LATIMER -- Lauren Lynch was in her early 60s when she started a container garden as a hobby in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Today, at age 70, Lynch's hobby has become her passion, as she tends to more than 200 plants in her large garden that contains several species of mint, basil, rosemary, tarragon and other herbs and vegetables that are all grown in pots above the ground.
"Gardening has always been in my blood," Lynch said. "I wanted to show people that you don't have to own land to plant a garden. I've grown all of my plants in containers. The ground we are on is rocky, and it would not be a good place to try and plant a garden in the ground. So, containers allow me to grow things without doing it in the land."
Lynch, a native of Barbados, moved to the U.S. about 15 years ago.
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She said she moved to the Gulf Coast to take a job as a cook at a casino. She has since left that job and spends her time working in her garden in the Latimer community in Jackson County.
"I have only lived in Biloxi and the Biloxi area," she said. "This is where I left Barbados to come to. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. It's very much like Barbados. It has a great climate for my plants."
Several of Lynch's plants, including taro root and yucca, are traditional African plants, as African culture is popular in her native country.
"One of my favorite plants is my Malabar spinach, which is also grown in Africa and India," she said. "It's a vine spinach. It grows up instead of staying on the ground. If a plant starts growing, it will continue to grow. It will be around here long after me and you are gone."
Lynch also has several pigeon pea plants, which are also common in Barbados.
"I eat these pigeon peas often," Lynch said. "A staple of Barbados food is pigeon peas and rice with a stew."
Aside from her vast herbs, Lynch also has cucumbers, red mustard greens, cherry tomatoes, cantaloupes and several varieties of peppers.
"I go to the D'Iberville Farmers Market every week and sell what I grow," she said. "I sell cucumbers and mint and peppers and whatever I have."
Although Lynch said she enjoys selling her goods at the market, the garden's main purpose is for her consumption.
"Instead of drinking soft drinks, I make about three gallons of herb tea," Lynch said. "It helps to purify your blood. You can sweeten it or not. I drink it semi-sweet. I have many stevia plants, and I use the stevia as my sweetener. I use orange mint and peppermint and apple mint and ginger mint and lots of other herbs. I only have a few herbs such as oregano that would not be good in tea."
Fall and winter plans
With fall and winter approaching, Lynch said she will soon be placing a large tarp over her garden so that it is not damaged by colder weather.
But as soon as spring rolls around, she'll spend her time cultivating her pride and joy.
"I don't plant this every year," Lynch said. "Many of these plants live from season to season. I just take care of them. I don't know what will be around next year. People are always giving me plants for my container garden. I love it because whatever we want to eat, we just go out and get a pinch of this or that and cook with it or make tea. We always have something to eat."