Cannabis has always been grown outdoors and is one of the oldest agricultural crops to exist. Growing cannabis indoors, however, has been a widespread practice for less than a century and is the result of prohibition. Most advances in cannabis production occurred in the era of indoor cultivation; Hiding from sight was initially a way to protect growers from anti-cannabis laws.
As technology has advanced, the industry has been able to expand its knowledge of the plant by leaps and bounds, and this is true even in areas where outdoor growing has been successful, such as Southern Oregon and Northern California. The differences are not only important for aspiring cannabis growers, but also for consumers who want to compare products grown outdoors or indoors in a store.
How does the environment affect the outcome of a strain, and what considerations should a grower take into account when choosing between the two?
Controlled Climates vs. Natural Climates
There are many reasons to grow indoors rather than outdoors, such as being free to choose where to grow without any limitations and the ability to completely control the growing environment. Controlling temperature , light sources , CO2 production and humidity creates a stable habitat to optimize the growth of your plants without having to risk the effect of external natural elements.
The indoor grower typically finds cosmetically pure flowers with higher THC percentages. On the other hand, no light bulb can produce the same unique light spectrum as the sun, which, in turn, limits indoor gardens with more modest yields and less strong plants. Growing outdoors, however, requires a climate suitable for cannabis production – good sun exposure, warm days, warm nights and low humidity.
Nonetheless, growing indoors has its complications. When the grower tries to create a natural environment in enclosed spaces, there are factors in the natural process that cannot be replicated. For example, plants grown outside have substantial help against mites from natural predators that share their habitat. Wasps, ants and ladybugs are some of the “ natural helpers ” that keep the mite population at bay.
Indoors, the grower cannot hope to fully mimic the natural environment, which is incredibly complicated. If mites were to appear in an indoor grow space, they could pose a challenge to control. With ever-increasing consumer concerns about the rampant use of pesticides and insecticides, some growers may find it interesting to learn about the trade-offs of growing outdoors.
The Price of Growing Cannabis Indoors vs. on the outside
Both indoor and outdoor grows require substantial upfront costs , but the difference becomes apparent in the long run. Using the necessary climate control systems indoors can cost a small fortune, while most of the costs associated with growing outdoors are incurred at the start of the operation.
Labor costs for the two types of garden also vary drastically. With constant turnover in an indoor garden, there is always work to be done. Pruning, trellising, watering, feeding and harvesting are ongoing and more demanding jobs for smaller crops. Outdoors, the grower works on a single field throughout the season. Many companies with large productions can employ up to four full-time employees until harvest, when additional workers need to be hired.
The high cost of indoor cultivation could be recovered through breeding projects, year-round harvests and high-quality products that have greater sales appeal. Additionally, indoor environments allow growers to grow strains not otherwise suited outdoors for their local environment and climate. However, as the cost of energy rises and there is an ever-increasing demand for more flowers on the market, outdoor growing may be able to supply the market with quality products at a more reasonable price.
Quality of Cannabis Grown Indoors vs. on the outside
Indoor grown flowers have long been recognized as high-quality products. Being able to control your environment and speed up reproduction has resulted in aesthetically beautiful strains with magnificent flavor profiles. Introducing higher levels of CO2 than the natural environment increases bud growth and produces THC levels that are difficult to achieve outdoors.
Plus, cannabis grown indoors doesn't have to deal with rain , wind, or any other natural elements that can damage an outdoor crop. The buds remain in perfect condition and only begin to degrade when they begin to be handled. The scale of most indoor operations generally allows the crops to be harvested in the best conditions, and the product to be cared for in a controlled climate.
The flower grown outdoors is, of course, subject to the vagaries of the natural environment . While the final product may not look quite as perfect, the flavor, effects, and aroma should still all be present. Some consumers think that organic cannabis grown in sunlight is preferable to the perfect-looking indoor-grown alternative.
Many stereotypes about outdoor-grown cannabis exist for one key reason: legality. Much of the outdoor-grown cannabis seen by consumers has gone through extensive post-harvest mistreatment. Many cannabis farms must take risks to grow their product, in part due to conflicts between state and federal laws. As a result, harvest is often rapid, care is almost non-existent , and aggressive management is required to get it to market. As laws change, outdoor facilities are able to take more time to treat plants, and the market should therefore experience an increase in the quality of outdoor grows.
Recently there has been a progressive affirmation of greenhouse cultivation for commercial purposes, which seeks a balance between the two methods. This style of cultivation is producing some quality results, which is exciting to see in this emerging industry. As we have seen, all growing styles offer positive and negative sides, and, both as a consumer and a producer, it is always important to continue to inform yourself. Break out of your routine to try something new, and keep an open mind.