by Nebula Haze
There are two major ways to grow marijuana, indoors and outdoors.
Some people will use a mixture of the two and grow their plants indoors during the vegetative stage when they need constant light, then transport them outdoors when they are ready to start flowering and only need 12 hours of light a day.
Growing Marijuana Outdoors
- Grow area must avoid detection for several months by potential thieves, you must secure your plants from animals and/or thieves
- You should have easy access to grow area and should be able to visit once every 1-2 weeks
- There needs to be a convenient source of water nearby
- Area should be well lit by the sun and optimally have direct sunlight from at least 10am-4pm (more is better)
- The climate should have a warm growing season, the longer the better
- Plants must be planted at a certain time of the year and often there can only be one crop a year
- Longer Grow Time
- Potential interference from bugs, animals, flooding, and other uncontrollable factors
- Easiest method since marijuana plants need less tending in their natural environment; if you live in an area with the right growing environment you can pretty much let mother nature do her thing
- Cheapest start-up costs since there is free light and ventilation
- Often have bigger yields than indoor crops, since outdoor plants usually have plenty of room to grow and unlimited sunshine
- Many people feel that outdoor growing produces the most flavorful buds (this is likely due to the light from the sun, though there's some evidence that certain lights like LEDs may be able to mimic the sun in ways that cause buds to grow with increased scent and flavor).
- Impractical for most city-dwellers, who would have to travel to a remote grow site
- At the mercy of mother nature, so a drought, torrential downpour, bug infestation, early frost, or even a hungry family of deer can destroy your whole crop, which means you lose your entire crop for the year
- Must be close to a water source, or must lug water to and from the grow spot
Growing Marijuana Indoors
- Must have enough room to grow indoors and be able to avoid detection
- Start-up costs can be pretty high depending on grow system
- You can control all aspects of growing environment, which means you will be able to produce a more consistent quality of buds, but also means…
- You must produce entire growing environment, including light, growing medium, nutrients, air conditions, etc
- You pay for electricity to run lights, which can get expensive if you’re using many lights. A single 600W HPS light uses about as much electricity as a refrigerator
- If you get caught growing, then there’s no way out since the plants are inside your house
- Shorter grow time
- Easier to be discreet about growing
- Ability to control all aspects of environment to produce a consistent high-quality bud
- Can have many crops a year (perpetual harvest is possible)
- Many growers believe that indoor buds are the highest quality buds. In medical states, indoor buds are sold at much higher prices than outdoor buds
- High start-up costs
- Maintenance cost (electricity) can get expensive depending on the grow system and number of plants
- More upkeep than an outdoor grow
- Must keep good ventilation and maintain clean grow area
How I Got Started
As someone who lives in the middle of a big city, when I first started growing marijuana, my garden was indoors because that's really the only choice I had at the time. At first I felt like a mad scientist, but after a while my indoor grows became easy and routine. Now that I've grown indoors several times, I've realized I truly enjoy being the total master of my garden and consistently harvesting ultra-dank buds every 3-4 months.
Growing outdoors is more like farming and less like a science experiment. Though outdoor growing can seem complicated and hard to set up at first, growing outdoors will often save you time and money compared to growing indoors. Especially once you get a feel for the lay of the land and a few different strains, sowing and harvesting your buds can become an easy routine with very little maintenance needed during the grow.
There's something powerful about the sun mixed with good soil, and outdoor buds can be some of the best smelling weed you'll encounter. Outdoor growers often can't imagine growing any other way.
What do you need to consider when choosing whether to
grow marijuana indoors or outdoors?
Indoor takes more work from you on a regular basis because there are more variables you must control, and more that you must personally provide to give your plants a good growing environment.
On the other hand, there are fewer unexpected influences that can affect your plants indoors, especially compared to Mother Nature, so growing indoors is often more predictable.
Indoor growing is often difficult for new growers as they learn the ropes, but seasoned growers are often able to grow plants in a breezy 20 minutes/week or less because they already know exactly what to do.
Outdoors you may have to take more time initially to research and learn about your environment through trial and error. It's important to make sure you choose a compatible marijuana strain for your local weather while also picking the right place to plant your garden.
For people in cold climates or who live in highly urban environments, growing outdoors would take much more effort than it's worth.
For those who have easy access to a great grow spot, growing outdoors can be the perfect option that takes very little work to grow a whole lot of buds.
