Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hedgerows, Shelterbelts, and Wind

The Wind

 There are 3 common challenges to New Harmony gardeners:  wind, weeds, and wildlife.  Perhaps you share these same challenges in your location.  This post will address wind issues.  It is not uncommon for those moving into our area to build a beautiful raised bed garden only to be discouraged by pitiful harvests.  The wind is one culprit that perhaps is not given enough consideration when planning the garden.

This is a natural windbreak of Gambrel oaks on the south side of one garden.

Wind is not all bad at low speeds.  Low wind speeds (less than three to five) actually have a positive effect on plants.  It encourages the plant to develop thicker and strong stems. Unfortunately as wind speed increased plant development is slowed, growth is restricted, and the form of the plant can be altered all of which will result in pitiful

Sustained high winds actually change the growth and development of the plant. The stress of wind results in smaller plants with shorter internodes, smaller leaf area, and thicker stems. And this of course will result in pitiful discouraging harvests.

Wind damages delicate petals on ornamental plants

Other effects of wind in the garden:

  • water evaporates from the soil more quickly drying out the surface

  • Petals of delicate flowers can be blown off

  • Wind can damage flowers pistol and stamen and make pollination difficult.

  • Butterflies and bees avoid flying in windy conditions

  • Tall profile plants can be blown over damaging stems

  • High winds can damage roots by dislodging them

  • Strong winds cause excessive water loss from plants through transpiration

  • In prolonged winds the stomata close to limit loss of water.  This decreases photosynthesis. 

  • Fruit rubs on other branches, canes, or stems and is damaged 
You can take advantage of the natural land contours and landscape.  This garden has a dike on one side, a grove of Gambrel oak on the south and native shrubs and junipers on the north side.

How a wind break works:

As the wind approaches the barrier, it is carried up and over the barrier.  Wind speeds behind the barrier are reduced and crops are protected.

The height of the wind barrier will determine the distance from the barrier where wind speed will be reduced. Maximum windd speed reduction occurs from 5 to 8 times the height of the wind break.  So a hedgerow of 8 feet will reduce wind from 40 to 64 ft from the break.  (University of Nebraska)

The degree of wind reduction will depend on he type of windbreak. Within the sheltered area you can have microclimates which result in warmer air and soil temperatures. (University of Nebraska)
Even a small open fence with shrubs on one side offers wind shelter.

Garden Walls and Fences

When choosing fencing material, choose material that allows for some airflow.  A solid wall creates turbulence in the air current while a non solid wall slows wind speed without creating extra currents.  There are numerous options.  Even burlap stretched over wire will slow wind speed.
A living wall can shelter a porch as well as a garden.  Honeysuckle can be trained on a trellis or wire fence around the garden.  It grows very thick, bumble bees love it, and it smells incredible.

A Living Wall or Windbreak

Hedgerows are generally shrubs grown close together.  A shelterbelt consists of one or more rows of trees and shrubs designed to offer protection.  

A living wall offers the added benefits of erosion control, wildlife habitat, food and shelters for pollinators, privacy, ornamental appeal, and privacy.  

Living wall can include edibles that will give variety to your harvests.

Keep in that living walls need to be irrigated, weeded, pruned, and maintained. If you do not want another area to take care of then build a fence or wall.

Things to Consider:

  • Vegetables need early spring protection so consider using evergreens
  •  Use a variety of species rather than one species.  This provides habitat for beneficial insects, pollinators, and reduces risks of a single pest or disease causing problems.
  • Food crops can be used as windbreaks.  3-4 rows of corn or sunflowers can shield fall crops.  Grains can shelter early spring crops.

Silver queen corn is 6-7 feet tall and can shelter low growing ground crops.

 Suggested plantings for wind breaks:


Blue Spruce:  Beautiful tall growing evergreen.  Branches to the ground with blue green needles.
Slow growing.

Austrian Pine:  Fast growing long needled pine. 

