Even though we're all tired of the snow, your garden loves it. Snow is, in effect, a mulch that helps keep the ground from freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, which is what makes small perennials heave their roots out of the ground and perish.

Meanwhile, this can be one of the best times of the year, time to look at catalogues and plan. But don't get carried away.

THE GARDEN NOTEBOOK you kept last harvest, if you are a good citizen, is an enormous help now. Look it over and figure out what succeeded and what didn't; list what you plan to try again, in three categories: seeds to get from catalogues, those to get locally in bulk because it's so much cheaper, and plants to buy as seedlings.

BULK SEED: Many common seeds are available locally at hardware stores and garden centers in bulk. I've seen some in stock in the last week or so. Not only is it cheaper, but you often find hybrids particularly suited to the area. I buy locally Silver Queen and Golden Queen corn (hard to find in catalogues anyway), beans, peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes, onion sets, seed potatoes -- basically, anything I'm going to want in quantity and any species bred for Virginia.

SEEDLINGS: I buy them in March or April from stores or nurseries, including tomatoes (I shop around considerably, because I like a fairly wide variety), peppers, broccoli and all other members of the cabbage family, Pascal celery, a few zucchinis and cucumbers for earliest possible production, and perennial herbs and flowers. I generally don't bother getting tomato or pepper seeds at all, because they are pretty much continuous-bearing plants once in fruit. But I do go ahead and buy cabbage-family seeds and zucchini and cucumber seeds for later planting. Seedlings provide early vegetables, but get them locally: They tend to suffer too much coming through the mail, and just don't do as well.

CATALOGUES: Now look at the catalogues for ideas and items you know you're not going to find locally. Chances are, if you know you're going to pick up most seeds at the store, you won't go overboard in the catalogues. And

DON'T SKIMP: Nothing is worse than deciding in September you're going to put in a final bed of lettuce only to find you're out of seeds and so are the stores.