If you’ve ever been in a room full of pot farmers, you’ve likely been a part of the debate about indoor vs outdoor weed. Especially if you live on the west coast, where the opinion on this topic is still going strong among old-school and new-school growers.
Advanced technology has made indoor gardening much easier, but there is also something to be said about cannabis nurtured by the sun. The truth is, there’s no better way to cultivate cannabis, but there are certainly some differences in the end product, as well as the path to get there.
Indoor vs Outdoor Weed: Compared
It’s important to remember that a skilled grower can cultivate award-winning cannabis in either environment. One is not undeniably known to produce better weed than the other. However, many physical differences tend to stand out when comparing indoor vs outdoor cannabis.
Bud size is a good visual clue to identifying how the weed was grown. Outdoor buds are usually bigger, with chunkier buds all around. They may be a bit more larfy than the compact buds from an indoor grow. You can check the stem if you are still unsure. Outdoor buds will have a much thicker stem than indoor buds.
Another visual clue when comparing is the color of the buds. Outdoor cannabis is almost always darker, and if the buds were not handled properly after harvest, they tend to turn brown while curing. Indoor buds are usually brightly colored.
If the marijuana strain has purple leaves, the buds themselves will often be a lovely shade of light purple, whereas the outdoor buds would be a deeper shade of purple. Light vs dark is a good identifier all around when distinguishing between indoor and outdoor buds. Just remember that outdoor is darker (including stems, leaves, and buds), and indoor is lighter.
If you want to take a closer look, check out the trichomes. These are the tiny, shiny, bulbous crystals spotted throughout the flowers of the cannabis plant. The trichomes produce the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that determine each cultivar’s unique characteristics and effects.
Indoor cannabis tends to have more visible and intact trichomes because they are not exposed to the same environmental conditions as outdoor cannabis. They will never experience wind or rain, and their entire growing cycle is controlled to deliver just the right amount of light needed at all times.
Because of this, they are usually covered in more glistening trichomes. Outdoor buds are still ripe with trichomes but are not as densely populated on each bud.
Some people believe that indoor buds are always more potent than outdoor buds, but this is just another cannabis myth. Although the trichome density might be more prevalent on indoor buds, it doesn’t always result in a higher cannabinoid profile.
In fact, Sunna Ra Acres decided to test this theory by growing indoor and outdoor plants cloned from the same mother plants. In their repeated experiments, the outdoor cannabis had a higher cannabinoid profile every time. The only explanation for this is that even the most advanced lighting systems cannot replicate the natural sun.
However, it’s worth noting that Sunny Ra Acres grows in an ideal climate in Southern Oregon. Therefore, this may not be the case in all climates when comparing indoor vs outdoor cannabis.
Sunna Ra Acres’ experiments weren’t just looking at the cannabinoids. They were also exploring the terpene profiles. Again, their results seemed to show that the sun enhanced the amount of terpene content on the outdoor buds. Since terpenes are responsible for the flavor and aroma of a bud, this is a big win for the outdoor vs indoor weed debate.
However, it’s worth noting that terpenes are volatile compounds and can quickly degrade or become damaged during the drying and curing process. Since indoor cannabis spends its entire life cycle in a controlled environment, the precious terpenes may be more securely preserved. This can all be mitigated by extra care taken during harvest and attention to detail in the post-harvest processes.
As mentioned above, the buds on indoor vs outdoor weed are different in density. This physical variance affects the trimming process, and everyone that has ever spent a day trimming will tell you they prefer hardy buds to larfy nugs.
Generally speaking, outdoor growers spend less time trimming on average. Not because they care less about their end product, but because they are usually harvesting significantly more cannabis by the pound than indoor growers. Hand trimming is an expensive labor cost that can take weeks and even months after harvest.
The average outdoor plant will yield roughly five to 10 pounds per plant, whereas an indoor plant will yield between one-half to two pounds per plant. Because of this, outdoor weed might end up with a leafier trim job, and indoor weed might be more highly manicured.
