The Dirty Dozen: Why Grow Your Own

Sarah Logie — May 24, 2022

Growing your own fruits and veggies at home has become quite the hobby in recent years. Many people, whether they have acres of land or limited outdoor space, have found comfort in planting and eating their own delicious bounties. But did you know that growing your own food has major benefits aside from being a fun pastime? 

There’s something called the “dirty dozen”, which is a list of certain non-organic produce known to carry pesticide residue even after washing. Growing these twelve foods at home can not only be healthier for you, but also save you money as a sustainable and fun option. 

Let’s learn more about the dirty dozen, and how you can grow them in your own backyard naturally and healthfully. 

What are the “Dirty Dozen” Foods?

During research studies, over 46 varieties of produce items were tested for contamination. The most common “dirty” foods that have pesticide residue and other harmful contaminants were the dirty dozen. This list includes the following, with the most contaminated item being #1:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard greens, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell peppers and hot peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

While this may be a reason for concern, there are ways to reduce contamination. One way is to ensure you purchase organic produce from either your local grocery store or farmer’s market. It’s also advantageous to thoroughly clean any produce by soaking it in vinegar for 15 minutes.

One final way (and in our option, the best way) to guarantee a lesser risk of pesticides and harmful ingredients is through planting your own fruits and vegetables at home. With your own garden, you can maintain the produce to your liking, which can’t be done with store bought items.

Let’s learn more about what growing these twelve varieties at home can do for you, not to mention your overall well-being.

growing produce

Benefits of Growing At-Home

Although the dirty dozen can be a frightening prospect, especially when you’re trying to eat healthier, don’t fret! You can still enjoy all of the nutritional benefits of these fruits and vegetables, especially when you have your own garden to choose from. 

When growing your own produce at home, not only are you more in control of what goes into the plants (or better yet, what doesn’t), but it’s also an incredible hobby that can be both relaxing and enjoyable. You don’t need an entire yard in order to grow your own food, either. You just need sunshine and water, which can even be achieved in a windowsill!

Another benefit? Saving money! Growing your own food at home, especially the dirty dozen, saves you trips to the store. Planting your own produce is more cost-effective, and you’re less likely to waste any food since you can pick as it ripens. 

How to Grow Your Own Produce

Having your own fruit and vegetable garden can really be quite simple, but there's a few things you'll need ahead of time, like an area for sunlight, gardening tools, and a watering can. Now, let's dig into each category to see what growing the dirty dozen at home can look like. 

Strawberries

As the number one item on the list, you could truly benefit from growing your own strawberries. Try the Everbearing Strawberry (shown below) if you’re a beginner– it’s low-maintenance and thrives well in most environments. Plus, there’s endless ways to enjoy them, from fruit salads and strawberry shortcake to cocktails and of course, on their own!

Everbearing Strawberry

Spinach

There's a reason this superfood gave Popeye power! And when you add these leafy greens to your own lawn, you can reap the health benefits and none of the pitfalls of store bought spinach. Plus, since it’s a fast-growing plant, you’ll have bounties of power-packed spinach in no time.

growing spinach

Kale, Collard Greens, and Mustard Greens

Other greens that are great for growing at home are kale, collard greens and mustard greens. With these health foods, you’ll be building your own salads and smoothies at home on the daily! And since you’re growing them in your own garden, contaminants won’t be an issue. Enjoy some delicious and fresh meals without the pesticides.

growing kale

Nectarines

Make sure you have plenty of space for a nectarine tree! These delicious fruits come in a wide variety, from the Goldmine and the Fantasia to the Sunglo (shown below) and more. Having your own ripe, juicy nectarines without fear of pesticides means you can enjoy this luscious fruit from the comfort of your backyard! There’s nothing like biting into a refreshing stone fruit, especially one that you’ve grown yourself.  

