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Matt Puchalski
A Pandemic Gardening Journal

In "A Pandemic Gardening Journal," author Matt Puchalski shares a captivating account of finding solace and meaning in gardening during the challenging times of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this must-read book takes readers through Matt's transformative journey from an urban backyard filled with concrete and trash to a vibrant oasis of life. Filled with gorgeous pictures, practical gardening advice, and personal reflections, the book not only chronicles Matt's explorations in gardening but also includes unique recipes like quick pickles and elderflower liqueur, illustrating how he turned a year of isolation into a period of growth and community contribution.

Puchalski traces the course of constructing a new garden over a year, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, in this refreshing debut. A New Jersey transplant, Puchalski grew up working outdoors in his family’s backyard, but it wasn’t until his move to Pittsburgh—and purchase of a 100-year-old brick house—that his green thumb truly blossomed. Starting in March of 2020, Puchalski chronicles the remodel of his outdoor space, detailing the demolition, planting, and harvesting that went into building his own “private oasis.” His labors were not in vain; the garden renovation produced physical beauty, wholesome food, and a sense of community with his neighbors in a time when fear and isolation were the norm.

Readers interested in starting their own garden will relish Puchalski’s practical advice; from how to check growing zones to avoiding rot in certain crops to the growing phases of rhubarb, he transports readers into a lush atmosphere of sunshine, soil, and sustenance. A top 10 list of dramatic plants for home gardeners (coneflower and lavender steal the show), unique recipes—such as elderflower liqueur or rhubarb syrup—and access to Puchalski’s regularly updated garden tracking page with farming spreadsheets and more give this journal serious clout. Photographs sprinkled throughout add personality, particularly those of Puchalski’s landscape progress and crop growth.

Beyond the practical advice, Puchalski writes with an easy humor that will delight readers as he reflects on lessons learned during the pandemic (“Seeds make great roommates during a global pandemic. They stick to their room, never use all the hot water, and if you maintain your relationship with them, make excellent company in the kitchen.” he claims). Even though the journal is based in Pittsburgh—from the growing season to the concrete garden to the steep hills—it will resonate with gardeners worldwide.

Takeaway: Charming journal devoted to the joys of city gardening.

Comparable Titles: Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates’s Paradise Lot, Page Dickey’s Uprooted.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A-
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-