Eastern Red Cedar:  Very good wind break thick and bushy

Rocky Mountain Juniper

Broadleaf Trees:

Big Tooth Maple:  Native to Utah. Can be bushy or tree like with good fall color

Siouxland Popular:  This is a cottonless cottonwood very good for windbreaks.

American Plum: Medium to tall shrub great for windbreaks.  Loved by songbirds and animals for nesting and bedding. Fruit can be eaten fresh or processed into jellies. 

Beautiful flowering small tree.


 Coneaster:  Small pink flowers, black berries, and fall color
Siberian Peashrub:  Great for shelter-belts both cold and drought tolerant.  Locust like leaves with yellow flowers.
 Common Lilac:  Beautiful purple flowers.  Can grow very large a great choice in a shelter-belt.  It does sucker.

One of my favorite flowering shrubs, lilac.  Heavenly smell and beautiful blooms.

Serviceberry:  A native shrub.  Irregular shape with red fruit and white flowers.  
American Cranberry:  White flowers red berries.  Birds love the berries.
Elderberry:  Beautiful umbrella flowers.  Deep purple almost black berries.  Flowers and berries both have medicinal purposes.  Birds love these berries.  It does sucker and needs pruning.

Elderberries a beautiful tall shrub that will sucker.

The flowers are incredibly beautiful and medicinal.  The berries are deep purple and loved by birds.  They can also be made in syrup, jelly, and medicinal concoctions.  These shrubs produce enough berries for you and the wildlife.


Jostaberry is an easy care beautiful flowering shrub with edible berries.  It makes the best jelly.

Gooseberries are a small shrub very thorny and left allow by deer.  The fruit can be made into desserts and jam but it is unpleasant to pick because of the thorns.

Oakleaf Sumac
 PomegranateIf you live in zones 6-10 pomegranates is an option for edible shelterbelts  


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Preparing the Homestead for Winter

A snowstorm in Feb 2013

With colors turning and leaves falling in the wind, it's time to prepare the homestead for winter. Before long we will have weather like the picture above.  Preparing now means that you can rest for a season this winter.  Just kidding when do homesteader ever rest!

Preparing the Garden for Winter:

Dig up any potatoes and cure them in preparation for storage.  Curing allows the skins to harden and bruises and small cuts to heal.  This can be done in your garage or under a porch if it is not too cold. Do not wash the potatoes just brush dirt off after curing.

Harvest any remaining winter squash and pumpkins. If there are nicks or unripe squash or pumpkin they go in the pig pile.  They love any treat from the garden.

Gathering the last pumpkins, squash, and dried corn used for cornmeal.

The pig pile of nicked or under ripe produce.

Winter squash will keep til spring with very little preparations.  Start by picking and storing mature squash.  The squash is mature if the skin cannot be pierced by you fingernail.  Always leave the stems on

Curing squash

During the curing process moisture is lost and the skins harden. Acorn squash should not be cured and likes lower temperatures than other squash. They prefer temperatures of 45-55 degrees anything over that and they become stringy and dry.  A green skinned acorn squash should stay green.  There are orange and white skinned varieties.  The white skinned do not store as well and should be eaten first. 

Other winter squash should cure for 10-14 days.  They can be stored on a porch with temperature 55-60 degrees and brought in if a freeze is expected. 

Storing Squash

Squash do not like temperatures below 50 degrees.  They can be stored in a side room, basement, or a pantry that is not too warm.

Pumpkin are treated just like squash but do not store as long.  When storing both squash and pumpkins do not pile them but leave space between and do not store them on a concrete floor.

This is a great rack for storing squash.  It allows for good air circulation and can be put in the coolest room in the house or in a garage.

Pull up all garden plants.  I make two piles.  One goes to the burn pile.  This includes all tomatoes, squash, and any plant that was diseased.  By the seasons end there is usually mildew and blight on these crops and I don't like to put them in the compost pile.  The second pile includes garden plants that are going on the compost pile.  This include corn stalks, not used for decorating, and disease free plants.

