It has recently come out in a congressional hearing that the average working mother last vacuumed under the beds in 1975. She arrives home at 6 o'clock (7 if she commutes) to fix supper, do the laundry and apply concentrated nurturing to children she sees only a few hours a day.

Someplace she must fit in works of charity, self-improvement (a deplorable trend), sex, PTA, patching of jeans and the setting in order of her spiritual life. If she ever needed a garden, it is now.

Three loads of unfolded clothes atop an unmade bed, no stockings without runs "and I need a canned soda for the field trip today, Mom," are yanking us to pieces. But a white bearded iris bursting forth where you'd despaired of anything growing soothes the fevered soul and gives a moment of unexpected peace you'll rarely find outside a Quaker Meeting.

So where are you going to find time to garden? At the expense of something else--that is a certainty. You decide.

For one thing, forget planning to start running. If you already run it may be too late, but most of us spend a lot of time just resolving to do it. Figuring out a schedule, deciding what to wear so the neighbors won't laugh, budgeting for mercurial shoes--all this takes time.

Banquets are also a good thing to drop. And looking for adhesive tape. If one could train oneself to read only the best comic strips and skip those one hates but reads anyway, there are 10 minutes already: enough time to walk around and pull off the shrunken blossoms of yesterday's daylilies.

Reading the sweepstakes instructions that come in the mail--that could go. Your chances of getting a clematis to vine its way up the porch are small, but still larger than your chances of winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.

The best time in a garden--both for working and for inhaling tranquility--is early morning before the rest of the family is up and demanding matched pairs of socks. If you're rushing off to work, there is the problem of muddy fingernails. (Reminder: Brain surgeons wear gloves, so they should be no great impediment to pulling weeds.)

In my garden--possibly called a "yard" by people who don't love it--there is a bench in a secluded corner that is an excellent place for getting one's wits together. An azalea bush brushes my ear and the upright yew that should have been cut back three years ago lends a secret garden feeling and you can sit and hear the squirrels yawn.

The sitting comes after the mandatory promenade that all gardeners are superstitious about; skip it and you will miss the first little points of peonies poking through and serves you right, too.

More glorious is the morning when you don't have to work and you don your gardening sweater and take yesterday's paper to sit on in the wet grass. Your tea sitting on a brick and the dog sniffing about and heaven in now. You are ready to do fresh battle with the ground ivy. An hour, two hours pass. The hillock of ground ivy grows in tangled ribbons beside you. One hears the newspaper hit the porch; the pipes in the house shriek as the family begins to move about.

Shall you go in and be bustling about in the kitchen, your early morning activities a secret, or stay put till they search you out in your bower? Either way one feels participant in a mystery.

Not feeding the family is another place to save time. They will keep hollering out the back door on summer evenings, "When are we going to eat?"

"As soon as," you reply, "I get these lantanas in."

Eventually you will hear the swuck of the refrigerator door opening and closing. There are no known cases of children starving while their mothers gardened. With younger children one must be somewhat more accommodating, but only if they have no fathers.

Give up cleaning basements. They never stay that way and there is no discernible difference between a cellar that hasn't been cleaned for a year and one that hasn't been cleaned in five.

Forget the villain who said you should always leave a clean house in case you die. Even if you died with a clean house, they would eventually find you--checkbook unbalanced and full of foolish expenditures.

There will be fatalities. (Henry Beard said a perennial is "Any plant which, had it lived, would have bloomed year after year.") There were probably Japanese beetles in Paradise.

You've no one to please but yourself. And no one will give you the slightest credence as a gardener till you're past 60 anyway. So order some more bulbs.

Mosi Harrington writes and gardens in Riverdale, Md.