment and energy use are a couple of the downsides in an indoor garden.
What’s the best thing about outdoor growing?
One of the best things about outdoor growing is the ability to pull massive yields. The sun is a definite advantage over any artificial light, full spectrum and free.
What’s the worst thing about outdoor growing?
One of the worst things about outdoor growing is vulnerability to weather patterns (drought/heat waves/cold snaps) and pests/diseases.