Compost tea is the secret to gorgeous flowers and great veggies -- and you don't have to use chemicals to do it.

Making a great organic fertilizer is no farther than your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. To make compost tea you'll need: an old pair of pantyhose, a kitty litter bucket and some compost.

How is it made, you ask? Compost tea is made like any other tea and that's where the pantyhose comes in. Compost is made by collecting kitchen scraps and other garden clippings, putting them in a compost container and letting heat and water break the material down into a highly nutritious form.

Kitchen scarps are the key to great compost starter? By composting kitchen scraps in a compost bucket. First, let me warn you that you do not want to use any meat or fat in your compost bucket. And this system works most frugally if you have a cat. But don't worry. Cats and kitty litter go hand in hand but you don't have to have a cat to use the bucket.

I have two 14 year-old gray tabbies at home. I like using kitty litter that comes in a bucket with a secure lid. Tidy Cat makes a nice one. You can do whatever you want with the kitty litter: you can use it yourself in your own kitty box, put it in a re-sealable bag and store it in the trunk of your car for an icy day, or you can give it away to a friend who has a kitty. Any one of them will do. You just want the bucket.

Rinse your new composting bucket out really well with soap and water and dry it. Now you're ready to start composting. Whenever you have leftovers that aren't meat or fat, throw them in the compost bucket. This can be ends of bread, vegetable peels, eggshells or left over pasta.

And, because the compost bucket that you've selected has a secure lid, you shouldn't smell any odor coming from it.

Now, there are lots of companies out there that will be happy to sell you a very expensive, very cute kitchen compost bucket. Don't buy it. The kitty litter bucket works much better and it's bigger so it will hold more. And you're getting a TFG (The Frugal Gardener) two-fer: the kitty litter can be used by your favorite feline and you get a durable compost bucket.

Collect compost for as long as you want. I usually don't empty my compost bucket for a few weeks. Just make sure it isn't too heavy for you to lift. The next step on your way to gardening organically is a compost pile.

Compost piles come in all shapes and sizes and, yes, you can buy some very expensive containers, too. One of the best compost piles I ever had was in that first garden in New Jersey when all I did was take my compost and dump it in the dirt. I turned it over every time I had a new load of kitchen waste and I grew a great organic garden in that space.

It's true, you do need to have space for this kind of composting. This will not work if you live in an apartment. But I have a solution to not having a compost pile.

What is it? Move! No, just kidding.

You can buy some commercially prepared compost (not the most frugal thing, I'll admit) or you can ask one of your gardening buddies if they have a compost pile you can contribute to in exchange for some compost. If you have your own compost pile, you can choose to enclose it with any number of things: chicken wire, hay bales, or you can build a wooden compost container.

A compost tumbler lets me rotate my compost without digging through the pile. It also allows heat to build up in the container, which is a critical element in breaking down the kitchen scraps and garden refuse into a beautiful, black soil-like consistency.

These tumblers are available from places like Gardener's Supply Company. All right. We've collected scraps for compost, we've taken them in our compost bucket to the compost pile, and now we have fresh compost (it takes about two weeks in the sun for compost to appear). Here's where the pantyhose come in.

Tie off the leg at the end -- especially is there's a hole or a run. You want to have as solid a leg of pantyhose as possible.

Put a good amount of compost in one leg of the old pantyhose making sure that you have knotted it at the lower end so that it doesn't fall out onto the ground. Don't laugh -- I did that once. I don't know what I was thinking, I may have even been talking to a gardening friend at the time, but I was happily loading compost into my pantyhose leg to find that it had deposited itself back on the ground.

Fortunately, it was in an area of the garden that needed a bit of compost anyway. Once you have a leg-full, close up the top end, take your compost bucket from the kitchen, rinse it out, and fill it with water.

Place your leg full of compost in the water and let it steep. For the best effect, do this in full sun. Let the compost bucket sit there for two to three days. In the end, you'll have some water that looks like strong tea. And you'll be ready for an organic garden.

Not only does the tea provide nutrients to the plants, it makes them strong enough to resist many pests and diseases. Pour your compost tea into a watering can and water all of your plants and vegetables with it.

Now you're growing organically! Compost is also good for organic gardens in the non-tea form as an additive to your garden soil. Whenever I'm planting a new container or creating a new raised bed, I make sure to mix in some compost for great nutrients and vitamins.

About the Author

Victoria Rosendahl has been getting her nails dirty in the garden since she was 10. For more garden tips, including information about GardenRack, the custom raised bed gardening system, visit

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