we recently placed straw mulch around the tomatoes, peppers, and cukes. the straw serves several purposes. we use it in conjunction with weekly watering and fertilizer (we use fish emulsion diluted with water – about 1 T fish emulsion to 1 gal water)…
why mulch: first, we use it to help keep the soil moist. it also helps maintain soil temperature and has the added benefit of keeping any weeds at bay.
other mulch to use: i’ve read some about other forms of mulch, including newspaper and grass clippings. the one caution on the grass clippings is to be aware of what chemicals may have been put on the lawn from whence they came. if you know there were no chemicals, then grass clippings should be a fine alternative. you’ll want to dry them out in the sun first and then put them around the plants.
when to mulch: we mulch after the plants are well-established (about 1.5 ft high) and the temps have been consistently above 70 degrees (we are in zone 5 or 6, what a day it will be when the usda will have current climate data at their fingertips so they can make a accurate zone maps, thanks g.w.)