Sunglo Nectarine Tree

Apples

There are so many different kinds of apple trees, from the Honeycrisp to the Fuji (shown below) and everything in between. It’s hard to choose just one, so, why should you? Growing apples at home allows you to plant a variety of trees for your own mini orchard or even try out combo varieties like the 5-in-1 Apple Tree! Who doesn’t love munching on a crisp apple? Add some peanut butter, bake a pie or top your salad–however you choose to use your apples, it’s sure to be scrumptious!   

Fuji

Grapes

Imagine picking grapes off of a vine, right from your doorstep. Planting grapes at home lends to a world of possibilities like fruit salad, wine, and even sorbet! Enjoy all of the sweetness and none of the harmful contaminants when you grow your own varieties like the Carlos Muscadine, Triumph Muscadine (shown below) or even our Wine Lover’s Kit, complete with multiple varieties in one convenient pack! 

Triumph Muscadine Grape

Cherries

Sweet as cherries! Whether you’re in the mood for a cherry pie or a bowl full of fresh picked cherries on their own, you can grow them stress-free in your home garden. And because there’s a vast array of cherry varieties, your new biggest problem will be choosing one! Try out some of our best-sellers like the Bing Cherry, Lapins Cherry or Stella Cherry (shown below) trees to get started. 

Stella Cherry Tree

Peaches

Looking to grow your own peaches? Lucky for you, we have plenty of picks to choose from! Take your pick from bigger varieties like the Elberta Peach or more compact, patio-perfect ones like the Bonanza Patio Peach Tree (shown below). Either way, you’ll be harvesting fresh, juicy fruit in no time! 

Bonanza Patio Peach Tree 

Pears

Pear trees are a beautiful and bountiful choice for any space! With so many different types and sizes, you can have a harvest of tasty fruits to keep for yourself or give to others. Check out the Bartlett Pear Tree (shown below), Hosui Pear Tree, or the 4-in-1 Pear Tree to really get a bang for your buck! Plus, pears make an excellent gift, especially around the holidays. 

Bartlett Pear Tree

Bell Peppers and Hot Peppers

Another potential patio plant is peppers! From bell peppers to hot peppers, you can spice up your life without needing much yard space. And our Patio Hot Pepper Garden (shown below) makes growing hot peppers especially easy because it comes with everything you need to grow and enjoy fresh hot peppers–an embroidered grow bag, a fully rooted pepper plant and companion herbs, growing media, and garden nutrients. 

Patio Hot Pepper Garden

Celery

Nothing beats the crisp crunch of celery, especially when you have the satisfaction of growing it yourself! Harvesting this healthy treat at home guarantees no harmful ingredients or additives. Plus, the kids (and you!) will love “ants on a log” as an after-school snack.

growing celery

Tomatoes

Imagine your own patio tomato garden (shown below)! Low on space but big on taste, you can pick and eat your own tomatoes in no time, right from your porch or patio. This versatile produce is fresh and flexible, ideal for snacking on right off the vine or incorporating into homemade dishes. Did someone say Caprese Salad?! 

Patio Tomato Garden

Cleaning Up the Dirty Dozen

Although the dirty dozen might seem daunting, getting all the nutrition you need from your daily fruits and vegetables can be as simple as buying organic or growing your own! Plus, harvesting from home provides a fun hobby, a touch of color and interest in your yard, and a way to enjoy healthy foods year-round at a lower cost. Do yourself a favor and lean into the benefits and fresh taste of homegrown fruits and veggies! 

    Sarah Logie

    As Content Strategist at FastGrowingTrees.com, Sarah is smitten with words and a fanatic for flowers, particularly cut florals and house plants. With a love for curating compelling content, she also enjoys furthering her plant knowledge along the way! A few of her favorite flowers include hibiscus, hydrangeas, peonies and dahlias.

    Sarah’s fondness for plants was cultivated through many childhood trips to Longwood Gardens in southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as through her first job out of college at a floral event design company. In her free time, catch her snapping photos of anything and everything, day-dreaming about interior decor, and enjoying the outdoors any chance she gets.

    Questions? Contact Sarah at information@fastgrowingtrees.com.

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