Different Ways Growing Weed: Outdoors vs. Indoors, Soil vs. Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics

Stephen Andrews
20 Jul 2021

Growing outdoors is the only way it's right for some growers. But for some growers, setting up an indoor grow room is the only option. Then come all the different mediums where you can nourish your pretty cannabis plants.

There are several ways and methods how to grow cannabis. Weigh in the pros and cons for each method before you start growing. 

Growing Outdoors

It's the only way it's right for some growers. The plant is exposed to natural elements. Plants receive natural sunlight and grow to their full genetic potential. 


  • It's the most natural way to cultivate cannabis and the least expensive as well, given that you have a garden, a warm climate with sufficient sunlight, and good soil. 
  • Outdoor-grown cannabis tastes and smells the best. When grown outside, cannabis plants develop the best natural terpene profile. 
  • It's the most inexpensive way to grow cannabis. Growers will save on electricity for artificial lights needed to cultivate plants indoors. So, besides it's cost-effective, it's also sustainable. 
  • Cannabis crops improve the soil. If you have a place in your garden where the ground is not that good, you can improve it if you plant cannabis. Plants have strong roots that will work their way into the soil. Preferably, you can do this with male plants. Then grow vegetables or reserve the spot for female cannabis plants. 


  • You can't control the weather outside, so plants are at peril because of bad weather. They're also at greater risks of pests or grazing animals, so outdoor growers should have solutions ready to address each issue that may occur. 
  • A lot of cannabis strains grow ideally in warmer climates, so growing outdoors in some places in North America where the weather is colder requires extra efforts from growers to work around the climate and the changing seasons.
  • You can't really grow if your plot of land is not big enough, and you have to hide your plants since growing laws are still not everywhere settled.

Growing Indoors 

If you don't have the conditions or environment to grow outdoors, you can always move crops inside. Grow anytime and anywhere and aim for multiple harvests a year. 


  • From seedling to harvest, growers have complete control of the cannabis cultivation process. The cannabis plants are right there. Growers can check light, temperature, humidity, and air circulation at all times and amend as necessary. Grower is the god of the grow room.
  • Growers can take advantage of those cannabis strains that better thrive in indoor environments. 
  • Grow any time of the year. It doesn't matter when do you plant your seeds. If you follow the best practices of growing a particular strain, every month can be Christmas.


  • Unlike growing outdoors where growers get to use free energy, growing inside comes with some costs, and it will reflect on your bills. The more plants you plan to grow, the more budget you will need to set up a proper grow room. 
  • If you don't ventilate your room, mold will viciously attack plants, and with mold come other issues. Illness spreads faster in closed facilities, especially if plants are not spaced out. Growers need to keep an extra eye on mites and have pesticides ready to protect crops.
  • Plants may start to emit a strong odor which you may want to conceal. 

Soil vs. Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics 

Besides cannabis can be grown indoors and outdoors, it can also be grown in different mediums. While soil is the standard, some growers take the extra step to grow in hydroponics or aquaponics settings. 

Growing in soil 

Soil is the recommended way to go for novice growers. If you are at the beginning of your journey as a cannabis cultivator, mastering soil is a must. 


  • The simplest way to ensure cannabis plants receive sufficient water, nutrients, and oxygen is to grow in soil, either in a container or the ground. 
  • You can quickly improve soils. Apply compost to improve soils outside, and it's a skill you can take for any other crops you may want to grow in your garden. Take a readily available potting mix from the shop to improve soils in containers. 
  • Soil is better at retaining the desired pH values as well as at protecting from issues such as excess nourishing. Organic soil releases nutrients gradually and is perfect for retaining the excess of water, which is a wind in the back for new growers. 


  • Pests and pathogens are to be expected in organic soils. Growers must ensure they take some protective actions to protect crops and help the plants grow the best buds. 
  • Growing in soil demands more time and effort, unlike with hydroponics for example where many of the processes are automated. So, don't start growing in soils at all if you are thin on time. Plants take some time to tend to.


Instead of soil, hydroponics uses coconut coir or rockwool as some of the applicable growing mediums. It's a more inert growing process where water and other readily available solutions are key. The method might be confusing to new growers. Although, today there are simple hydroponic systems that beginner growers can purchase and take advantage of.


  • With hydroponics, growers can easily automate growing processes. Save time with timers and pumps that will do the most with watering and feeding the crops. 
  • Growers can choose between different systems that have the same goal of providing the roots of the cannabis plant with water, nutrients, and oxygen. For instance, with drip irrigation, plants are nourished with plastic tubing that reaches the base of each plant. With an ebb and flow system, nutrients flood the root zone repeatedly, but the process is balanced as to allow sufficient oxygen access. 
  • Pests and pathogens stay away from hydroponics systems. Growers don't have to deal with this too. 


  • With automation, growers do not have a complete overview of the growing process. Which could be a downside in the event of system failure. In the worst-case scenario, you lose all plants.
  • Roots are oversensitive to unfavorable pH levels (which are different than for growing in soils), as are to excess food.
  • Cannabis plants grown in hydroponic systems can yield more flowers, but it all comes at the cost of taste and flavor. Growers need to flush nutrients from the plants before conducting the harvest to preserve smokability.
  • There are more costs to set up a hydroponic system.


With aquaponics, growers combine hydroponics and fish farming to facilitate an eco-system of its own where both cannabis and fish can thrive. 


  • In aquaponics setups, cannabis plants are nourished with organic waste produced by the fish that lives in the same system. Fish types can include tilapia, koi, trout, catfish, or goldfish. The basis is water, but the system recirculates water, so that's pretty sustainable.
  • Aquaponics is a faster method to grow cannabis as roots are exposed to an abundance of oxygen and receive more nutrients than usual.  
  • With all that extra fish, you can probably prepare a dish of high trout for you and friends.


  • It takes more equipment to set up aquaponics, including an appropriate fish tank, so this is a growing method of cannabis that requires more budget, more so than hydroponics. 
  • While taking care of the fish can be a chill pastime activity, it comes with responsibilities to clean and sterilize the fish tank, prevent algae from forming, and regulate water temperature that will soothe the fish. 
  • If algae start to spread because of the moisture, growers must efficiently take care of it. Algae won't harm the fish, but it will the weed. It's two types of weed that don't like each other.

Happy growing!

Stephen Andrews