Indoor Weed Grow
Indoor grows are an excellent option for home gardeners looking to try their hand at cannabis cultivation and grow marijuana at home. Especially if you have limited space or cannot grow in a yard or on your property. It’s also an attractive option for large-scale producers who need to have cannabis available for processing year-round. Let’s check out some of the pros and cons of indoor cannabis cultivation.
There is much more flexibility with an indoor grow. While you can build out a state-of-the-art grow room, you can also grow in a modified garage or even closet for ultimate discretion. And what’s even better? You can grow indoor weed any time of year.
Feel like starting a crop in Alaska in January? No problem! Indoor grows offer shorter grow time and the option for perpetual harvest. The highly controlled environment means that you can finely tune the conditions as you learn more about cultivars and continually grow better weed with time.
Additionally, since many cannabis consumers continue to believe that indoor buds are better than outdoor buds, you will get a better price if you work in the cannabis industry and sell to a dispensary.
While the pros are enticing, there are some reasons that growers opt out of indoor. Despite the flexibility, the start-up cost of an indoor grow can be shockingly expensive. It requires a lot of capital to get set up. It’s more than just LED lighting and ballasts.
You also need to have plenty of timers, extension cords, proper power hookups and outlets, ventilation systems, fans, temperature and humidity control, and room for drying and curing. It can be a bit overwhelming to get started. The electricity costs alone can be a staggering month over month.
Indoor grows require more upkeep than outdoor because you need to ensure proper ventilation and a pristine area. Pests like spider mites are a huge threat because no natural predators, like ladybugs, keep the mites at bay. Once a bad infestation takes over a grow room, it requires a comprehensive deep cleaning, often requiring you to start over.
Outdoor Weed Grow
To be clear, when speaking of outdoor weed, we are referring to full sun outdoor cannabis rather than greenhouse weed. Both of which are certainly outdoors, but many modern greenhouses can manipulate certain conditions like an indoor grow, protecting plants from the harshest weather conditions. For this purpose, we are talking about the pros and cons of full-sun outdoor cannabis.
Growing outdoor cannabis is by far the most cost-effective method. Living soil, clean water, and plenty of sunlight is all it takes to grow a whole field of weed. Of course, you’ll still manage the nutrients and provide care like building trellising, but outdoor is still the most affordable option.
It’s also the most natural way to grow anything, and as Sunny Ra Acres discovered, it tends to unlock the plant’s full potential. Because you are using natural elements, outdoor growing is sustainable and environmentally friendly, and the nutrients used to nurture the plants will be beneficial to the native soil.
Another reason people choose outdoor is the massive crop size. With unlimited sunshine and lots of room to stretch and grow, the plants can produce a significant amount of bud.
Outdoor cannabis has only one cycle per year and the plants take a long time to fully mature. If you are growing outdoor cannabis as a licensed producer, that can be a lot of pressure. The growing season is short, and your crop is at the mercy of the elements.
Late or early frost will kill an entire crop. Or a lousy pest infestation might ravish your buds or gnaw the stalks to smithereens. Or, a violent hail storm or high winds can break branches and decimate young plants. Outdoor cultivation also requires a particular location, which often means a remote living and working environment.
Even though you are growing in wide-open spaces, a large family of deer can do a lot of damage to weed plants if you don’t have some kind of security in place. And don’t forget about water. You’ll need access to an unlimited water supply to keep plants moist and happy.
When it comes down to it, the end result from either outdoor or indoor weed is directly attributed to the skill of the grower and the cultivars selected. With time, you can learn how to best prepare for the possible adverse outcomes and get ahead of them to the best of your ability.
As you work with the plants more and more, you become more attuned to their needs and can spot potential issues ahead of time. Both indoor and outdoor cannabis are gorgeous examples of the fine art of growing and deserve to be celebrated equally.