Let me congratulate you for living in a great climate such as ours
Seriously, to answer your Q's i should be able to help you here a bit. Djanbung Gardens Permaculture Education Centre in Nimbin NSW has a planting calender that i use for the Subtropics.(a nice poster with Celtic decorations which you can get laminated and stick on the wall of your study or shed) What i like about this one is that it takes into account fruit and bushfoods at the same time.
I think one of the things we are soo lucky with here in Qld is the fruit we can produce all year round. This calender can help with species that can provide a harvest for each month of the year; which i feel Permaculture helps teaches us to think about.(at least thats what my Permie teacher taught me). :p
I like your Q on direct sowing. I do a mix of both direct sowing and planting of seedlings. Direct sowing is dead cheap! full stop. Seedlings are great for taking 4 weeks of work out of the equation when youre busy doing other things.(or the seeds you have sown didnt germinate!) I feel as though i am still learning with direct sowing. What i do is try to simplify what works best. eg. Amaranth (for the chooks) and Basil are dead easy to self sow and seed, and you can get a virtual year round harvest depending on where you sow them in your garden. I have been here 6mths now and am on my 2nd lot of both of these which are self sown and which i spread out to other parts of my garden just by rubbing the seed heads between my hands and doing nothing else. This way you know what ever comes up has done so b/c it can handle the place and soil youve sowed it in!
With your empty beds you have excellent opportunity. Most of my vegies are done in raised beds just b/c its easy and means you dont have to do much digging. I also grow a mix of grains in raised beds in my chook runs(you can sow a green manure)these have only received rain once in the last 6 weeks(2mm!) and just got some more today(bout 5mm but havent checked the gauge). I havent watered any of these and now heads of Sorghum, Corn and Rye are going nuts!(the seeds germinated in the 40+ degree heat we had). The hardest decision i made in doing this was to decide not to do anything and just see what happens; after all outback districts dont get that much rain yet still produce harvests of wheat etc!
So, to finish off this..... go for it.... just see what works and doesnt. Your local produce store has pretty cheat seed, so experiment and see what works and what doesnt.
I made this a bit long winded to give a bit of detail to prove that things that we havent tried b4 can work, and successfully. My chooks cant reach the heads of the grain now so the barrier is removed and they can all but drool for their future feed :p
Good luck.... Dave
Township of Boonah (pop 3,000)
2.7 acres of gently sloping volcanic soil
"Progress is a spiral; the pendulum swings back as well as forward. The new postindustrial world, for which many of us are striving, will see an ecological renaissance".... Rober Hart