There is so much joy in growing your own fruits and vegetables: it’s not just about the crops themselves it is the lessons you learn as you see what works or fails, the excitement you feel when you first notice flowers or fruits forming, the physical and mental health benefits from being out in the fresh air tending the garden and of course the lovely fresh produce you get to eat and enjoy.

If you have limited space you can still be part of the grow your own family- our advice is always to pick something you and your family love to eat and become an expert at growing it. Your local garden centre is there to help you get set up and will ride the highs and lows with you as you perfect your home grown techniques and increase your backyard bounty.

Another reason to grow your own is so you can enjoy delicious fresh produce without the high build-up of pesticide residue that is often present on commercially grown product. The reality is that fruit and veggies produced commercially, unless they are certified organic, will have been exposed to pesticides at some stage in their growth and many may still contain residues when we take them home, what’s more those residues can remain even after washing them.

This article is not about telling everyone to go out and organically grow everything you eat as we know practically this is simply not possible for most. We also know that family budgets do not allow for increased expenditure on trolley loads of truly organic fruit and vegetables.

BUT what we want to introduce you to is a little shopping guide which has been researched and published by the EWG since 2004 which can help steer you towards growing fruits and/ or vegetables that will give you a double health benefit- delicious taste/ nutrition and reduced chemical residues.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability. Basically it does all the hard work in helping us to understand the uses of pesticides in the produce we eat. It is a large not-for-profit, independent group comprised of many experts including scientists and other researchers.

Yes it is an American organisation as we do not have such an organisation in Australia and your response may be “that it is not relevant to Australia” but according to Sustainable Gardening Australia “.. The few Australian studies that we could track down showed considerable overlap with the EWG findings. And commercial agriculture and pesticide use are similar in both countries.”

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, updated every year since 2004, ranks pesticide contamination of 48 popular fruits and vegetables. The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. It is important to note that the samples are tested for pesticides after they have been prepared to be eaten. This means the produce is thoroughly washed and, when applicable, peeled. After these preparations, pesticide residues are still detected on many of the fruits and veggies.

Every day, consumers rely on EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to help them make the best choices for their families and reduce their exposures to toxic pesticides

There are stark differences in the number and amount of pesticides on various types of produce. EWG’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ lists the Dirty Dozen™ fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues, and the Clean Fifteen™, for which few, if any, residues were detected.

So our advice is if some of your favourites are on the Dirty Dozen list:

Perhaps these are the ones to try and become an expert in growing and if not , if the budget allows invest in buying these organically from time to time or  use the Shopper’s Guide to choose foods lower in pesticide residues. With the Shopper’s Guide, you can have the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while limiting your exposure to pesticides.

Highlights of the Dirty Dozen™ for 2017 (extract from the report)- go to for the full report

Strawberries and spinach this year are the number one and two dirtiest – and both are so easy and so much fun to grow in all sorts of garden spaces/ pots/ containers.

For the Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. This year the list includes, in orderstrawberriesspinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.

Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce. Pears and potatoes were new additions to the Dirty Dozen, displacing cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from last year’s list.

Key findings:

  • More than 98 percent of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide.
  • A single sample of strawberries showed 20 different pesticides.
  • Spinach samples had, on average, twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.