Garden thoughts

This year I tried my hand at a little container gardening. I have nine pots: two cherry tomato, two lunchbox pepper, two rosemary (different varieties but I don't know which), and three basil. I'm enjoying having truly fresh food available (harvesting herbs as you prepare dinner is great). I'm not sure what yield I should be getting and some of it's been surprising. I've identified some things I did wrong.

The tomatoes got off to a good start, and fresh cherry tomatoes taste great! When they were at peak in July I was picking 8-10 per day, and one day I picked 22.

Then some local critter(s) took an interest. I don't know what's eating my tomatoes, but one day I had a bunch that were almost ready, decided to wait one more day to pick them, and the next day they were gone. I found the half-eaten corpse of one on the ground. They even ate some of the green ones! There seems to be another round -- a bunch of small green ones showed up -- and I've started picking them when full-sized but still green and letting them ripen on my windowsill.

Wise people of the Internet: what do I do to prevent this next year? I'd like to have fresh cherry tomatoes again next year.

The peppers have also been doing well as far as I can tell, but I expected to get more peppers from them. The first harvest yielded 8 or 9 peppers between the two plants, and there are currently 8 ripening on the plants. Is that what I should have gotten, or are my plants holding out on me?

The basil is tasty and has been put to good use. Over the course of the summer, new leaves have gotten smaller -- skinnier. Early on the leaves were big, dark green, and lush-looking; now they're a lighter green and longer and skinnier. Am I, perhaps, not pruning aggressively enough, so there's more competition on the plant for the same resources? "Resources", in this case, being the potting soil I started them with and a steady diet of water in a "self-watering" pot, meaning you fill a reservoir and the plant takes what it needs, or so the theory goes. I haven't done anything else to the soil.

The rosemary is also tasty. I haven't noticed any particular changes there over the course of the summer.

This year I started almost everything in pots that were too small for the final plant size. Next year I'll know: put that tiny cherry tomato plant in the 16" pot from the start, etc. (I only have one huge pot; the others are 10", 8", or 6".)

Next year I want to add oregano, and cilantro if it grows here. In principle I'd like to add vegetables too but I'm pretty committed to this "pots, not ground" idea, and I don't know what works in that context. I mean, I love butternut squash and its kin, but can you grow it in a pot?

In the spring my reason for wanting pots was easier access (I can lift a pot up onto a table to plant it and pots on the steps are easier to tend). As the season progressed I realized there's another reason: I can move pots to chase the sun. The spots that got 6+ hours of sun per day in May do not do so now, but other spots have opened up some. A core problem is that I don't have a lot of space on the property that gets full sun (and what does get it is paved anyway, it turns out). I'm not interested in approaches that involve grow-lights and indoor gardens; I want everything to stay outside (after we're past frost threats). So, pots that I occasionally have to carry across the patio is what I'm working with.