5 tips for planting a windbreak
Wind is often a nuisance, and it can be quite costly if you're living on a rural acreage. The wind drives up heating costs, causes problems with drifting snow, and affects livestock. A carefully designed windbreak can help your bottom line, while adding to the overall beauty of your property.
1. Use both shrubs and trees
Your windbreak needs to have both trees and shrubs to be effective, says Tracy Anderson with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "You want to have shrubs to help the wind start to move up and over," she says, and then the trees will make the wind go over the buildings. It helps divert the wind direction."
The NRCS can determine, based on your soil, what species are most likely to flourish on your property. The more species you have, the less you run the risk of disease or pests wiping out your entire windbreak.
2. Determine the design
Windbreaks should be designed based on the individual property, says Anderson. She recommends planting a minimum of three rows: two rows with conifers and one row with shrubs.
Adding extra rows will increase the efficiency of the windbreak. You may want to add a row of deciduous trees for variety. Consult with NRCS or an Extension agent to determine the best design for your property.
3. Prepare for planting
Control the weeds before you plant your windbreak, because weeds will compete with trees and shrubs for moisture and nutrients. Mulching is a good way to control weeds, and it helps to hold moisture around the roots of your windbreak, too. Be careful not to let the mulch bunch up against the tree trunks though. Other preparatory measures may be necessary if you are planting your windbreak on cropland or in areas where erosion is a problem.
4. Create a maintenance plan
After three years of diligent care, including watering, fertilizing, and sometimes applying herbicides, the trees and shrubs should be well established. Deciduous trees will need pruning periodically. You should also monitor your windbreak for signs of disease, fungus, and bugs.
5. Watch out for common mistakes
Anderson cautions not to plant your trees too close together. As conifers and deciduous trees mature, they will self-prune if their branches touch each other. Spacing your trees properly will extend the life of your windbreak.
Problems also occur when the windbreak is not designed to extend beyond the area needing protection. This increases wind chill and snow drifts in the protected zone by allowing wind to wrap around the end of the windbreak.
For more information on designing, planting, and maintaining a windbreak, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.
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