A neighbor wandered by for conversation and noted that he always plants peas on George Washington's birthday. Surprised, I protested, "But surely that's much too early!" Well, he said, it's his own little tradition. It does them no harm whatsoever, they are in the ground already when everyone else is recommending getting them in, and as soon as the ground is ready for them to germinate, they'll germinate, he claimed. Besides, he added, when it's time to plant peas, it's also time to plant a lot of other things, and this way you're ahead of the game by one crop, at least.

So I seized the opportunity of a balmy Presidents' Day, grabbed the fork and attacked the garden. I recommend it highly as a pre-spring tonic. It may or may not do the peas any good, but it did me a whole lot of good. I dug a shallow trench, putting aside chunks of still-frozen earth, unearthed several stubborn thistles that hung on from last fall, and spread half a pound each of sugar snaps and Alaska early poles down the north side of my pea trellis. I figure that all it's cost me is about $1.58, if it doesn't work. And getting into the garden was indeed jubilant. So go to it, the next warm day, and plant. Just be careful not to tamp down soft, muddy ground too much, if that's where you're planning to put something in later on.

A friend passed along a marvelous little catalogue that has the most unusual feature of selling very small amounts of seeds for small prices. Catering to the small city or suburban garden, it's from the Pinetree Seed Co., Box 1399, Portland, Maine 04104. Summer squash, for example, comes in packs of eight seeds, and the yellow straightneck sells for 15 cents a pack.

MORE NEW VARIETIES: Bush cucumbers are great for a small garden, even if they aren't as prolific as the vining types; but until now, there were no burpless varieties available in bush form. Park's has corrected that with this year's introduction of the Burpless Bush hybrid, which has the added advantage of reproducing within six weeks of sowing.

And several catalogues offer the new Peter Pan scalloped squash, an All-American Bronze Medal winner and a relative of the Patty Pan that's been around for several years. Unlike its predecessor, the Peter Pan, say the catalogues, retains its tenderness into maturity, and can be eaten raw as well as cooked. Scalloped squash is a real delicacy in vegetables, but until now, always had to be picked very young to retain the flavor. It's pale green on the outside and the color of honeydew melon on the inside.

These and other new varieties can be ordered from:

W. ATLEE BURPEE CO., Warminster, Pa. 18974.

BURGESS SEED AND PLANT CO., Bloomington, Ill. 61701.

GURNEY'S, Yankton, S.D. 57079.

HASTING'S, P.O. Box 4274, Atlanta, Ga. 30302.

PARK SEED, P.O. Box 31, Greenwood, S.C. 29646.

MUD WEATHER: Stay out of the garden when the weather is really wet and drainage is poor because the ground is still hard; you don't want to pack down areas that are sopping. There's really no reason for you to be in the garden anyway, unless you want to try planting peas early to see what they'll do, so leave it alone while you plan for the coming spring.