A well-drained garden should by all means be workable this weekend, assuming it doesn't rain. If you never got around to soil preparation in the fall -- that is, adding some sort of fertilizer or a mulch with plenty of manure in it -- do so now.

I usually aim for another application now, even if I've already thrown some out in the fall. Don't panic about manure-rich mulch being too "hot." I have yet to "burn" a seedling with even the most fresh manurey mulch. If you're really worried, go ahead and put down what you want now and let it sit for a few weeks before planting seedlings in it. Or add stable straw to your compost, let it decompose a bit and mix it in with the rest of the compost, and you'll be able to use it later as a side dressing for peas, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

WET SOIL: There's all sorts of careful tests you can make in you garden to check to see if the ground is ready to receive the seeds. Pick it up: If it sticks in a ball, rather than crumbling like stale Girl Scout cookies, it's ready, and so on and so forth. My test is that if you walk in the garden and walk back out again with a lot of dirt stuck to your boots, better put off planting until you have reasonably clean boots when you leave.

START PLANTING: Purists may tell you it's already too late to put in peas, but I say bosh. Last year I planted peas right up into May, and even though the last plantings didn't break any production records, I was getting peas steadily into early July. So go ahead. Plant some this weekend, and every weekend that your patience holds out at least into the first weeks of April.

ONIONS: Very important. Get them in as soon as you can. Onion sets are the easiest and most fool-proof. If you're really into unusual varieties of onions, you might want to get seeds and start them indoors. Onion seedlings, available in bundles or 12-packs, look like young chives and are an enormous pain to plant, since you have to separate each one out and plant it individually, but I have found they do very nicely. Just figure on plenty of extra work.

SPINACH: Definitely a good time to sow a bed of spinach, which loves cool temperatures. I've never had any luck growing spinach that's gone in much past the second week of April, and I've always succeeded with it if I get it in earlier than I think it should go in.

STARTER KITS: Because I have no cold frame, I have never attempted to start my own seeds indoors. Instead, I have always bought plants. This year, I decided to be brave and invest $7 in four seed-starter kits from the feed store. It all seemed very simple: Add water to the growing medium, wait, add a little more; open the seed packages (which contain considerably fewer seeds than regular seed packages), place two to three seeds in each of the 12 compartments, cut holes in bottoms of each of the 12 compartments, rest translucent lid gently on top of the 12-pack, and wait, keeping the soil relatively moist with the help of a mister.

I waited. And I waited. I waited a week, and nothing happened. I stuck religiously to the instructions, and finally after about 10 days, one morning the package of broccoli was bristling with little green shoots that looked as strong and healthy and lovable as a newborn kid. And believe me, that's pretty strong and healthy. Bingo! thought I. It works. Well, yes and no. The broccoli, which apparently enjoyed my kitchen, which never gets much above 60o except around the fireplace, worked. But the days grew to weeks as I waited for a sign of life from the other three 12-packs, which contained two kinds of tomatoes and one kind of cantaloupe.

And then one day, the woman who cleans my house happened to mention that her wood stove keeps her wholeapartment around 75 degrees. Ah, said I. Would you babysit my seed-starter kits? Sure, she said. And off they went. Two days later, she called to say everything had sprouted. She's keeping them for me until the plants are ready to be hardened off (acclimlated to cooler temperatures) before being set outside. The moral of this story: By all means buy seed- starter kits. But give them to someone who knows what she's doing to start them for you.