Up here on the northern plains where we are fortunate to get 12" of rain fall per year and have a very dry climate resulting in fast evaporation, moisture control in the garden is imperative for a successful harvest. A thick layer of straw or crushed leaves between our hilled rows does the trick. The straw or leaves prevents quick evaporation holding the moisture deep in the soil. Deep moisture also encourages stronger root systems resulting in healthier plants and a better harvest. Straw and leaves also breakdown quickly supplying the garden soil with much need nutrients for next year's planting.
Our thick layer of straw also works well at reducing weeds. This year our spring yielded an unusually high amount of rainfall causing our straw to germinate and sprout wheat. When this happened we simply turned the straw over, green sprouts down / roots up. The sun dried up all the wheat roots and the dark underside stopped the sprout growth and it is doing a good job of preventing weeds.
The northern plains are also known for high winds, like the Texas panhandle or Oklahoma. Since it is generally too cold to plant prior to Mother's Day, I've been learning how to start seeds indoors. This year I started 48 tomato plants and 24 various pepper plants. Within three days of transplanting, we suffered a horrendous wind storm. Wind speeds were a minimum of 32 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. Our daily average breezes are 8-12 mph. The following day, all that was left of my tomato and pepper starts were tiny 1 1/2" - 2 " green sticks.
It was too late to start more seed, so after purchasing replacements from the farm and ranch supplier, I had to brainstorm to come up with some sort of wind protection. I found a roll of plastic sheeting out in the garage. I folded it in half and cut it into 30" strips, wrapped it around the bottom of my tomato cages and stapled it. I chose to plant my peppers between the rows of tomatoes. It was only a few days before another wind storm would test my wind barriers. The plastic sheeting tunnels protected the tomatoes from the wind, allowed full access to water and sunlight AND created enough of a barrier to also protect the rows of peppers planted between the rows of tomatoes. These homemade tunnels are re-usable. When my tomato and pepper plants are a little bigger, I'll remove the tunnels with a staple puller and store them until next spring.