There are as many styles of growing buds as there are gardeners. However, there are distinct types of marijuana-growing techniques that can be generalized into the following categories. Note the advantages and limitations of each and how they should effect your clone or seed variety selection.
The great outdoors can be a very rewarding experience with the right genetics, hard work, and a little luck in a climate that suits the marijuana strain being cultivated. The sun is free, and space can be virtually unlimited. There is a lot of potential to reap healthy rewards with less money growing outdoors versus other methods. When plants are kept in prime health and are well established, the stage is set for healthy harvests. There are lots of factors and forces at work that are in the grower’s favor—nature has been doing this a lot longer than you.
If you cultivate where there is long warm seasons, even while daylight hours are short (less than twelve hours of light per day), you can grow just about any strain successfully.
Lots of fresh air and strong natural light, with adequate spacing, is a recipe for producing tremendous yields of great quality per plant, assuming the right choice of cannabis genetics to start.
Usually, the limiting factor for selecting outdoor strains is the number of days required to maturity— will the plants be ready to harvest ripe buds from before frost or cold heavy rains start where the crop is being cultivated? Hardy plants that are able to resist insects, drought, and cropping diseases are advantageous too—something seed breeders select for when developing outdoor strains like RMG Kodiak or early Appalachian autoflowering.
Anyone with access to a private sunny spot has a chance of success, especially with the right strain, i.e., fast finish on a hardy plant. Well-grown outdoor cannabis plants of good genetics are capable of tremendous yields and crop quality. Even a small four-foot round bush could easily yield over one pound of dried and manicured buds. If you’ve never grown cannabis before, it’s a great way to try your luck without much in the way of capital outlay versus indoor- or greenhouse-growing methods. Just be prepared to put in the work and plant more than you need to help manage the risk of potential losses.
Outdoor cropping is seasonal in most geographic locations, so what you harvest in a single season may have to last you the year. It is possible to harvest several times a year if you live in a warm year-round growing climate or set up a “black out” system where you can force flowering in short day plants under long daylight conditions. Outdoor growing can also be full of surprises that you may not like—whether from slugs, rabbits, deer, or even two-legged predators.
When we talk about indoor growing, we aren’t speaking of growing plants on your windowsill—this is almost never an option for crops of mature buds that have high medicinal quality, although there are always exceptions to the rule.
Over the last ten to twenty years, indoor cultivation using grow lights and climate controls has become a highly popularized method for people to grow their own buds indoors successfully year round.
With enough space and electricity for grow lighting, you can grow just about any strain you like indoors in as much quantity as you may need consistently. Your valuable plants can remain out of sight and out of mind from would-be thieves and are better protected from other problems. Indoors, you create the growing environment as well as your own chances of success. Excellent yields per square foot can be achieved indoors, although it can be resource intensive.
It’s possible to grow year round—up to six harvests per year can be achieved indoors, more still with intensive crop plantings and perpetual harvest growing methods. Exotic strains that might not finish outdoors in a geographic climate can be grown indoors with climate controls and intensive artificial lighting. Crops are protected indoors, and it’s easier to perform daily crop monitoring and adjustments. Great yields and high quality are not a hit-or-miss affair—they can be achieved consistently indoors
Even the most sophisticated growing equipment is power-intensive; expect to use even more power with less sophisticated gear. All this power use and the space required to grow a crop uninterrupted for several months can really add up. Most commercial croppers don’t expect much more than to break even on their first crop in a new facility. After the gear is amortized, it is possible to profit. While having the ability to have a higher level of security is certainly an advantage, it can also be a costly expense.
While medicinal cannabis has been grown in greenhouses for decades now, it is a growing trend in terms of people choosing it as their place to grow medicinal cannabis, whether as a personal garden or a corporate medicinal operation. Since cannabis production is becoming more popular with improvements in laws and legislation, the need to “hide” is becoming less of a concern. A greenhouse helps lower operating costs and allows for very high-quality bud on high-yielding plants. Natural lighting can be a big advantage with the ability to grow very large plants in a greenhouse setting.
Operating costs can be greatly lowered versus power-hungry indoor gardens by taking advantage of natural light when available. Depending on the type of greenhouse structure, it’s possible to grow much larger plants of very high quality versus what can be achieved indoors using artificial grow lights. Growing on a large scale is more feasible, and there is already much in the way of automation available from the established horticultural industry; no need to reinvent the wheel.
Depending on the sophistication of the structure and the level of climate control that you have installed and can support, the initial cost can be high—near similar value to setting up an indoor garden (while the operating costs are significantly better as is yield potential). A high-tech greenhouse can require some level of security, and it is also more difficult to manage odor control versus indoor gardens using activated carbon filters (which do not perform well in high humidity, i.e., greenhouses)