Mulch is great, new elder plants are not at all good with competition, especially from grasses, etc.
Spacing really depends on your goals. Commercial growers will plant as tight as 2 ft on 10-12 foot rows. It also hinges on how many plants you are doing and what style/shape. I like 6 to 8 foot spacing to create a hedge/wind break over time that fills in.
On top of spaghetti all covered in cheese, there was this tiny ad:
the best week for a Garden Master course (poor man's poll)