For a long time, many growers – and buyers – operated under the assumption that plants grown indoors had clear-cut advantages. Indoor growth allows more control over factors such as light spectrum, temperature, and humidity and also eliminates the need for pesticides. However, the more we learn about the science behind growing, the more we realize this is not a black and white issue.
There is no best way to grow, and a lot is dependent on your personal goals, resources, and even the strains you’re working with. Different plants thrive in different environments. If you are deciding between going the greenhouse route or opting for an indoor facility, the decision often comes down to what is both advantageous and realistic for you given your specific situation.
Below, we’ll offer a brief breakdown of the pros and cons of each method to help you make an informed decision.
Greenhouse Vs. Indoor Cultivation: A Brief Overview
The main advantage of indoor growing boils down to control. Indoor growers have considerable power over factors like humidity, temperature, air circulation, and light exposure, including light spectrum.
There is also increased protection against mold and other pathogens as maintaining a hygienic environment is easier overall indoors. Indoor growers may be able to completely avoid use of chemical pesticides, which can result in a cleaner final product, and some customers also prefer pesticide-free plants.
Year-round growing is also a major benefit here. With a temperature- and light-controlled setting, you can continue to operate through darker and colder months. You will not have to worry about how unexpected weather or fluctuations in sunlight are affecting your plants either.
In terms of strain, indoor growing can be either an advantage or a disadvantage. Some newer strains tend to fare better indoors, while sun-grown strains will always thrive more in a greenhouse.
However, indoor growing is not without its drawbacks, the main one being high operating costs
– especially if you live in an area that requires a lot of temperature regulation. Running air conditioning, heaters, fans, dehumidifiers, and so on can raise your electricity bills quickly.
There is also the issue of space. Your yield may end up smaller indoors due to space limitations, and a lower ceiling means your plants may need to be shorter.
A lesser-known disadvantage of indoor growing is how exposure to pests, toxins, or molds plays out in a contained environment. You are at a significantly reduced risk of infestations occurring indoors – especially if you are vigilant about cleaning – but toxins sometimes spread faster indoors than the would in a greenhouse. Keeping an eye out for early signs of mold, pests, or infections in your growing space is therefore important when working indoors.
The biggest benefit of greenhouse growing is it is significantly more energy efficient overall, meaning your operating costs will be lower. A properly sealed greenhouse allows for a high degree of environmental control – even if you are subject to sudden changes in weather – and this reduces your reliance on equipment like air conditioners and dehumidifiers. There is no denying a greenhouse comes with a higher upfront cost, but in the long run you will end up with significant savings. Plus, if you consider yourself an eco-friendly grower, a greenhouse is considered the more environmentally friendly option.
There are also less restrictions in terms of space. Greenhouses are always bigger than indoor spaces, and have much higher ceilings.
As previously mentioned, sun-grown strains do better in a greenhouse setting. Natural sunlight can also result in fuller terpene profiles, which some buyers prefer.
Even with proper sealing, however, a greenhouse will always be more affected by climate. In some regions, year-round greenhouse growth is impractical. Consistently hot and humid regions may also make greenhouse growth trying.
There is also the issue of pests, which will always pose a bigger risk in a greenhouse than indoors. Despite the touted environmental benefits of a greenhouse, you may need to use some chemical pesticide as you are at a heightened risk of infestation.
Greenhouses also come with much higher upfront costs, especially if you choose a facility that needs a lot of renovation. Therefore, greenhouse growth is not within everyone’s budget.
What’s Right For Me Greenhouse Vs. Indoor Cultivation?
There are clear advantages and drawbacks to both greenhouse and indoor growing, so a lot comes down to subjective factors such as the strains you are growing, your regional climate, and your current resources. For example, someone living in a hot, humid climate year-round may not benefit from greenhouse growth as much as someone living in a more temperate region.
There is also the issue of sheer practicality. Do you have the financial resources to invest in and possibly renovate a greenhouse? While long-term costs are lower, the upfront bill can be significantly higher, so a greenhouse is often simply out of one’s current budget.
You will also have to do some research into the strains you are hoping to grow. Networking and seeking advice from other growers can help here, especially with newer strains that have not been extensively researched. You may find the plants you are hoping to grow do better in one environment over another.
Greenhouse Vs. Indoor Cultivation: The Bottom Line
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to growing, meaning the question of indoor versus greenhouse has no definite answer. Indoor growers have more control over their environment and lower risks of pest infestations, but greenhouse growers benefit from more space and lower operating costs long term.
The best way to determine what’s right for you is to take a close look at your current resources and plans to determine your most practical route forward. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to California Lightworks to ask.