Our Guide this week continues to focus on smart spring shopping, which can be difficult when you compound tremendous cabin fever with retail stores stocking plants and bulbs that can’t be planted as yet, even with complete ground thaw having occurred already in many locations of the country. If you have wondered whether your soil has thawed and can’t necessarily determine that just by walking on the ground, meander around the yard, if you have lawn areas, and look for small holes scattered throughout the area, about the size of a normal pencil eraser. Those are tube holes created by worms, these signal complete thaw. A sure sign of spring ahead! About the retail outlets, I continue to see garlic bulbs being offered for spring planting. You may as well buy it just to eat because planting garlic in the spring is a total waste of your money; the cloves simply will not develop into bulbs of any size, period. Garlic must be fall planted for successful bulb growth and individual clove size. As you peruse the magazines or online sites, don’t forget that most of the photos are simply stock photos taken from mature plants that may not necessarily represent the plant you’ll be buying. If a plant description says “3-inch pot,” that may be the depth of the pot, not the width. If you are buying perennials, were they started from seed just this year or are they in their second or third growing season. Make a list of any questions you have and call the nursery or seed supplier. If the person answering the phone can’t provide you with the information you need, go elsewhere. With more than 7,500 mail order outlets in the United States, you’ll be sure to find someone who can give you answers. Don’t forget to use Dave’s Garden Watchdog-I use it extensively. Upon receiving a catalog or viewing an online garden site, I routinely check the Watchdog to see how the company is rated. No matter how big the promises, if a company has 200 positive reviews but 400 negative reviews, this sends a big red flag and the catalog is usually tossed into the recycle bin. My money and time are too precious to waste on companies that aren’t reputable, and I know the readers of this blog feel likewise. In case you missed the link, go to http://www.davesgarden.com and click on “Products and Services.” This takes you to a page where you can search the Garden Watchdog by company name or zip code location or look for select plants if you are wondering who might sell what you have been looking for. Gardeners continue to be an educated lot and I hope the Garden Guide assists with your education and enjoyment of outdoor spaces. Don’t forget to save a spot in your garden for your children or grandchildren to plant. Fast-growing seeds they can enjoy planting are sunflowers, marigold, lettuce, peas, and beans. Sweet peas and nasturtiums do very well in our area as well; I normally plant them on the east side of the house or other structure where they’ll receive early morning sun but protected from our hot drying summer days. Please don’t plant sunflowers without pollen, our bee friends need us. Until next time, enjoy planning for the garden season now just barely weeks away and go get some dirt under your nails. Horticulture therapy is good for the soul.