It's not too early to plan for spring

With winter nearing the doorstep, gardeners soon will be holed up, seed catalogs in hand, while visions of roses and plump, home-grown vegetables swirl in their heads.

Indeed, it's time to give some thought to next year's garden.

Dedicated gardeners often order many of their seeds by mail. Why? Because that's the only way they can obtain many of the varieties that simply are not stocked by the local nurseries.

It also makes good sense to order plants, bare-root stock, and herbs by mail as well. As with seeds, your choices are enlarged and you don't have to decide the best time for planting. Your order will be shipped at the optimum time for planting in your particular area of the country.

Best of all, each order arrives with printed material which completely outlines the proper procedure for planting. Just follow the directions and you're ahead.

Of course, I do have a few rules that I follow to the letter - and you should , too. Rule No. 1 is to deal only with reputable nurseries; Rule No. 2 calls for preparing the ground carefully ahead of time. Then, when the plants arrive, I give them immediate attention and follow the printed instructions with care.

The results so far have been excellent. The roses bloom in profusion and the berries are heavy yielders as well. Although I put off planting an asparagus bed for almost a month, I now have a producing asparagus bed that yields more each spring than we can consume.

Thus, locate some of the highly dependable nurseries from coast to coast. Here, for example, is a brief list of reliable shippers of plants and bare-root stock:

* Burpee Seed Company, Warminster, Pa. 18991, one of the oldest seed companies in the United States. It also stocks trees, vines, roses, berries, asparagus, and shrubs. Free catalog.

* Bluestone Perennials, 7211 Middle Ridge Road, Madison, Ohio 44057. All sorts of perennials with emphasis on chrysanthemums and iris. The catalog costs 50 cents.

* Lamb Nurseries, East 101 Sharp Avenue, Spokane, Wash. 99202. Specializes in herbs, succulents, and alpines. Free catalog.

* Jackson & Perkins, Box 16B, Medford, Ore. 97501. Offers roses, fruit and shade trees, and berries. Free catalog.

* Stark Bros. Nurseries, Louisiana, Mo. 63353. A fine selection of fruit trees, nut trees, ornamentals, and roses. Free catalog.

* Taylor's Herb Gardens, 1535 Lone Oak Road, Vista, Calif. 92083. Specializes in herbs. Catalog costs $1.

* Armstrong Nurseries, Box 4060, Ontario, Calif. 91761. Specializes in roses and fruit trees. Free catalog.

Check the gardening magazines and ask your neighbors about others. And when your order arrives on the doorstep, follow the directions on the label to a T.

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