Flaking paint is a clear warning to have the soil tested for toxic metals contamination, lead in particular. Many older homes were painted with paint that contained lead. Growing in sub-irrigated planters (SIPs erroneously aka "self-watering") is a much better choice. These plants do not get enough sun. There are sun lit paved surfaces on the property that could be the home for a SIP garden that gets adequate light and is a safe haven from contaminated soil.
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