Despite legal cannabis growth being a recent advent in the United States, globally, it’s nothing new. While the vast majority has been public and outdoors, that doesn’t mean that outdoor growing is a better choice. To decide whether you should grow indoors or out, you need to understand both the benefits and the detriments, and consider them in relation to your specific business situation.
Growing outdoors allows cultivators to produce large amounts of cannabis for the simple reason that they’re not limited by square footage — if you have the land available, you can plant on it. Not using a greenhouse or indoor growing space also saves lots of money when first starting up.
Cannabis grows like a “weed.” It has evolved to hazard some tough environments, and even to flourish in them. This includes developing quick grow periods, a tough stock, and more. All of these adaptations are great for the plant’s survival in the wild, but not always for a grower in the marijuana business. For instance, if female cannabis plants are stressed, they may produce seeds early to protect the next generation of plants and grow more quickly when weather fluctuates, resulting in a lower trichrome content.
Other problems with outdoor growing arise when you’re trying to reliably maintain a consistent product. If the growing season is especially dry or wet, hot or cold, then your crops will fall short of the standard you set when the weather is ideal. Additionally, you can only grow and harvest during the natural growing and blooming seasons of your particular cannabis strain, limiting your supply.
While the minimal investment cost to get started may be appealing, the lack of environmental control means you can’t ensure an adequate product come harvest time.
Indoor cultivation of cannabis (link in a 5×5 grow tent) requires precise environmental controls to create the right growing conditions for your crops, giving it the highest overhead cost of all growing methods.
For all of the meticulous details you must track when growing indoors, it has a few significant benefits:
- Clean environment:
- Indoors, you have complete control of your environment. As long as you maintain it, you will have a very hygenic space to grow in. This is even more important for growing marijuana for medicinal use.
- Climate control:
- You have absolute control over the climate — including the humidity, temperature, oxygen, and carbon dioxide present in the room — in order to create the perfect growing environment.
- Light deprivation:
- Controlling the photoperiods of your crops allows you to spur faster growth and trick your plants into blooming on cue. You can initiate multiple harvests per year through controlled light exposure, similar to the light deprivation growing you would be practicing with a greenhouse. It’s also wise to use some form of Home Automation lighting in this setup.
Greenhouse cannabis cultivation is a happy middle ground between outdoor and indoor growing, blending a number of advantages from each extreme. Greenhouse growing costs less than indoor growing, but allows for year-round growing and harvesting, unlike outdoor growing. Greenhouses are often associated with having an inferior product compared to indoor growing, but if you install growing lights and use them as supplemental lighting on cloudy days, you won’t lose any plant growth.
The advantages that greenhouses provide include:
- Climate control:
- Like with indoor growing, you have complete control of the humidity, temperature, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other aspects that could affect your plants.
- Light deprivation / lighting control:
- A popular method of growing for all types of crops, light deprivation allows you to double your harvest by growing out of season. You do this by manipulating the light exposure your plants receive. Plants and animals react in specific ways to certain amounts of light exposure. You can use this to spur growth, or to signal your plants to begin to bud/blossom. Control of photoperiods allows you to grow multiple harvests in a single growing season.
- Unlike with indoor growing, you can use the sun when the weather permits, and grow lights when skies are too overcast or you are growing out of season. You can also extend the normal photoperiod the cannabis receives in order to maintain a vegetative state.
- Cost savings:
- While more expensive than outdoor growing, greenhouse growing provides the same product consistency as indoor growing without the exorbitant overhead costs. You save money on lighting by utilizing sunshine, on air filtration, and on other aspects of growing.
Which Should I Use?
It depends. If you are located in an area with the perfect climate for growing weed and are looking for the least expensive option available, you’ll want to grow outdoors. If the cost is no concern and you want complete control over every aspect of growing, grow indoors. If you want a reliable, consistent compromise between those two extremes, use a greenhouse.