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Dirty Dozen Action Plan

We’re trying to avoid eating pesticides at home. I wash all our fruit and vegetables, using this DIY fruit and vege wash, but that only gets rid of so much. Ideally, we would eat only organic vegetables and frolick around in radiation suits with oxygen masks, but that gets expensive (and uncomfortable) and we’re trying to cut costs and stay friendly with our neighbours.

The solution is to grow our own, but I’m not the world’s best gardener, although I can plant a plant. Perhaps, we could focus on growing the vegetables exposed to the most pesticides and dramatically reduce our exposure = winning.How to grow vegetables | Blah Blah Magazine

This is where mates come in handy. I met the ridiculously talented gardener, Kyrstie, through her cooking and gardening blog, A Fresh Legacy. It’s where I go to dream about skipping through a garden bursting with Jack and the Beanstalk type produce, oh, and get gardening and cooking tips. 

Kyrstie, gem that she is, said she would be happy to show me how to tackle the dirty dozen...

The Dirty Dozen is a list of 12 fruit and vegetables that have been tested to show the highest levels of pesticide residue. The information is provided by American based organisation EWG. You can read more here. They routinely rank pesticide contamination of 48 fruits and vegetables based on analysis of 34,000 samples taken by the U S Department of Agriculture and Federal Food and Drug Administration. The information is US based and there are some different guidelines for pesticide use in Australia, however this guide is widely recognised as a guide for those who would like to reduce their exposure to pesticide residue in food.

How to grow vegetables | Blah Blah Magazine

The 2015 Dirty Dozen list is as follows:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Snap Peas
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Capsicum

Reduce your exposure to chemicals

Enjoy eating these glorious foods by:

  1. Purchasing certified organic produce
  2. Growing your own spray free produce

Purchase Certified Organic Produce:

If you are not able to grow your own vegetables at home here are some sources of produce that you can seek in your area :

Grow Your Own

This is the best way of ensuring that the food that goes onto your family meal table is 100% pesticide free. I have outlined some tips to help you source these foods from your backyard instead of the grocery store.

Right now is the perfect time of year to start growing these items in Australia:

  • Capsicum
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes

Wait until autumn to start snap peas and spinach

Wait for spring for planting potatoes

When it is time to plant peas they are very easy to grow from seed. They are a good choice of plant to grow with young children as the seeds are large and easy to handle. The seedlings are reasonably robust as they develop. The kids will love seeing the tendrils grab onto their support and climb.

In addition to reducing your exposure to pesticide residue, growing vegetables with your children provides a wonderful opportunity to:

  • enjoy family time together
  • explore unusual and heirloom food varieties
  • incorporate fun, active, educational activities for kids such as seasonality, water management, composting and waste reduction
  • teach your children responsibility by providing them with opportunity to care for the plants
  • be inspired to create new family meals that include your fresh harvests

How to grow vegetables | Blah Blah Magazine

These are my top tips for planting these summer vegetables that are on the Dirty Dozen list:


Capsicum can be grown from seed if you use a good supplier. They are slow to start so plant your seeds right now for summer fruit, or purchase seedlings from your local nursery that are ready to put straight into the garden now. They may be grown in the garden or in a pot.

Find my planting, growing, harvesting and cooking tips for capsicums here.


Cucumbers can be grown from seed. They are best grown in a garden area. Once the seed germinates and develops three leaves it is ready to plant in the garden. Plant in a sunny location and provide a frame for the cucumber plant to climb. This helps to keep the fruit off the ground and less susceptible to pests and from developing powdery mildew.

Keep the soil moist by watering at the base of the plant. Add bee friendly plants close by such as borage and marigolds to assist with pollination.


Once you taste your first home grown tomato you are unlikely to purchase the tasteless store variety again.

Tomatoes are the prime backyard crop to grow and harvest. There are a large variety of tomato plants on the market. If you are growing them with your family for the first time I recommend that you plant some cherry tomatoes. They tend to be prolific producers. They are sweet in flavour and useful in the kitchen. Grow regular varieties for slicing and using in sandwiches and cooking. Tomatoes may be grown either in a large pot or in the garden. They are easy to grow if you follow the tips in the posts below. This will ensure a healthy, bountiful harvest.

I have written detailed posts on how to grow tomatoes here:

They are not difficult to grow and will reward you with bountiful, fresh pesticide free fruit to enjoy across the salad season.

Get your tomato plants into the garden by mid November if you have not done so already.

How do you reduce exposure to pesticides?

 How to grow vegetables | Blah Blah Magazine

Kyrstie Barcak is the founder of A Fresh Legacy , a food and garden site. She inspires and helps families to grow their own vegetable garden and enjoy fresh healthy meals. Kyrstie is also the creator of the recently launched Kitchen Garden Box, a complete fresh food experience designed for busy mums.

Kyrstie believes that everyone can grow at least one food item at home and have a positive impact on their family lifestyle.

Visit A Fresh Legacy for practical growing information and fresh family recipes created for busy mums.

About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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  1. Love the advice lady! I’ve just planted another tomato seedling in my balcony garden and I’m trying a new variety this time, fingers crossed it goes well! I might even be able to squeeze a capsicum plant or two in as well (it’s getting crazy out there this year!) xx

  2. The Dirty Dozen are all my favourite things. I better get myself down to the Farmer’s Markets and start getting my fingers green on the balcony! Top tips!

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