Learn / Ask The Landscape Professional
Is it true that I can use beer as a fertilizer for my plants? Karen
Unfortunately, that's an
old wives tale that may have started way back
in the early 1800s. It sounds like it might be a
good idea in theory (i.e., a good source of food
(carbohydrates) for plants and microorganisms
in the soil and minerals to promote better
plant growth), but it doesn't work out that way.
Beer doesn't help plants and, in fact, it can be
Beer contains: Carbohydrates (sugar),
protein, carbon dioxide, water, alcohol and
other trace elements.
Carbohydrates: Plants can't take advantage of any added carbohydrates, but the
microbes in the soil can. The carbs in beer, however, are the wrong kind to do any good.
Beer has carbs called "simple sugars", but the beneficial microorganisms in the soil can
only utilize complex carbohydrates.
Proteins: Protein includes nitrogen. On average, there's about 6 grams of protein per liter
of beer (not very much!). It won't hurt, but the quantity is so small, it would be a waste of
Carbon dioxide: There is plenty already in the air; any added to the soil by adding beer
won't have an impact on plant health.
Water: That's always a good thing!
Alcohol: That can be a very bad thing for plants. Several weeks ago, I wrote about using
alcohol to deliberately stunt plant growth of paper whites, but in very carefully mixed
doses. If you overdo it with too much alcohol, you can kill the plant!
Other trace elements: Iron, copper, zinc, etc. are in such small amounts, they won't do
There is, however, a great use for beer, if you have slugs or snails in your garden
damaging your plants. Bury a shallow dish in the ground with its lip even with the surface
of the ground and put beer in it. Snails and slugs love the smell and they will dive in and
won't be able to get out!
The bottom line - unless you are going after slug and snail control, beer in your garden
may sound like a good idea, but it's not.
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About Linda Lillie
Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier
landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry
service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of
Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national
award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.