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Growing Outdoors vs. Indoors: Optimized Cultivation

Harborside Farms LED Grow

The debate over growing outdoors vs. indoors is still going strong. Those growers lucky enough to have a choice often struggle to determine which setup is better. And if you’ve been looking for answers yourself, you probably already know there are strong advocates on both sides. 

Admittedly, we at California LightWorks are big fans of indoor and greenhouse growing. We’ve seen what growers can accomplish with carefully engineered grow lights and a controlled environment.

That said, we also know everyone comes to cultivation with different goals, restrictions, and interests. It’s worth it to give all grow setup options full consideration.

Let us walk you through the primary differences between growing outdoors vs. indoors. We’ll clarify the pros and cons and give you a few tips that may help you narrow down the possibilities.

How Growing Outdoors vs. Indoors Affects the Harvest Cycle 

The most obvious difference between indoor and outdoor growing is the number of harvests a year. Indoor growers can change the way their plants perceive the seasons just by manipulating the light spectrum and photoperiod. An indoor grower can get up to five or even six crops per year. An indoor grower can also you can also adjust the veg time as needed for a particular plant size or timing for each crop. An outdoor grower generally has one or possibly two harvests per year – one in the summer and maybe one in the winter depending on the climate.

So indoor growers get multiple harvests in a single year. And a faster grow cycle is one of the easiest and quickest ways to increase your yield and return on investment.

You Have Less Control Growing Outdoors vs. Indoors

Many growers who choose indoor cultivation do so because they want more control.

As an indoor or greenhouse grower, you control your crop’s environment completely. This includes temperature, humidity, air flow, and light. Your plants follow a pattern of day and night based on your grow light schedule instead of on the sun.

You also determine the best light spectrum for your plants.  You can even choose a variable spectrum LED grow light that allows you to program and change specific light recipes. This allows you to mimic the seasons as your plants understand them.

In contrast, an outdoor grower is at the mercy of nature. There is very little you can do about overcast days or unseasonably hot or cold weather. Your crops are more vulnerable to pests, fungus, and wildlife.

While it is true that gifted and experienced cultivators can still grow a decent crop in unfavorable circumstances, indoor is definitely better if control is important to you.

Comparing the Costs

Another much-discussed issue in the debate about growing outdoors vs. indoors is expense. Which option is more cost-effective?

Outdoor grows win this one . . . at least in terms of upfront and operational costs. This is especially true for large-scale operations.

Growing indoors requires significantly more equipment, lighting system installation, and—of course—a facility.

Having said that, there are also greater financial risks to growing outdoors, especially for anyone hoping to turn a profit. Your plants are more vulnerable to the elements and disease in an outdoor environment. And indoor growers are often able to cultivate a higher quality product.

You may also be able to fit more plants into an indoor grow room. Rolling benches allow you to position rows right up against one another and create a single, movable aisle wherever you need it.

You can also pack more plants in with a multilevel setup. However, multilevel growing does have its own set of pros and cons.

Which Takes More Effort?

It’s difficult to weigh the amount of work required for outdoor growing vs. indoor growing, because the nature of the work is different.

Indoor growers certainly have their work cut out for them in the early planning stages. Creating a controlled environment for your crop is no small effort. You have to determine how many lights you need, calculate ideal hanging heights, create a cooling and ventilation system, and more.

Ideally, you automate as many of these controls as you can. This saves you a lot of effort going forward. However, you should still expect to check in regularly to see that your equipment is running smoothly and your lights are still providing adequate light quality.

The demands of outdoor growing are different. Sun grown plants require more trimming. And because your crop is exposed to the elements, you have to monitor your outdoor plants more carefully. You must keep a close eye out for pests and fungal attacks.

While severe weather is just business as usual for indoor growers, outdoor gardeners have to actively adjust procedures or put up physical defenses to deal with storms, frost, drought, and wind.

In terms of the work involved for growing outdoors vs. indoors, this one may be a tie.

Comparing Product Quality 

Outdoor grows tend to yield bigger plants which sometimes means more buds per plant.

But what about quality?

Generally speaking, indoor cultivation tends to yield a more flavorful, potent product. Because indoor plants are closer to their light source, they produce a higher trichome density. Indoor crops also have a greener, more vibrant look.

You can also get a robust yield indoors with high quality LED grow lights.

This is where the question of return on investment comes in, especially combined with this next point:

Wherever you land on the growing outdoors vs. indoors debate, we wish you the best of luck with your grows.

We’re also here for you whenever you need us. Despite its many advantages, the world of indoor growing can be complicated and overwhelming for those who are new to it. Our U.S.-based service team is here to help you find the solutions you need.

Check out our selection of premium LED grow lights. Ask us your most pressing indoor cultivation questions. Or request a free, zero-obligation indoor grow light plan for your space.

We’re here to help.


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