regarding water: you'll find that addressed in "Gaia's Garden", but i'll share the best suggestions: swales, dead-wood swales, and hugelkulture. these are all on my list of things to try (i'll say upfront, that i haven't really put these to the test yet as i only found out about them mid/late summer)
swales are when you dig a trench with a berm on the down slope side. the bottom of the trench is kept completely level and runs along the contour of the land. this helps to retain water longer, allowing the soil to absorb more of it. generally the berms are planted. the size of the swale is dependent on both the slope involved and the amount of rain/snow that gets dropped at any one time (so if you get heavy downpours during one part of the year, you want wide and deep swales to hold all that water). here's a link (not the best, but it should get you started).
deadwood swales are similar, but the trenches are at least partially filled with dead, dry wood (or other high carbon material, like straw). the dry wood, being in contact with soil, will slowly rot, and while it does that, it also helps to retain additional water.
hugelkulture is somewhat similar but smaller scale. you take dead wood (twigs, small limbs, etc), lay them out on the ground, then cover with soil/mulch. again, the wood helps to absorb and retain moisture. this method is supposed to be particularly good for things like melons, squash, potatoes ("hill" crops, I suppose), but i would think the applicability would be much larger than just those.
also, i've been doing research on positive impacts people can have on the earth, i've come across "terra preta", which appears to be a soil made by including charred wood (charcoal) along w/ organic fertilizers into garden soils.
as for the row plantings, have you looked into John Jeavons's Grow Biointensive? i won't lie, it's labor intensive, but it stresses efficient spacing. you may be interested in reading about their spacing methods. his group (Bountiful Gardens) has a website here and you can probably find the main book at your library (or borrow it via intralibrary).
ooh, one last thing, it's still a good time of year to grab those bags of leaves....