PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Giant home centers such as Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW) have already opened their hangar-sized doors to accommodate the flood of spring business, but some of the best home and garden solutions available can't be found in their warehouse aisles.
As Americans start dusting off their garden equipment, ripping out weeds, emptying pots of long-dead plants and generally tidying up a bit, the home and garden industry is expecting a continued recovery from a recession that saw most homeowners make do with what they had and most renters put off buying for a bit. As new and existing home sales rebound, spring home and garden sales have followed.
According to the Census Bureau, home and garden retailers took in $86.3 billion from March through May 2006, but saw their take fall as low as $67.7 billion at the height of the recession in 2009. While the $73.9 billion worth of shovels, rakes, soil and saplings bought last spring aren't a complete recovery, they're at least a bit sunnier than the slump the industry experienced for the past five years or so.
Then again, the American consumer's become a lot more frugal over the past couple of years and isn't going to buy a riding mower just to keep up appearances around the McMansion. In fact, buyers have no problem laying off the big-ticket power products altogether if there's a less expensive but similarly effective solution.We took a look around the neighborhood and over the neighbors' fences and found some natural, alternative solutions to some of spring's peskier, more expensive problems: Goat rental Whether you have just enough front or back yard to get overgrown and unwieldy or find yourself overrun with nasty, prickly, invasive plants that just won't go away, nature has already devised the ultimate solution to your problem. A good goat not only turns your kitchen scraps into easily degraded compost, but will go after kudzu, blackberry vines and other invasive species that can otherwise ravage a yard or field. Google (GOOG) has used them to keep the grass down at its Mountain View, Calif., campus and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the city of Seattle have all used goats to manage their property and keep grass, weeds and other plants at bay.
Goats are relatively inexpensive and require only what they eat as fuel. Companies such as Eco-Goats and Rent A Goat will lend you their goats for as much time as you need and can provide as many as 30 at a time on their own or through farm subcontractors. How many do you need? It depends on the size of the plot, but the folks at Gizmodo and Movoto have come up with an app for that. Just feed your property's measurements to their calculator and you'll get a pretty good idea of how many goats, cows, pigs or guinea pigs it'll take to tame your land in a day. It'll also give you an estimate of how many chickens will be required for the same job, which brings us to ...