Indoor vs. Outdoor Growing: What’s the Difference?

When cannabis was first cultivated thousands of years ago, it was grown outdoors in natural sunlight that allowed Mother Nature to do her thing. For centuries things stayed the same. Plant a seed and watch it grow. When cannabis was criminalized however, prohibition meant people had to take their pot growing indoors. Out of sight, out of mind became the motto for those who still wanted to grow weed.

LED lights can be used to growGrow lights replaced natural sunlight, and basements, attics, spare bedrooms, and closets across the country became the land cannabis had grown freely on for years. Growing indoors allowed for cannabis farmers to manipulate their environment. They were able to give their plants the best possible environment, rather than rely on ever-changing outdoor conditions.

As the industry has exponentially expanded over the past couple decades, the technology that makes it possible for growers to cultivate the finest cannabis crops has expanded as well. The difference between indoor and outdoor crops isn’t only something important to ambitious growers, but to industry professionals who want to offer consumers the best possible product. 

Indoor Growing Allows for a Controlled Environment

When you grow marijuana indoors you have complete control over the environment. An indoor garden allows for control over light, temperature, humidity, CO2 production, and protection from harsh elements. Growers that cultivate indoors will harvest pristinely perfected pot plants that are high in THC.

No matter how perfect plants turn out, there is a drawback to indoor cultivation. There isn’t anything as powerful as natural sunlight to make plants produce high yields. Indoor gardens are notorious for producing immaculate plants. Yields, however, are typically much lower than they are from outdoor grows.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cannabis Quality

Grow Cannabis with CO2There’s a long-held notion that indoor product is far more superior to anything grown outside. Remember, growing indoors allows for complete control of the environment and often results in immaculate marijuana plants. There’s no rain, hail, snow, or wind that can possibly do any damage to cannabis plants when they’re grown inside. This results in gorgeous ganja plants that are visually pleasing with strong flavor and aroma profiles.

Because of this, indoor cannabis is typically believed to be of higher quality than bud grown outside. Outdoor plants must contend with the natural environment, compensating for the elements that are uncontrollable. This can cause plants not to look as “pretty” as their indoor counterparts. The effects, however, should be very much the same if plants are given the nutrients and attention they need. Flavor and aroma should also remain similar to indoor plants, especially when growers take the time to properly cure their final product.

Something else to consider with indoor growing quality is the industrial pesticides and fertilizers that are required to keep pests at bay. While indoor growing does offer a pristine environment for plants to flourish, it also allows for unwanted pests to flourish. Without the natural predators of ants, ladybugs, and wasps you’d find in an outdoor environment that keep mites away, these pests can flourish in an indoor space. With many consumers looking for organic products cultivated without the use of harmful pesticides, several growers choose to grow outside and let nature do its thing. 

The Cost of Growing Indoors vs. Outdoors

The Cannabis world has changed a lot since 2016While growing indoors might seem like a viable option to many would-be cannabis farmers, the costs of growing indoors can be atrocious. Startup costs for both ventures can become expensive, but the costs of indoor growing far outweigh those associated with an outdoor grow.

For an indoor grow setup, the cost to set up a 6×6 foot space can run close to $2000 depending on the equipment you purchase. Then there is the cost of electricity to run your electricity. This can cost up to $1000 or more depending on utility costs in your area.

If you’re looking at a smaller space to set up, a grow tent kit can help get you on your way. A 2x2x5 foot grow tent kit will allow you to have 2-4 plants grown in 1-3-gallon pots. Utilities would be less expensive than a larger indoor grow however you’ll end up harvesting less cannabis in the end. Grow tent kits cost less than $1000 and are an investment you can take with you wherever you go.

Outdoor grows also require a substantial start-up cost but won’t cost much to maintain. The natural sun replaces the electricity you pay for. Higher yields replace smaller indoor harvests.

Environmental Impact

Indoor grow energy consumption is equivalent to putting 3 million more cars on the roadFor cannabis growers who want to reduce their environmental impact, outdoor growing is the better option. Indoor cannabis production consumes a substantial amount of energy. A 2011 study found that indoor cannabis grows are responsible for 1 percent of the nation’s total energy supply. And while that might not sound like a lot, it is. The amount of energy to power indoor cannabis grows across the country is equal to about $5 million. It’s also enough energy to power 2 million average homes.

When you consider that indoor cannabis cultivation energy is parallel to putting 3 million more cars on the road, you get a clearer picture of just how much energy it really consumes. For gardeners who are doing their best to do what’s right for the planet and keep things green, an outdoor grow will consume far less energy than an indoor setup.

No matter where you grow it, indoors under lights or outside with plenty of fresh sunshine, weed is still weed. There are some major differences regarding an indoor and outdoor product, but what works for one grower won’t always work for the next. Not everyone who wants to grow weed has the outdoor space to do so. And not everyone has the means to invest in an indoor setup.

Each style of cultivation has its pros and cons. As a producer of cannabis, it’s important to keep yourself educated and informed. Knowing the difference between indoor and outdoor cannabis is a step towards understanding what works for you personally, whether growing for commercial production or cultivating for personal use.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Growing: What’s the Difference? was last modified: by
Jen Keehn

About the author: Jen Keehn is a Colorado-based writer focused on inspiring others to live their best lives. She writes regularly about recreational and medical cannabis, holistic health, addiction, and psychedelic therapy.