This post is not meant to be read as a tutorial, or as info handed down from an expert.
In fact a more appropriate title for this little piece would be “What I Am Learning About Windbreaks.” because this is all new information to me.
Up until we moved here, I knew what a windbreak was. Sort of. But I really didn’t understand the significance or importance of one. I didn’t need to. My suburban backyard garden was protected by its own micro climate created by four surrounding homes, shrubs, trees, and a privacy fence. Never before had I needed to worry about wind. I worried about pests, I worried about drought, but wind was not something I ever really considered.
Then we moved here.
There are no surrounding homes, there are no trees, and there never has been, never will be a privacy fence.
But there is wind. Lots of it. If we were a wind farm, we’d be mighty prosperous. But after seeing our fall garden suffer wind damage to the point that we lost a few small crops, and laying in bed on a windy night wondering if the roof was about to blow off, we began to research wind breaks.
* The height of the windbreak determines the amount of protection.
According to a rough formula presented in Making Your Small Farm Profitable, wind speed is reduced 2-5 times the height on the windward side (the direction the wind is coming from), and 30 times the height on the leeward (the direction the wind is going to) side.
While our ideal situation would be to have a series of full grown trees strategically placed according to the formula, we are several years away from that so we have erected and planned a few temporary windbreaks.
One has been a 4′ high silt fence that we were able to inexpensively purchase at Atwoods. While it really isn’t pretty, it was easy to install and can easily be moved wherever we need it.
The other temporary fix will be a variety of tall growing plants placed in front of and on either side of lower growing plants. Some of these will be green manure crops (fava purchased from Territorial Seed) that will serve a dual purpose of amending the soil while breaking the wind.
On the days where the wind is just totally out of control, we use shade cloth or floating row covers to provide additional protection.
*The most effective windbreaks are constructed from a variety of trees, properly spaced away from gardens and structures.
In the recently released Plowing with Pigs, the author recommends a “shelterbelt” consisting ten rows of trees and shrubs with the leeward rows planted 50 feet away from the area you want protected.
Learning this principle caused me some major concern. While we do live on what is for us a very large lot (10 acres) the lot is, relatively speaking narrow and deep. We really didn’t have the option of planting a band of short and tall trees 50-100 feet away, so we decided to just do the best that we could with the resources we were able to get and hope for the best.
*But trees are not cheap
If you are going to buy just one, spending $30 ~ $50 is really not that big of a deal. But if you need hundreds, and you are homesteading on a shoestring, $30~$50 each is cost prohibitive.
When we learned that our State Forestry service provided native bare root seedlings in bulk at low cost, we decided to go that route and ordered 100 arborvitae infants. They arrived the day of our one and only “blizzard” and were kept in a safe place in our barn until the weather had cleared enough for planting
Arborvitaes are not my favorite. I would have preferred a beautiful sweep of Loblolly Pines but arborvitaes were highly recommended as a windbreak, would serve well as a screen against the less attractive north side of the property, and are reported to tolerate drought and clay soil – two additional challenges we have been faced with.
We planted them at the north end of the property and soon learned though that 100 trees, which sounds to the inexperienced like a lot, really doesn’t go as far as you might think.
I had hoped we’d plant “a few” along the fence, and then “a few more” to the west, and still “a few more” around the house and pond to provide protection from that direction. The rest we’d give to my parents for their back yard.
After considerable research we decided to space them close: about 3′ apart. Since they reach a reported width of about 4′, we figured they would hopefully fuse together to form a strong screen along the fence. But that 100 never covered the fence. They didn’t even cover half of it.
A few more have been ordered, this time a song bird package that includes some native deciduous trees and tall growing shrubs to help provide the needed multi layered effect that we were lacking.
And now……. we simply wait for them to grow.
This post was featured at the Backyard Farming Connection Blog Hop!
|Making Your Small Farm Profitable ~ This book has been on my husband’s nightstand since the beginning of this year. Although the author takes a more conventional approach to farming, the info is still invaluable to anyone wanting to make a living off the land.|
|Plowing with Pigs ~ No homestead library should be without this book. An excellent resource on using what you have, it covers everything from windbreaks to a homestead kitchen remodel. You can read my full review here.|