All Local, All The Time

Planning a windbreak

Series: CSU Extension Boulder County | Story 31

As we head into the windier and hopefully snowier time of year, now is the time to make plans to plant a windbreak on your small acreage next spring. Windbreaks make your yard less windy, prevent snow drifts across the driveway and in corrals, prevent soil erosion, provide protection and shade for your livestock and provide wildlife habitat. In our area, windbreaks should be planted on the north and west sides of a property to block our winter winds. The principle behind windbreaks is the trees and shrubs are a barrier for the wind, slowing it down and allowing soil or snow to drop out. By slowing the wind velocity, they also protect soil from erosion.

Windbreaks should not be planted directly next to the area you are trying to protect. They must be planted a distance away allowing for the dust or snow to drop off prior to the driveway or building. The windbreak needs to be placed back 2 to 5 times the tree height at 20 years of age (usually from 20' to 50' tall) away from the driveway or structure. Windbreaks need to be 10 times the height of your tallest plant (mature height not planted height) in length and be continuous to be effective. Windbreaks provide reduced wind speeds 2 to 5 times the height on the windward side and 5 to 10 times the height on the leeward side. For example, if the trees in your windbreak will be 30' tall at maturity, the windbreak rows should be planted 60' to 150' away from the driveway or structure. They provide protection from 150' to 300' on the leeward side of the windbreak.

Windbreak plants can include deciduous trees and shrubs, but they should include conifers to be most effective. Conifers work best for windbreaks as they provide the dense year-round foliage that makes a windbreak effective. Windbreaks should be at least one row but can contain more than one row depending on space. If you only have space for one row the best tree is a conifer tree. Additional rows can be added depending on space, your reason for the windbreak. Deciduous trees and shrubs can be used in multiple row windbreaks and for wildlife habitat.

Shrubs that work well in a windbreak are shrub junipers, lilac, sumacs, Nanking cherries, native plum and chokecherry. They should be planted 4' to 6' apart. Rocky Mountain juniper, Eastern red cedar and ponderosa pines are good trees for a windbreak and should be planted 10' to 16' apart. Deciduous trees that make good windbreak trees are bur oak and hackberry. The distance between rows is between 8' and 20' depending on whether you will be using mowing or cultivation equipment between the rows for weed management. If you are using equipment, the distance should be the width of the equipment plus 4'. Windbreak plantings need to be watered for at least the first year to get them established. Mulch can help hold soil moisture.

Plan your windbreak now so that you can take advantage of two opportunities to purchase your trees and shrubs. Seedling and smaller trees and shrubs can be ordered directly from the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery in Fort Collins or the Boulder Valley and Longmont Conservation Districts . They order the trees from the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery and bring the trees to the county for pickup. Both organizations start taking orders in the fall for spring pickup. The plants are available in various size pots or bare root and come either singly or in bundles of 25 plants.


Reader Comments(0)