"Since 1957 when we tried (and failed) to grow radishes in a windowbox outside our third-floor apartment window in Philadelphia, my husband and I have been learning about growing vegetables," says Nancy Bubel.

She is the author of a very good new book, "The Seed-Starter's Handbook," published by Rodale Press, 363 pages, well illustrated, $10,95.

"I had a yearning to begin a garden of my own," she says. "Mike wanted a garden too. When we moved into our first house, we bought digging forks and shovels almost before the ink was dry on the deed. And we started that first year with tomatoes and beans and many flowers.

"It took us several years to progress to planting a garden that we could eat from all summer, but by 1970 our vegetable garden was carrying us yearround.

"Today we hardly ever buy a vegetable. Our year-round vegetable self-sufficiency is due to large continuous outdoor plantings of varieties of food chosen for quality and ease of storage."

Consider this book a manual of procedures, giving you the step-by-step how and when of various planting techniques. Look in every chapter for the principles -- the why -- on which these techniques are based.

Why start your own seed? Choice of seed and careful handing can bring you not only earlier harvests but better vegetables.You can select varieties of food known to keep or process well so that the winter eating season will be a time of abundance.

You can get a much earlier start in the garden and therefore put fresh food on the table sooner when you've grown flats of cabbage and tomatoes, eggplant and peppers indoors for setting out when the weathere mellows.

Varieties of plants offered by commercial seedling vendors represent but a tiny fraction of the possibilities open to you as a gardener, she says.

Buying started plants severely limits your options for raising vegetables of special flavor, keeping quality, insect or disease resistance, and extra nutritional value.

Bubel's book is a ready, relevant reference book for both the new and experienced gardener. You'll be surprised at the wealth of information in it.

There are the botanical facts about the nature of seed, germination, the needs of growing plants, pollination and seed formation; the practical realities of sowing seeds indoors and out, transplanting and caring for tender young plants, warding off frost, diseases, insects, and animal pests; and, step-by-step directions for starting varieties of nearly 60 different vegetables from seed, and matching directions for collecting and storing seeds from those plants.