A Gardener’s Diary: A porcupine in the garden

Jocelyne Sewell finds a prickly creature in her garden and sets out to learn more

As all my rain barrels were getting low, that short downpour we had on Sunday just filled them up in no time. I also saved a day of watering.

A lot of my plants have been mulched by now and it makes such a difference. Where the ground is bare, it dries so fast in the sun and being mostly clay, it hardens like rocks. Where the mulch is about two to three centimetres, even after a sunny day, it is moist and soft and the weeds don’t have a chance to sprout.

This year a lot of my flowers were volunteers but unlike the other years, a lot of them are being removed. I am keeping the best ones for seeds and all the rest is helping my compost. I used to let everything grow and it becomes a jungle so I decided to be merciless. In order to spend more time in the garden I am taking a break from the market until September.

One early evening last week, as I was weeding, I heard some noise. Thinking that it was the birds in the tree, I looked up and to my surprise about five feet from where I was standing was the biggest porcupine I ever saw. He or she was sitting in the peach tree having a snack on green peaches. This is one I don’t want to make angry.

The following notes came from the internet as I have been reading a lot about these rodents in the last few days. The average porcupine has approximately 30,000 quills. These quills are specially designed hairs and are very sharp and have a barbed tip.

They are used as a defence mechanism and only used when the porcupine feels threatened. The common porcupine eats leaves, herbs, twigs and green plants like clover, and in winter it may eat tree bark. The North American porcupine often climbs trees to find food. North American porcupines use their large front teeth to satisfy a healthy appetite for wood.

They eat natural bark and stems, and have been known to invade campgrounds and chew on canoe paddles. North American porcupines also eat fruit, leaves, and springtime buds. They love anything with salt.

Their short legs cause them to walk with a waddle, and they are quite slow and awkward when they move about. Like all rodents, porcupine’s teeth grow constantly so they have a great need to gnaw in order to keep their teeth ground to a short enough length. Porcupines are edible and have been used by humans as emergency food. Native Americans use the quills for decoration and the porcupine’s expensive hair is used for fly-fishing lures. A porcupine’s eyesight is poor, but its keen senses of smell and hearing make up for that lack.

Good thing it has not found my Saskatoon forest yet. With all the rain we had in the spring, I am harvesting the best Saskatoons ever. They are juicy and plump. This is the time of the year I just love. In a handful you can have strawberries, raspberries, Saskatoons, gooseberries and cherries. What better snack can you ask for.

Don’t forget to share your harvest with the less fortunate. The Upper Room Mission is serving a lot of meals and can always use some extra food. The Salvation Army also is always in need of donations. There are many ways to share your blessings.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in Vernon, B.C., and a member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.