Is Beer Good For Plants?

Beer? Good for plants? I know, it seems like a stretch. For one thing, I think most would agree that beer is better when enjoyed by a person than when poured on a peace lily. But, for years, the idea that beer can be used as a versatile agent for garden growth has persisted. 

So, is it fact or fiction – should we be using beer to help our flora to flourish? Well, I’ve done the reading, and here’s what I’ve found.

Is Beer Good for Plants?

Well, the first thing to say is that the advice you’ll find online on this subject is inconsistent. 

There are a lot of articles out there recommending beer be used as an addition to compost, as a spot fertilizer, as bait for pests or as a way to attract valuable pollinating insects. It is thought that the yeast and carbohydrates found in beer could offer some benefit to garden growth. 

On the other hand, many credible sources argue that beer used as a fertilizer is, at best, harmless but ineffective and at worst actively harmful to most plants due to the presence of alcohol and simple sugars (carbohydrates). While studies have shown that carefully controlled doses of alcohol can result in sturdier flowers due to stunted growth, the alcohol used in these tests had to be heavily diluted, and beer was not used as the presence of sugars “wreaks havoc on [plants’] health.” 

So, while there is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there that beer is an unsung hero of botanical brilliance, the advice from the experts seems to be that beer is better enjoyed by humans than hydrangeas.

Can Beer Help my Garden Grow?

The good news is that, should you find yourself with any stale or out-of-date beer, it can be put to good use in your garden for effective composting and pest control!

Adding Beer to Compost

While you should avoid spraying beer directly onto the plant life in your garden, it can be an incredibly effective addition to your compost pile. The water in the beer will help to keep the pile moist, while the sugars and yeast will promote the breakdown of materials within. Enriching your compost in this way is probably the most plant-friendly way that you can recycle the nutrients in beer.

Using Beer for Pest Control

Slugs and snails are, for many gardeners, enemy number 1, emerging at night to gouge on carefully cared-for plantlife and devour seedlings. If you’re finding your horticultural efforts are being thwarted by these nocturnal annoyances, there are many different types of repellents and traps you could try to get the problem under control. But all you might need is a couple of pints of old beer.

You see, the smell of the fermentation from the beer is like catnip to the slimy critters. They just won’t be able to stay away. Set up a tall glass or deep dish in a slug/snail hotspot, fill it with beer, and leave it overnight. With a little luck, come morning you’ll find that some of the pests that have been ravaging your garden will have taken a nosedive into your beer and perished while there. You’ll need to replace the beer every few days, but soon enough you should begin to notice a marked decrease in damage done to the plants in your garden.

So, Beer Is Not Good for Plants?

Happily, should you find yourself with any expired or “left-over” beer, your garden can benefit from reduced mollusc activity and improved compost quality. But please, don’t administer it directly. Beer is a people drink, not a plant drink. Let’s keep it that way.