There are tons of different ways to cultivate hemp. Each grower takes pride in their methods, and no two approaches to growing hemp are exactly the same.
It’s possible, however, to separate hemp cultivation into two distinct categories:
- Indoor cultivation
- Outdoor cultivation
The argument over whether indoor or outdoor cultivation is better is ongoing. With the answers to the following nine questions, learn the differences between indoor and outdoor cultivation, and find out why indoor bud comes out on top.
1. What is the best way to grow hemp?
Hemp will grow in practically any conditions. To achieve the best results, however, you’ll need to pamper this somewhat finicky plant.
Some of the factors you’ll need to consider as you develop an ideal hemp cultivation environment include:
- Access to nutrients
- Light exposure
- Watering methods
- The presence of pests
- Daytime and nighttime temperatures
- Exposure to environmental contaminants
- Harvesting techniques
It’s very difficult (if not impossible) to control all of these factors when growing hemp outdoors. Being at the mercy of natural cycles and the practices of neighboring agricultural operations can make outdoor-grown buds low-quality or even ruin entire crops.
Hemp will deliver the best results when it’s cultivated with maximum care. As a result, choosing a method that allows you to control as many critical cultivation factors as possible is essential.
2. What is indoor-grown hemp?
Indoor-grown hemp is hemp that is grown in controlled, indoor environments. While indoor hemp cultivation environments vary significantly in complexity and scope, they all share the following fundamental features:
- Artificial lighting
- Watering and nutrient delivery systems
- Indoor horticultural substrates like soil pots or hydroponic systems
Ideal indoor hemp cultivation environments take things a step further with features like:
- Hermetically sealed cultivation chambers
- Spectrum-specific lighting systems
- Advanced pest management protocols
- Pinpoint-focused nutrient feeding schedules
- Perfectly balanced humidity levels
- Added atmospheric CO2 for rapid growth and high yields
- Organic, microorganism-rich cultivation substrates
- Ideal ventilation systems
With investments into the right technologies, it’s possible to fine-tune indoor hemp cultivation environments to perfectly match the needs of the hemp plant. Growing hemp outdoors, however, puts your plants at the mercy of many variables you cannot control.
3. How do you grow CBD indoors?
Growing CBD-rich hemp indoors usually includes the following basic steps:
- Germination of seeds or clones in rockwool or another suitable germination substrate
- Transfer of germinated seedlings to larger substrate containers
- Carefully timed application of nutrients
- Carefully timed alteration of light spectrums throughout the maturation process
- Harvesting mature plants at the point of peak terpene and cannabinoid expression
- Clean and careful drying, curing, and trimming of mature buds
4. What is outdoor-grown hemp?
Outdoor-grown hemp is hemp that is cultivated in uncontrolled outdoor environments. Instead of preparing indoor environments that are ideal for hemp cultivation, outdoor hemp growers simply put their seeds in a field and allow nature to do most of the work.
Outdoor hemp cultivation environments are almost all alike in that they:
- Rely on the intermittent presence of sunlight for hemp cultivation
- Are exposed to contaminants generated by neighboring agricultural operations
- Deplete soil with continuous monocropping
- Produce consistently low-quality and potentially contaminated hemp buds
5. How do you grow hemp outside?
While outdoor hemp growers can technically use methods that are nearly as stringent as the techniques used by indoor-grown hemp cultivators, the methods they end up using are usually considerably more crude. Here’s a look at the steps that are commonly followed to grow hemp outside:
- Seeds are scattered into plowed fields and allowed to germinate in soil
- Nutrients are sprayed over large areas of growing plants
- Natural sunlight helps hemp grow throughout its maturation cycle
- Plants are harvested all at once by hand or using a combine
- Plants are usually dried inside barns or warehouses
- Careful trim jobs are less common
5. Is it better to grow hemp indoors or outdoors?
Both indoor and outdoor hemp cultivation are appropriate under certain circumstances. It would be absurdly inefficient, for instance, to cultivate all the hemp used for extracts or low-quality biomass in hermetically sealed indoor environments.
Smokable hemp, on the other hand, should only be grown inside. The difference in cannabinoid content, terpene content, and contamination potential between indoor-grown hemp and outdoor-grown hemp is simply too wide.
If smokable hemp is grown in uncontrolled outdoor environments, it will deliver disappointing or even dangerous results. When grown indoors, however, smokable hemp can reach its true potential, producing sticky, potent nugs that look just like top-shelf recreational or medical cannabis flower.
6. Is indoor-grown bud more potent?
Hemp buds that are grown indoors are usually 20-50% more potent than outdoor-grown buds. That’s because indoor-grown buds are exposed to ideal concentrations of nutrients and spectrums of lighting while outdoor-grown buds aren’t.
On average, outdoor-grown hemp buds contain 8-13% CBD. Indoor-grown CBD flower, however, starts at around 15% potency, and it can contain CBD concentrations as high as 25%.
While outdoor-grown hemp with CBD concentrations as high as 16-17% isn’t unheard of, it’s impossible to accomplish 20%+ CBD concentrations with outdoor-grown flower. If you want your hemp buds to be as potent as possible, growing indoors is the only way to go.
7. Does indoor-grown bud taste better?
There are a few different factors that affect the flavor profile of hemp buds:
- Terpene concentration
- Terpene oxidation
- Environmental conditions during cultivation
- Drying and curing process
The concentration of terpenes present in hemp flower affects its flavor more than any other factor. Higher concentrations of terpenes lead to tastier flower, and lower terpene concentrations make buds taste more bland.
Just as indoor-grown hemp flower produces higher concentrations of cannabinoids, it also produces higher concentrations of terpenes. As a result, indoor-grown CBD flower inherently tastes better than hemp buds that were grown outdoors.
The terpenes present in outdoor-grown buds can also be damaged during the cultivation process. Here are some examples of factors that can harm terpenes during outdoor cultivation:
- Rough handling
Hemp acts like a sponge during cultivation, absorbing the aromas of objects in its vicinity. As a result, outdoor-grown hemp usually ends up tasting a lot like dirt, grass, and leaves.
Outdoor-grown hemp is usually dried and cured with a focus on quantity over quality. Careless drying and curing practices cause terpenes to oxidize, further harming the flavor of outdoor-grown buds.
8. Is indoor-grown bud better for smoking?
Indoor-grown hemp flower usually produces smoother, better-tasting, and safer smoke than outdoor-grown buds. That’s because indoor-grown buds:
- Are ideally moist
- Contain minimal concentrations of contaminants
- Feature higher concentrations of terpenes
- Usually feature better trim jobs than outdoor-grown buds
With indoor-grown nugs, you’ll experience the full flavor profile and potency that a strain has to offer. The same strain, when grown outdoors, will taste duller, be less potent, and be more likely to contain dangerous contaminants.
9. Is indoor-grown bud safer?
Hemp flower that was grown indoors is usually safer than outdoor-grown flower. When you grow hemp outside, you can’t control what it might be exposed to. Even if you use safe cultivation practices, agrochemicals can make their way into your hemp from neighboring fields.
Just because hemp flower is grown indoors, however, is no guarantee that it’s contaminant free. As you select the indoor-grown hemp flower that’s right for your needs, choose a producer that uses organic cultivation practices and provides up-to-date lab reports for each of their products.