What to Grow Cannabis Outdoors? Pros and Cons of Outdoor Growing
It should go without saying that indoor growing is the best method for cultivating a healthy cannabis crop. Cannabis can be a finicky plant; some strains simply won’t grow unless they have precision in hours of sunlight, soil pH, humidity, and more.
Many serious grow operations invest in extensive amounts of equipment, like delicate temperature and humidity controls, ventilation systems, UV lighting, and cooling systems, in the hopes that merely most of their crop will come to flower.
Even so, many growers, novices and otherwise, continue to consider growing cannabis crops outdoors. While indoor growing is almost always the best option, here are some pros and cons to an outdoor grow:
Pro: Low Expenses
To grow cannabis indoors, growers need to invest in vast amounts of equipment — but to grow outside, growers hardly need more than soil and seeds.
Of course, that isn’t entirely accurate; growers will need watering systems, pest control systems, and some system for harvesting their crop, but almost regardless, the costs of cultivating a cannabis crop outdoors tend to be much, much lower than the costs of an indoor grow.
Con: Most Opportunity for Loss
Of course, many growers calculate those costs before they know exactly how much of their crop they have lost every season.
Outdoor growing is riskier, more dependent on unknowable variables like the amount of rain, the activity of pests, and the like.
While it is easy to account for some small percentage of loss, outdoor growers could easily lose their entire crop thanks to a single large storm or particularly pernicious pests.
It is exactly the likelihood of loss that drives most growers inside.
Pro: Full Terpene Profile
Not much is known about terpenes and flavonoids, the compounds within cannabis that lend the plant its distinctive aromas and flavors.
However, many growers have found that indoor grows to result in a much narrower terpene profile, meaning their marijuana strains aren’t nearly as robustly aromatic and flavorful as strains grown in the true light of day.
This might also mean that indoor-grown cannabis lacks medicinal properties that outdoor crops have in abundance.
Con: Short Seasons
Then again, even outdoor grows sometimes lack real sunlight to grow by. In northern climes, like Salem, Oregon, dispensaries often lack outdoor-grown cannabis products for more than half the year because outdoor growers simply cannot cultivate crops from mid-fall to mid-spring.
Outdoor growers are severely limited to one growing season per year, which keeps their revenues lower than indoor growers’.
Cannabis isn’t the only crop moving indoors; many farmers are erecting massive greenhouses with the intention of protecting and controlling their vegetables, fruits, and grains.
Unfortunately, greenhouses just aren’t earth-friendly. Indoor grow ops draw huge amounts of energy to power grow lights, ventilation, automated watering systems, and more; this energy almost always comes from unsustainable sources, like coal and oil plants that send all sorts of pollutants into the environment.
Indoor-grown cannabis might look green, but it isn’t. In contrast, outdoor grow ops harness natural energy from the sun and earth, making them much more eco-friendly.
Pests and inclement weather aren’t the only threats to a cannabis crop; grow ops also need to worry about thieves.
Even if a grower is merely cultivating hemp, they should expect some intrusion into their fields and pilfering of their crop, often by naïve teens but sometimes by dangerous criminal groups.
Security is much more difficult for outside growth because there is much more visibility of the crop and access points to reach it. Thus, outdoor growers need to invest more in security solutions, which can get expensive, fast.
Pro: Unlimited Space
Admittedly, all farmers are limited by the amount of property they can purchase.
However, greenhouse structures can only be so big; indoor growers must erect multiple greenhouses to cultivate their crops, or else they are stuck with a single grow space that is limited in size.
In contrast, outdoor growers can fill their fields with cannabis for as far as they can see — provided they own all that land and can afford to seed it.
Some states have rules about where cannabis can be grown; specifically, many states mandate that the public should not be able to see a growing cannabis crop. Unfortunately, this makes an outdoor grow even more difficult.
Moving far into the countryside and erecting tall walls are suitable solutions, but they also interfere with many of the benefits of outdoor growing, like unlimited space and low expenses.
Again, it is the need for discretion that drives many growers into greenhouses, which by nature keep their crop away from the public eye.
Pro: No Artificial Setup Required
It is one of the most significant advantages of growing your cannabis plants outside. There’s is abundant light, humidity, and nutrients available for the crop to grow naturally.
If growing inside, the plants will require an artificial lighting and humidity control setup, mimicking the natural environment that the plants require to grow.
Albeit it will be sufficient to grow them, the natural crops will unequivocally be of better quality.
Growing inside will not only be more expensive but require a continuous check and balance to ensure the plants are growing in ideal conditions at all times.
Con: Minimum Flexibility Toward Crop Cycles
The plant crop cycle is dependent entirely on mother earth when being grown outdoors naturally.
The decision of when to start producing the plants and harvesting them is governed totally by natural factors that are out of your control.
However, in artificial indoor setups, the plantation can begin at any time of the year.
Furthermore, you can control the conditions to accelerate growth toward early harvests. The plant growth is no longer limited by natural growing cycles and conditions. It means that productivity is undoubtedly more when growing indoors.
Both indoor growing and outdoor growing have their merits, but there is a good reason that most growers gravitate toward the former.
Still, farmers in need of a challenge should consider trying outdoor grown crops — and perhaps they will prosper.
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