I'm in usda hardiness zone 7a in NJ. Can you use plastic mulch for plants in the vegetable garden without drip irrigation or soaker hoses? If so how do you water plants with plastic mulch?
Yes. I've never had drip irrigation, but I have used plastic much some years. If watering is needed, pour it in the holes where the plants are (or I suppose you could make other holes for it, but I never have). Or you could park a soaker hose under the plastic and connect it when needed. You can shape the ground such that most water landing on the plastic runs in to the holes (ie, dish rather than mound.) Water landing on the paths will also migrate sideways eventually. Of course, the plastic also slows the ground drying out under it.
This is on loam, may not work well on sandy, well drained soil.
The way I did it was to have shallow trenches on either side of the raised bed (4-6in berm) my tomatoes were planted in. The berm was prepared with shallow depressions where each plant would be placed and the mulch film rolled out over the top of the berm with enough slack to let it sag into the depressions.
The plants were planted through X cuts in the mulch plastic just big enough to allow a 4" hole to be dug to accept the root ball. Fold the plastic back in place to cover the root ball, water at the plant base as till you're past transplant shock and the plants are established. Put cages in place.
Water the trenches to saturation and the water will capillary up in the soil. It was pretty nice having a totally weed free operation and you can check for soil moistness by feeling in around under the mulch next to the plant base.
The mulch also cuts way back on evaporation (nothing is worse than bare soil) and let me deeply water once a week during the hottest part of the season with no signs of moisture distress.