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The Chemistry of Cannabis: Indoor/Outdoor Cultivation


Many cannabis consumers will be legally allowed to grow their own for the very first time this year. Before starting a new cultivation hobby, the big question is whether to grow indoors or out. No matter which choice you make, the most important part is using great care through the process.

Outdoor big bud cultivation

With the new cannabis growing season about to get underway, generally running between March and November, there are a huge number of people interested in cannabis cultivation. The first thing to know, is the myth that indoor grow means stronger weed has been busted wide open. Properly grown outdoor buds will be far superior to poorly grown indoor dope.

The finished result can even be better than properly grown indoor product. The benefit to bringing your plants inside is control over the process, from start to finish. Indoor growers don’t need to worry about bugs or rabbits wiping out the whole crop. Since outdoor growers can expect somewhere between 5 and 20 pounds of buds per plant, that means a lot. Indoors, the yield is less than 2 pounds per plant.

Every strain is different, so first you want to select your seeds. The finished product, experts say “is mainly dependent on the seeds, the grower’s experience, and the care.” One of the first considerations on which cultivation method to use is the climate where you live.

You can tell bud A was grown outdoor by the heavy duty stem at the bottom.

Extremes of hot, cold, or wet weather are good reasons to stay indoors. Pot generally likes the same temperatures that people do. If you would be comfortable outside with your girls, they would be happy too.

The number one reason for outdoor cannabis cultivation is “energy efficiency.” Using sunlight, at least part of the time, “can save home growers and large-scale producers a lot of money in energy consumption.”

In places where sunlight isn’t consistent, a few extra lights can help when they’re needed. Generally there is a rule of thumb that “everything is bigger with outdoor-cultivated buds.” The buds come out thicker and chunkier.

Moving indoors

One of the biggest differences between cultivation indoor versus outdoor is that the hairy trichomes are a lot denser on the indoor variety. Because indoor buds are smaller and denser, they can come out virtually covered in fur.

Because outdoor buds are so much bigger, the “trichomes would have to work much harder to cover the entire surface.” Outdoors, “plants are subjected to the elements which can damage trichome development.”

Buds produced through outdoor cultivation will “have a darker hue in general.” Indoor buds “will be a brighter, more vivid green.” If your strain produces purple flowers, “outdoor buds will turn a deep, striking purple while indoor nugs will stay lighter shades of purple (unless the strain’s genetics produce dark purple buds in any condition).”


Another option to consider is a greenhouse. That gives the energy savings and other advantages of outdoor growing, while maintaining control over the elements.

Seasoned veteran seed breeder Sunna Ra Acres has had test cultivation experiments going with clones of the same plant being grown indoor and outdoor at the same time. The results turned out to be surprising.

Time and again, the outdoor plants produce higher THC concentrations and much more flavorful terpene profiles. The growers are careful to note, “terpenes are volatile, meaning they will evaporate without proper drying and curing processes.”

What do you think?

Written by Mark Megahan

Mark Megahan is a resident of Morristown, Arizona and aficionado of the finer things in life.

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