Family gardens taking a big hit due to drought, record heat

Aug 23, 2022, 11:03 PM

TOOELE, Utah — Record heat, drought and sky-high prices at the grocery store are taking a toll on families. For those that rely on home gardening for food storage, this year has been extra tough.

The Castagno family in Tooele plants a huge garden every year. They enjoy much of it during the summer months, then can and freeze the rest to get them through the remainder of the year. But this summer, the garden has struggled to grow due to extreme heat and drought. It comes at the worst time possible, with grocery prices at record highs.

Curtis Castagno planted 20 tomato plants this year. All have died except four. And even those aren’t doing well, with not a single ripe fruit yet. And it’s not just the tomatoes — the green beans, the corn, the entire garden is smaller, partly because they planted less knowing water rations were likely and partly because what they have planted hasn’t produced as much as years past.

“I usually bottle and bottle and bottle,” said Melanie Castagno. “I haven’t bottled any.”

And while Melanie doesn’t enjoy the canning process, she loves knowing her pantry is full for the coming months.

“I get this rush, a sense of accomplishment when the shelves are full in the fruit room. I know we’ll have what we need,” she said.

The Castagnos use their garden to provide. They say if next year is as bad as what they’ve seen this year, they’ll be very worried, especially with soaring grocery prices.

“There are a lot of people that have struggled this year,” said Sheridan Hansen, a horticulturist with the Utah State Extension. “It has been unrelenting as far as the heat goes.”

Hansen said shade fabric is one option people can still use, even this late in the season, to help protect plants from the heat. She’s used it herself and says it makes a huge difference. She also recommends mulching around the plants to help keep them hydrated.

For the Castagnos, their hope is for more summer storms followed by lot of snow this winter.

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Family gardens taking a big hit due to drought, record heat