Technically, I live in a suburban area, but my property and those around me are small and close together, like in urban setting--we just don't have the amenities of an urban area. I have approximately a 10m x 10m space.
This spring I spent a lot of time working on my garden, most notably in three new mini-hugelbeds. As is the advice, I seeded them immediately; I also planted them up with a few various self-seeded plants from elsewhere in the garden (such as feverfew, foxglove, mallow), and I eagerly waited for my new seedlings to emerge. Which in due course they did, only to disappear within a few days, most likely from slugs. The beds stayed empty for a few weeks, and so I planted them up with a few seedlings which I had raised in trays, and a few bought from the garden center. These too disappeared pretty quickly. It's now high summer and the beds are still just bare soil with only a couple of the above mentioned self-seeded transplants. Actually, they each have a fine crop of creeping buttercup lining the edges.
So I'm battling the slugs for my food this year, but that's not it. I posted about this in another thread: https://permies.com.evohst.org/t/36969/gardening-beginners/find-wrong I lost another large, previously productive bed to a serious pH rise. Seeds, transplants, and existing plants all died in that bed, and it too is now just bare soil. I think it has one creeping buttercup in it though :)
I would estimate I have lost around 75% of all annual vegetable crops I put in this year. I have only four plants in the ground still living, and the rest are in planters on the patio. This is definitely the worst gardening year I've ever had, and I feel it's due to circumstances mostly beyond my control. I've tried to control slugs through the following methods: coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, bran, DE, beer traps. I've even gone out at night with a light and a pair of scissors (seriously the most disgusting thing ever). None of the above have made any real dent in the slug damage. I've reseeded, and reseeded again, and it's too late in the season now for another try.
Ok, so a long-winded description of my sad situation. Which leads me to this: I want to be more food secure. I want my property to be more resilient to things like fluctuating slug populations; or wet, sunless summers (2012); or zombie apocalypse. I'm building up my perennials slowly, dictated by my very small budget, and at the moment I have 7 fruittrees, 3 of which are bearing this year; 3 kinds of berry bush; and a small strawberry and rhubarb patch. I've got a lovely bunch of edible though not particularly palatable weeds. I also have six chickens which generally produce four eggs a day; they get commercial feed as well as forage.
Of all the foods produced in my garden, my chickens are the most reliable. I'd like to build on this trend by introducing more animals. But I don't want to put all my eggs in one basket, as I unknowingly have been doing up until now. How can I, or others in similarly small (sub)urban spaces, become more resilient? I'm open to any suggestions!
(Can you eat slugs? Snails I've tried, but slugs?)
If you've got the physical and neighborly wherewithal to keep chickens, perhaps you can add a couple of ducks?
I've never had slugs or snails, so getting ducks this year left the slug number at zero, but I hear there's nothing they enjoy more. Ducks love slugs and snails more than anything else. It also occurs to me, perhaps this could be the ideal time to start. Ducks ALSO love delicious newly-sprouted vegetables, so you'll have to keep them out of the garden in the future. But this year, if your vegetables are dead, then bring the ducks in, let them eradicate your slugs and snails over your entire parcel for the rest of the season, and perhaps in 2015, with no slugs having reproduced in 2014, your problem will be lessened.
They're also delightful to watch (just as living yard ornaments, I mean) and delicious to eat.
We are considering putting in a duck pond in the bed with the high pH, and have been thinking about ducks for more than a year now. As a child, our family had a couple of them, and I agree, they are fun to watch! We lived in Utah then, so no slugs there either, but they kept our garden (and all our neighbors') completely clear of grasshoppers.
I'm about to ask a potentially really stoooooopid question - the chickens didn't have access to the beds did they?
OK - if that question was too annoying, you are now free to send the Zombie Apocalypse this way. We are used to dealing with zombies here in AZ - we simply place them in political office where we can keep an eye on them.
Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"
Last year I lost some seedlings to escaped chickens, but have tightened defences this year and they haven't had any access to the new beds. Though at this point, I'm thinking they might as well--there's not much left for them to damage, and maybe they'll find a few slugs!