Garden Watering Recommendation - Washington DC

I have a small (5'x6') backyard garden in Washington DC. Mostly I have tomatoes and peppers planted. The garden receives a good bit of sun and has mulch at the base of the plants. Assuming no rain for a week, how often should I water my garden and for how long? I'm using a typical yard sprinkler which swivels from side to side but is set to only pass over the garden area.
What is the best way to water this type of garden? Maybe next year, I'll set up a better system but I'm stuck with what I have for now.
Thanks! Fred
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Fred wrote:

Overhead watering is not the best way to water the garden. Tomatoes do not like getting wet. I've heard of some people so obsessed with this that they have awnings they can put over their gardens when it rains. That's a little too much effort for me. The best way to water a tomato and pepper garden is to use drip irrigation with an emitter near each plant. A timer can be used to turn it on for an hour or two each morning, and if a finger test of the soil near a plant indicates otherwise, you can increase or decrease it from there.
An alternative would be a soaker hose. Not the kind that sprays, but the kind that weeps. A soaker hose can be buried under the mulch to protect it from UV rays, as can the tubing for drip irrigation. But with drip irrigation, make sure the emitters are above the mulch so they don't get clogged.
If you're going to stick with overhead watering for the rest of this year, do the same thing as you would with drip irrigation: A finger test. I don't live in the Washington, DC area, but just from what I know about the geography, there is no one type of soil, let alone find a way to take into account how you prepared your soil. How loamy it is, whether there's a shallow hardpan, how much and what type of mulch you used, and how many hours of the day your garden is in direct sunlight are some of the factors that go into determining how often, and how much you need to water.
In the end, how moist the soil is a little more than a finger length under the surface, plus the visual signs your plants give will have to be your guide. There isn't such a thing as a watering calculator that you can plug in a few numbers, and get a set watering schedule. Not unless you're working in a greenhouse with controlled soil, light, temperature and humidity. And even then your calculator would only give you a rough estimate.
--
Warren H.

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On 27 Jul 2003 17:34:52 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Fred) wrote:

A soaker hose used in the early morning under the mulch is the best way to water. How often depends on the rain gauge, humidity, wind, temperature, size/condition of plants, etc. I have not watered my vegetable garden (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, green beans, etc) and I am now harvesting. Less water is needed with mulch, but 1" of water per week should be enough.
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I water all my beds by hand using a water wand. The sprinkler would not go down through the mulch. In a vegetable garden you need about an inch a week.
On 27 Jul 2003 17:34:52 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Fred) wrote:

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All the prior reccomendations are good ones, and finger testing is defiantely a good way to go. Your test should determine that the soil is semi-moist, meaning not soaked but too wet for the soil to be considered "workable", approximately 6 inches down into the soil. It's rather late in the season, but long deep waterings that soak well down in the soil, and then allow the top 2 or 3 inches to dry somewhat are best for plants such as peppers and tomatoes. This encourages them to root deeply, allowing them to obtain better concentrations of soil minerals, and helping them deal better with very hot dry weather, as well as offering good support for the tall plants.
An option used by some who for whatever reason cannot use the drip method is to take 2 liter soda bottles, cut off the bottoms, and bury them in the ground part ways near each plant. Then you simply fill the bottles every so often and allow the water to leech down into the soil. If you have very sandy/loamy soil the water may drain out very fast however, and it may require several fillings per sitting to achieve good seepage. There are commerical plugs sold by a few dealers that can be screwed on the bottom of the bottles. This helps to control the rate of seepage into the soil. Keep in mind when using this method that full grown tomato plants can require as much (or more) as 10 pints of water per day...

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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Fred) writes in article
-0700:

Assuming you're going for quantity --
The more water the better, as long as you don't drown them. The roots should have some air around them at night. Twice a day (morning and noon) is better than once. Soaker hoses are better than sprinklers, because leaves do their job (photosynthesis) better when they're dry. Of course you don't need to water on rainy days.
The biggest tomato plants I ever saw up close were in the DC area, watered daily by soaker hoses (twice daily on weekends when the guy was home), and fertilized with Miracle-gro. He had some good banana peppers too.
If you're going for taste --
Don't ask the American farmers. The vast majority of tomatoes in the grocery stores here are completely devoid of any flavor.
--Thundermaker$yahoo.com (Spud Demon) The above may not (yet) represent the opinions of my employer.
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