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Weed growing guide: Cannabis indoors vs outdoors


Knowing the difference between an indoor grow and an outdoor grow can allow you to make an informed decision on how you would like to cultivate cannabis.

And, if you've not done so yet, you should check out our step-by-step guide for growing weed at home.

With the constitutional court ruling last year declaring that growing cannabis at home fell under the right to privacy, we've started to see a change in tides for cannabis culture in South Africa.

Nowhere has it been more evident than the competition Stark Ayres is running to see who can grow the biggest dagga plant.

But where is best to grow weed indoors or outdoors?

We'll take a look at how exactly indoor growing differs from outdoor growing, the pros and cons, and which one will work best for your intentions and available means.

Growing weed: Differences between indoor and outdoor growing

Outdoor growing is the most natural way to grow, you utilize the sun's light and in most cases will plant directly into the soil.

Growing cannabis outdoors is typically more difficult than growing it indoors, as you will in most cases have to deal with pests and weather conditions which may hamper your growing efforts.

Indoor grows are more controlled and allow for a better environment for growing, with the ability to control things like temperatures and humidity. High humidity can lead to bud rot and powdery mildew forming on the plant, while temperatures that are too cold can stunt the plant growth or in some cases even kill it.

Happy indoor weed plants. Photo: Indoor sounds great right? Well it is, but there are some areas of indoor growing that make it quite a challenge. Firstly, indoor growing is by no means cheap.

A sufficient lighting setup for a 4 4 foot grow tent can cost in excess of R5000, with high-end options running more than R10 000 for the same area. There is also the cost of electricity to run these high powered lights, and even in cases where highly efficient lighting is used, you're still likely to see a big rise in your electricity bill. Add to that the cost of air conditioning and dehumidifiers and you'll realize that a moderate scale indoor setup can set you back as much as R30 000.

Outdoor grows are a challenge, but when done right can be extremely rewarding.

The sun is by far the best light for growing, it offers a full spectrum which helps cannabis thrive. Indoor grow lights do their best job to mirror the natural light one receives outside.

One area where indoor growing takes a massive lead over outdoor though, is in the ability to grow multiple harvests a year indoors, as opposed to a single annual harvest outdoors.

Cannabis requires 12 hours of darkness a day in order to flower, in nature this occurs with the changing of summer into autumn, meaning you get one flowering season a year.

With indoor grows, you can control the light and choose to flower your plants when you want to. Because of this, it's common for indoor growers to have several harvests a year, as many as 4 when growing fast flowering or auto flowering strains.

To make things simple, let's compare the most prominent pros and cons for both indoor and outdoor grows.

Pros of growing weed indoors

Full environmental control

Little to no pest problems

Ability to trigger flowering

High THC percentages due to environmental control

Can grow throughout the year

Cons of growing weed indoors

Expensive setup and running costs

Pros of growing weed outdoors

Excellent light quality

Extremely cheap to start

Plants can get larger and give more yield

Easier to allocate space to grow

Cons of growing weed outdoors


More likelihood of mildew or bud

Only one harvest a year

Quality of weed grown indoors vs outdoors

South Africa is unique in the way we discuss our cannabis, indoor is almost always tied to high grade bud while we use the term outdoor' to refer to the cheaper lower quality bud, the kind you usually find sold by car guards.

However, the truth is that a good outdoor grow can rival that of an indoor grow and in some cases even surpass it. In America, there are large dispensaries which sell predominantly outdoor grown bud, but because the flower was grown well it compares with indoor.

Large colas of cannabis present in an indoors grow setup. Photo: TSA Locally however, outdoor has been given a bad name because of the way that large scale outdoor grows are done. Large scale outdoor growers in Swaziland and Lesotho for instance have historically put their flower through some sketchy drying and curing practices.

In addition, the buds are usually then shoved into black bags and compressed. The process of bricking weed is one that makes it easier to transport, but also decreases the quality dramatically. This is why low grade weed, that most refer to as outdoor will typically have very little trichomes on it.

If you were to compare a nug from one of these growers to that of an outdoor grower, perhaps growing under shade cloth and who dries and cures their bud correctly, you will see a large variation in the quality. It is certainly possible to get your outdoor to look as good as some indoor does.

With that said, it's certainly easier to acquire high quality bud from an indoor grow. In most cases, given that you have the right equipment, you should be able to achieve good quality bud. Because of this, many outdoor growers consider indoor growing too easy and prefer the challenges of the outdoor grows, utilizing natural farming methods and specialist pest control in order to create high quality natural buds.

An example of well grown outdoor cannabis, in this case a Jack Herer autoflower. Photo: In the end, it's not so much about either one being better than the other, they both have the opportunity to provide you with high quality flower. However, for newer grow
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