Not Just for Festivals: Beer Gardens Can Help Plants Thrive
Beer, one of America’s favorite alcoholic beverages, can be used for more than a tailgate or night on the town. Bryan Traficante explains how using your leftover beer also has the potential to invigorate and protect gardens, enhance soil, protect against garden pests, and promote compost decomposition.
Your plants love beer as much as you do. Thankfully, though, they’re not picky. Plants don’t care if their beer is fresh, so passing off leftovers from a party or tailgate, or brews that have expired (yes, beer does expire), isn’t a problem.
It is important to note, however, that even though beer is around 90 per cent water, it almost always needs to be diluted and mixed with other ingredients for garden use. Also, avoid beer with a high alcohol content; your plants are, and will always be, lightweights.
Beer as a Soil Energizer
If soil isn’t rich and ready to support plant growth, you may need to use a soil energizer. This will aid in building strength and nutrients that will help plants thrive. There are ready-made soil energizers available for purchase, but using a homemade mix in the garden you built from scratch is half the fun.
Mix one can of beer, a half cup of regular Coke, a half cup of dishwashing liquid, a half cup of antiseptic mouthwash, and a quarter teaspoon of instant tea granules in a 10-gallon bucket of water, then add the energizer to the garden soil two weeks before planting. This homemade recipe can cover a hundred square feet and guarantees a bountiful gardening season. (For more DIY recipes for the garden, check out Recipes for Success: Building Your Own Organic Potting Soil)
Beer as a Nematode Hindrance
Nematodes can be beneficial in moderation, but they can also cause garden destruction. They can overfeed and introduce viruses into gardens if left unchecked. Luckily, beer can be there to prevent any nematode problems.
Plant some French marigolds in a garden and then water it with a beer solution made of 12 ounces of beer per gallon of water. After the flowers have finished blooming, simply turn them into the soil. Their addition to the soil will prevent any further nematode issues.
Beer for Slug Prevention
Slugs and snails not only have an affinity for gardens, they also love beer. So, instead of allowing them to slime freely through the garden, you can catch them in beer traps. Fill a six- to eight-inch deep cup or container halfway with beer. As stated previously, it does not have to be a fresh or quality beer.
Dig a hole near the garden for the container, making sure it’s deep enough to have the lip of the container flush to ground level. Slugs and snails will slowly make their way toward it and dive in to indulge, unaware they won’t be able to climb back out. Check back occasionally to pour out the old contents and refill for further entrapments.
Beer as a Compost Starter
Soil-enriching compost can either be bought or made at home. If it’s being made at home, it can take some time before it has decomposed enough for use. To speed things up, mix a regular bottle of beer with ammonia and four gallons of water to pour over the compost pile. The yeast and sugar provided by the beer plus the ammonia’s nitrogen facilitates beneficial bacteria, shortening the decomposition timespan.
Beer as a Garden Brightener
Don’t use a camera filter to increase the color in a garden: use beer. A beer mixture combining ammonia, dishwashing liquid, liquid lawn food, molasses, and a can of beer can brighten any garden and make picture filters a thing of the past.
The concoction provides nitrogen, sugar, and yeast to the hungry plants, increasing their brightness. Even though dishwashing liquid seems odd to use, it helps leaves and soil absorb the liquid lawn food. Of course, be extremely careful and conservative with the use of ammonia. If used correctly and sparingly it can be beneficial to the soil, but its potential for harm may lead gardeners to steer clear altogether.
Gardening is fun, but gardening with beer is even better. Don’t let excess beer puddle up at the bottom of a trash bag—use it for one of its many garden benefits.