In 2006, only about one third of American adults supported the legalization of cannabis. In only ten years, that figure has ballooned to 57%. This increased public acceptance of cannabis has led to some newfound curiosity about gardening. There are even startups devoted to manufacturing high-tech kits that help you grown your own. Successful cannabis cultivation takes practice, though, and there’s no substitute for the trial and error involved in the very personal and intense process of harvesting a successful batch.
If you’re just getting started, you’ll have to consider the setting in which you want to grow (although depending on where you live, that choice may already have been made for you). There’s no shortage of step-by-step growing guides out there, but the below is a comparison of the merits of growing cannabis indoors vs. successfully nurturing it outdoors.
Growing cannabis indoors has the obvious advantage of full control over your growing conditions. Advanced equipment like high-intensity lights and moisture gauges allow you to fine-tune the environment for maximum yield. Whereas ambient outdoor sunlight can be unpredictable, timed lighting can assure a minimum of 18 hours of light each day. Automated controls can also guarantee that plants thrive at a consistent temperature between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
This level of control creates the possibility of genetic innovation. Once you’ve grown prime specimens of two exemplary strains, you can use the pollen of a male plant to fertilize a female. Since creating a stable hybrid strain from scratch can be an unreliable process, versatile indoor conditions will ensure the greatest chance of success in growing a viable sample. Moreover, since hybrids can have uncertain genetic stability and can vary in their demands for light and temperature, the ability to fine-tune your growing environment will make the process of trial and error in crossbreeding much more forgiving.
Posing a challenge to Mother Nature’s aesthetic value, it’s often said that cannabis grown indoors is much more visually appealing than that grown outdoors.
Outdoors flowers can appear darker and have a very loose bud structure, having taken a beating from unpredictable variables like rain or periods of drought. Indoor buds are typically more robust, though, and have a more distinctive smell and flavor. Indoor growing definitely lends itself to a more holistic, almost gourmet smoking experience.
Beyond its physical qualities, indoor cannabis may also result in a more psychoactive high. All plants need a degree of carbon dioxide in order to grow properly. While a given outdoor environment only contains a finite amount of the gas, an unlimited supply of carbon dioxide can be used to supplement an airtight indoor grow operation, increasing plant growth by up to 30% and broadening the surface area of cannabis leaves, thereby increasing the potential yield of trichomes for maximum THC production.
Finally, growing indoors has the valuable benefit of discretion. Unfortunately, even in regions where cultivation of cannabis plants is legal, growers have experienced overzealous raids by local law enforcement. Theft of mature flowers or even of clipping for clones can also be a concern. In an outdoor environment, the plant’s notoriously pungent odor, along with the height of some sativa strains, can be quick tip-off for those who might want to thwart or rob your growing efforts. A dedicated grow room can sidestep these concerns by keeping your harvest airtight.
Apparatus’ like carbon filters can even help by preventing odors from spreading through the vents in a building.
The one significant drawback of growing cannabis indoors is the high cost involved. Getting off the ground with a suite of medium-grade cannabis can run upwards of $1 million dollars when factoring in equipment like bulbs, fans, air filters, humidifiers, specialty soil and nutrients. Making new growers reconsider the sustainability of maintaining an indoor plot — especially considering that laws governing cultivation for personal use prevent growers from selling their product to offset costs.
Humboldt County, California is a testament to the quality of commercial-grade, natural, sun-grown cannabis. Sitting in the state’s northwest corner, the region is a former logging community that attracted the attention of horticultural-minded hippies in the 1960s.
Humboldt now plays host to thousands of acres of plants and has become a byword for potent West Coast weed.
Cannabis farmers in Humboldt may be so successful because they’ve hit on a concept that their neighbors to the south in Napa have known for decades. “Terroir” is a term that describes the character imparted to a plant by the land on which it’s grown — just like some varieties of California wine might retain a clean, mineral-like taste carried over from a vineyard’s soil, certain strains of cannabis grown outdoors might have an indefinable woody or fruity flavor, inherent to their point of origin. Strawberry Cough, for example, allegedly originated from a single scrawny plant that grew adjacent to a strawberry patch.
After all, cannabis has grown wild around the world for thousands of years, a fact that’s easily forgotten in the midst of meticulously-controlled crossbreeding of individual strains. The building blocks of our endless hybrids, landraces like Afghani and Jamaican are prized for their distinctive tastes and highs.
Inflexibility is the biggest disadvantage of growing outdoors. Since cannabis requires a consistent temperature and a powerful yet indirect source of light, options are very much limited by climate and geography; and even in places that are conducive to growing, there’s a short window for crops — the cultivation period ranges from May at the earliest through November at the latest. Beyond these logistical concerns, there are qualitative drawbacks for outdoor growers as well. In contrast to the picture-perfect, shelf-ready plants grown under controlled conditions,
Bud grown outside can be darker in color, prone to mold, and more difficult to cure.
Perhaps most importantly, a sudden cold snap can threaten a plant’s potency by freezing trichomes, making them liable to break right off the bud.
Although, there are no guarantees in the weed growing game one thing is certain, weed is here to stay.