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Cultivation: Outdoor vs. Indoor


Tommy Hessler of Amaranth Farms, smelling his outdoor grown cannabis. Photo by Diane Ferranti.

When cannabis grows outdoors, it's subject to natural conditions like wind, rain, and sunlight. The plants are exposed to constant changes in humidity, temperature, and sunlight - all of the basic environmental factors that can have an impact on plant growth. These variables generally produce cannabis that develops a more complex and nuanced flavor profile, with a wider spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids. For most long time smokers, this is what we look for in our cannabis flower.


Indoor cannabis, on the other hand, is grown in a highly-controlled environment where temperature, humidity, and light cycles are all carefully monitored. This allows growers to create a more consistent and predictable growing environment, which can lead to higher yields and a more uniform product. Indoor-grown cannabis strains tend to be more potent with a higher THC content, thanks to the controlled environment and the ability to manipulate light cycles to induce flowering as desired by the grower.


Indoor cultivation also offers year-round growing, regardless of the climate or season. This is especially important in areas with harsh weather conditions, where outdoor growing might not be feasible in any season.


However, there are some downsides to indoor cultivation. Indoor-grown cannabis plants require more resources, including energy, water, and nutrients. This can result in a higher carbon footprint and a greater environmental impact. Additionally, the controlled environment of indoor cultivation can limit genetic diversity, as growers tend to favor the strains with the highest THC content instead of a broader range of traits such as terpene profiles. Most high THC strains are grown indoors under strict supervision by expert growers.


If you’re just starting out with growing, outdoor cannabis can be a cheaper way to introduce yourself to the plant, but may require more of a time investment. Indoor grown cannabis requires more equipment, but allows for a more hands off approach in terms of weather changes and, depending on your setup, even watering and feeding. If it rains or gets really windy, you have to bring your babies inside. Either approach can produce a fine cannabis product and as long as you’re cultivating, you’re learning about the plant.


Simply put, outdoor cannabis can be more flavorful and nuanced but requires more attention, while indoor cannabis tends to be more potent and consistent, allowing for a more mechanized or automated approach. Both methods require attention and skill to be truly successful.


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