Cost / Price
Indoor is much more expensive, especially when you're first getting started. It costs $500+ initially for most setups for 4-6 plants. Learn more about different indoor growing setups. When growing indoors, at the very least you will need to pay for grow lights and containers to grow your plants in. Most serious indoor growers also invest in a grow tent or convert a closet/wardrobe/cupboard into a suitable growing environment.
Outdoor can be as cheap as getting seeds or clones and sticking them in the ground. In most cases, it will cost at least a bit more than that, especially for those who want to get high yields and dense buds, because you will also be paying for nutrients, soil, fencing and/or other supplies. Still, even serious outdoor growers get to skip on paying for grow lights or grow tents.
Quality of Buds
Indoor gives you control over all the variables, which means a dedicated and serious grower can consistently produce a superior product. When you're growing indoors, great crops with frosty pristine buds and big yields are pretty much guaranteed once you control the important variables, no matter where you live. If you're only interested in growing the highest caliber marijuana, where you get to control every aspect of everything, you likely want to grow indoors.
Outdoor can produce incredible buds, especially for those who happen to live in the right climate, who choose the perfect strain for their environment and who take good care of their plants. Yet when growing outdoors, Mother Nature is the real master over your garden. Outdoor buds often vary in dankitude as there are so many variables outside your control. Sometimes buds end up looking a bit "rough around the edges" and may contain pine needles, thistle prickles, dust, bugs, etc. Outdoor buds sometimes have to be harvested early for weather or security concerns, lowering the quality and potency of buds. That is why even an experienced and knowledgeable outdoor grower can occasionally lose a crop or grow an inferior product. Even if they do everything right, environmental factors outside their control such as deer/bears/birds/racoons, too much/not enough rain, thieves, bugs, cold spells, early winter, etc can lower the quality of outdoor buds.
Stealth / Security
Indoor gives you the ability to be very stealthy. An indoor garden can be almost 100% secure with a light-tight grow area with a carbon filter to neutralize any smells. Yet if you don't take the time to properly hide/secure your garden and take care of odor, you may run into problems when friends or family come over. If you are worried about stealth and do get caught with plants indoors, there's not much you can do to deny that they belong to you since they're located in your home.
Outdoor can also be stealthy, especially if your garden is out in the middle of nowhere or completely hidden from view. The least stealthy parts of outdoor growing will be going back and forth to your garden, and during harvest time when you will need to move several hefty bags of marijuana buds back to where you can trim, dry, and cure them.
No matter which way you grow, remember the old adage for never getting discovered: "Don't tell, Don't smell, Don't sell."
Indoor you have to personally control almost everything about the environment at all times. This means you're in charge of temperature, root pH, light, etc. When growing indoors, you also tend to need to do more plant training due to space restrictions. All these factors can be overwhelming for the first time grower. However, for most indoor growers, as they get the hang of growing, the time and effort needed for maintenance tends to drop dramatically. Indoor growers are often closer to their gardens, so there is often less travel time to and from the plants. When growing indoors, you usually have faster grow times because you don't need to rely on natural light to tell your plants when to start flowering, and can opt for faster grow methods such as hydroponics (which can produce faster harvests than growing in soil).
Outdoor would almost always need less maintenance because once you've found a good site to plant, you really only need to visit the site a few times a month to check on plants, possibly water or trim/train, and harvest. You may have to fend off bugs or animals. If you're growing outdoors in your back yard, you don't have to consider travel time, but for those who grow outdoors away from their homes, your maintenance will also include traveling to and from your plants.
Indoor can product big yields in the right conditions, but is somewhat limited by the size of your grow lights. If you only need a few ounces of bud each month (or less), indoor growing will be able to yield enough for you. When growing indoors, you can start a grow basically any time, which gives you the ability to harvest several times per year.
Outdoor will often give you a lot more yield per harvest because you can grow huge "trees" of marijuana. The sun is a powerful grow light that allows plants to really build up in size. Outdoor plants can sometimes produce several pounds of buds per plant. However, when growing outdoors, you must almost always start your grow in the spring and usually only get one harvest per year unless you live somewhere tropical.
Conclusion: Which Is Better?
There really isn't a "best" way to grow. It really depends on your personal situation and what you're looking for in your growing experiences.
In a perfect world, if I had my choice, I'd grow my marijuana in a custom-built sealed greenhouse that's located in my back yard, and get the best of both indoors and outdoors.
Still not sure or need more info?
Check out this easy Indoor vs. Outdoor Checklist: