I finally got my hands dirty yesterday. It wasn't much and it wasn't for long but it felt so good to let the moist, cool, soil crumble in my hands.
We covered one of the smaller beds with some old windows we got from freecycle. These were supposed to be turned into a cold frame 2 years ago but as usual everything else takes priority over the garden, especially in the summer and fall. So last fall, after the potatoes were harvested we place the windows, wooden frames and all, across the bed to see what difference it made if any at all.
Boy, did it ever make a difference. The beds that are uncovered are still cold enough to make my knuckles hurt when I dig in them and the ground is only thawed out 6 inches down. In the covered bed, the soil was cool but not cold. There was enough moisture that it is still just a tiny bit to wet to plant, but it won't take long. Best of all, I was able to dig quite far down into the dirt without finding a hard frost area.
Of course it has me all excited and making plans to plant already. My plan is to plant some old lettuce seeds I have left over from previous attempts at growing lettuce. Usually we plant it and just as it is getting big enough to eat, it gets hot and humid and so the plants bolt. We're hoping this year will be different. By planting the seeds a month early maybe we will actually be harvesting lettuce about the same time as we are planting the rest of the garden.
Of course if this works, then I'll have to make sure to cover both of the smaller beds with extra windows. Better yet, maybe I can convince PeterC to help me set up cold frames that will be better sealed and built at an angle to make better use of the lower angle of the sun. Then we'll see what other early crops I can pull off the garden. Lettuce, radishes, and peas, oh my!