Container gardening is primarily for people that want to grow small food plants, in order to have quick and easy access to fresh herbs and small produce for at home cooking. Window boxes and planters are common names used to describe containers used for this purpose. Tomatoes, green peppers, squash, green beans and fresh herbs are just some of the possibilities with a container garden. Frequently these prospective gardeners have a limited space in which to grow or they do not have the time, tools, or desire to do in-ground gardening. To keep container grown plants healthy, proper set up is required as you will be working with limited space. The most important part is correct soil.
For your soil selection I recommend a ‘potting mix’ as opposed to a potting or garden soil as it is going to be much lighter weight and have better moisture retention. This is a soilless medium made up of non-soil organics like bark, moss, compost, and more that is great for planting a variety of plants especially with limited space. Regardless of what you intend to plant, good drainage is a must, so you are going to want some sort of filter layer at the bottom of your box so excess water in your box that drains out the bottom won’t carry your "soil" away with it. A single layer of landscape fabric or about one quarter to one half inch layer of pea gravel will help maintain your soil levels so you are not constantly replacing it.
Another great addition to your container filler is vermiculite or perlite, both are naturally occurring minerals that are mined and processed so which one to use depends on what you are growing and your soil needs. To make it short and simple, vermiculite is better at moisture and nutrient retention and perlite is better at draining and releasing humidity; so if your plants are water loving use vermiculite and if your plants prefer a drier soil, like cacti and other succulents, then use perlite. There are as many opinions on the exact ratio to use as there are articles about which ratio to use, but they will all agree that either will improve aeration and plant health when used in the right situation, and since neither decays, it is a good investment to maintain the health of your soil for several growing seasons.
Another consideration is irrigation. All plants need water, some more so than others. Your choices for this requirement are varied. You can use a drip system set up on a timer where the drip pipe runs atop the soil under a layer of mulch to help retain the moisture. You can also use the proverbial water can, but that will rely on your faithfulness and presence to keep the plants watered regularly. A little research can provide you with easy to follow instructions for an automatic drip irrigation system and some companies specialize in reservoir systems for window boxes and planters. which can convert you flower box into a self watering flower box.
With soil and irrigation taken care of, we can now discuss what types of plants to grow! Wouldn’t it be silly for me to suggest you plant stuff that you hate? So Everyone must choose for themselves what vegetables and herbs work best for them. I love tomatoes as do many folks, but not everyone will agree. I love all types of peppers, but do you? To start with, why not choose a few veggies and herbs that you really like and see how well they grow and taste. If you want some ideas, I know most herb gardens wouldn’t be complete without Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme! These are classics and can go a long way to brightening your kitchen projects. I also always include several types of Basil, Oregano, Chives and Cilantro! That is a good starter mix and an herb garden is not only a culinary treat, but also quite beautiful as these herbs bloom. Be sure to do a little research on what you are wanting to grow as some herbs will spread and take over the entire area, so you might need multiple separate containers so they can each be healthy and not be fighting for growth.
As you move forward in your container gardening experience you will be limited only by your imagination, so get your flower boxes and start imagining!