Sun-Grown Cannabis vs. Artificial Light
Published on 9/5/22
When it comes to growing cannabis (or anything, for that matter), there is a constant debate about what is better: indoor-grown or outdoor-grown. So, we're trying to determine whether sun and exposure or artificial lights AND control indoors is the better option. To decide this, we need to look at each technique and the pros and cons of each.
The Differences Between Using Sun vs. Artificial Light
One of the most critical aspects of growing cannabis is light. Light-deprived weed will either not be very impressive or won't grow at all. As a rule of thumb, healthy cannabis needs a minimum of anywhere from 10-12 hours of unadulterated light every day during flowering, and between 18-24 hours of light every day during its vegetative stage. For light sources, there are two options: using natural lighting, the sun, or artificial lighting, usually LED lights. Generally speaking, when we talk about these two different types of light, we're also talking about two completely different growing methods: indoor and outdoor. When we talk about indoor growing, we are primarily talking about completely isolated grow rooms and closets. Outdoor growing techniques traditionally refer to cannabis grown like other crops (i.e., wheat, corn, soy, etc.). The exception to both, which we'll get into later, is growing cannabis in a greenhouse. Let's dive into the specifics of outdoor vs. indoor weed to make the most sense of this.
Indoor marijuana growing has the benefit of stability, consistency, and control. Unfortunately, the downsides of indoor growing are expensive and environmentally costly. To start with the positive, artificial lighting allows you complete control over how much your plants are getting, and you can effectively mimic the full-spectrum, ultra-violet-rich illumination provided by natural lighting. You also aren't dependent on any external factors. Artificial lighting won't disappear behind the clouds or go away for the night. If you want a consistent crop, indoor lighting is for you.
Unfortunately, the costs of artificial light can be intense. Unlike free sunlight with outdoor growing, a single 4x4ft space lit with 1200w LED lights for 12 hours a day could run you upward of $500. Of course, you can get different lights at different wattages, but there's no doubt about it: indoor growing is expensive. It also leaves a very heavy environmental footprint. Currently, nearly 1% of annual US electricity usage can be linked to indoor cannabis farming (Colorado's annual usage is 4%). This is a massive amount of power needed to light cannabis - and that power leaves a large carbon footprint. For environmentally-conscious people, indoor growing can be hard to justify.
Outdoor marijuana growing has the benefit of natural and free resources. Unfortunately, the downsides of outdoor growing are a lack of control and consistency. Natural light, specifically, is considered the golden standard for what healthy cannabis needs. It is cost-effective - it's free - it reduces the carbon footprint of your cannabis garden because it takes no energy to cultivate, and it's also packed with lots of healthy Vitamin D, other natural nutrients, and full-spectrum lighting that you won't find equally with artificial lights.
However, the downside of sunlight is the same as every other outdoor growing - consistency and control. Growers should position their crops in areas most likely to receive the most sunlight per day. Additionally, since cannabis needs consistent light, shade produced by trees and other overhanging foliage may cause issues - many farmers prefer to cut down all surrounding foliage, so their crop receives maximum light. Outdoor growing is also completely dependent on the seasons and climate. Your growing window depends on how much light is available per day. In extreme northern and southern hemispheres, the amount of light available decreases drastically depending on the time of year, resulting in poor outdoor growing conditions.
When to Grow Indoors vs. Outdoors
Ultimately, deciding whether to grow indoors vs. outdoors is based solely on your resources and the season. Indoor is best for colder seasons and limited space. Sun-grown weed is best in mild and stable climates and in warmer seasons. Growing outdoors will be cheaper because of the cost of artificial lights (and other artificial monitoring such as humidity and temperature). However, growing cannabis indoors provides you with far more control over the external factors affecting your crop and, therefore, better control over your final product.
The best option, however - and an increasingly popular one amongst both professional and amateur growers - is using a greenhouse. Greenhouses provide you with the ability to easily manage the temperature and humidity of your grow space while transitioning between outdoor grow lights out of season and natural lighting during the growing season. Greenhouses can utilize natural light during peak growing season and save money while also allowing you to transition to artificial light as necessary during the off-season (or on irregular days). Additionally, if you need to supplement the natural lighting your cannabis is getting, greenhouses offer the use of High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lighting, which is much more efficient and less costly than traditional LED lights. That way, even if nature isn't providing what you need (be it weather or seasons), your setup in a greenhouse allows you to shift as needed.
Do you grow cannabis? Let us know whether you prefer sungrown cannabis or indoor cannabis using artificial lights. Do you use a greenhouse and supplemental lights? Comment below!