The burn pile.

The start of the debris going on the compost pile includes both green and brown material.

Weed one last time.  Any perennials weeds you leave are sending energy down to the roots to get ready for next spring.  Disrupting those plans will make spring weeding easier.

Put a layer of compost on top of your soil.  I don't like leaving bare ground.  

Leave cover crops to winter kill and incorporate into the soil in early spring 

Install any low tunnels on the fall garden boxes.  Be prepared to double lay when a freeze approaches meaning you will lay a row cover directly on the plants under the low tunnel.

I'm not fortunate to have a greenhouse yet but I still have a fall, early winter garden of kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage, greens, and lettuce.  The fall broccoli is incredibly flavorful..My husband loves it raw with a veggie dip and actually comments on how good the broccoli is.  No one ever does that unless they have eaten garden fresh fall broccoli.

Gather and preserve any herbs.

Drain and store  your water systems if necessary.

February 2015 snow storm.  The raised bed gardens.

The Goat Barn

One last cleaning of the stalls is in order before it gets too cold.

After the stalls are clean I lime (purchase lime at the feed store) the stalls by sprinkling lime on the floor of the stall and lock the goats out for a day.  The lime helps to kill bacteria and if done through the spring and summer kills fly larvae.

After the lime has set a day, I put down pine shaving.  And happy goats can return to their comfy stalls in the barn.

Some of the 2015 spring kids.

Fresh bedding is always appreciated.

Have the kidding pen prepared and heat light ready for kidding if needed

The buck barns gets a layer of straw for the winter.

The buck barns.

Put electric water buckets in the stalls.  These are one of a homesteaders best investments.  It beats trying to dump out a bucket frozen solid and haul water for the winter.  It also gives them access to water continuously.

A view of the goat barn.

The Chicken Coop

One last cleaning of the coop and hauling all manure and bedding to the compost pile

Spray the nesting boxes and perches with pyrethrin and neem oil for pest control.  I use the same one I use in the garden.

I like using straw (weed free) in the chicken house it seems to last longer. Weed free means less weed problems with your spring compost.

If you want eggs through the winter have a light inside the coop.

Have electric water buckets ready to plug in for freezing nights

The Duck Pen

 Provide an area for them to get out of the weather.  Large dog houses work great or a small duck house.  

Put an electric water bucket in their pen. 

I let my ducks roam the field garden during winter and early spring.  That allows some grass to grow back in their pen and they are great at hunting out hiding pests.

Don't Forget the Canines and Felines

We have an older lab and beagle.  They have a cozy dog house for the day and dog beds in the garage for night.  The water for my dogs and cats is a bucket system.  We have one in the garage that goes out in the morning and the frozen bucket goes back into the garage to thaw.  The cats have a couple cat houses to keep warm.

I am smiling! This IS my happy face!

Belle, the lab, is the best bed warmer.  The cats love her.

Clean Out the Freezer

Make room for the fresh pork of your fall butchered  pigs or beef or lamb.

Landscape Trees

Continue watering your trees as needed until they lose their leaves.

Pines and evergreens should get a good watering up until Thanksgiving or the ground freezes.  They continue to transpire through the winter and need an occasional watering.  

The Orchard

I'm going to refer you to a previous post on fall orchard care. 

The two most important things to do are your fall spray when 1/2 leaves drop and a cooper spray at leaf fall.  

The second thing is to paint trunks and lower scaffold branches if snow and sun scald is a problem.  Use an indoor latex paint.  Dilute it with 50/50 with water and you can add a little Neem oil to the mixture.


I wait for spring to do any pruning

You can spray a horticulture oil at leaf fall if disease or overwintering pests are a concern.  Cooper can also be used to help prevent disease.

General Preparations

Get a load of wood and have it chopped and stacked out of the weather.

Roll up and store hoses that are not in use

Gather any tools you have in the fields or garden and store out of the weather.

Drain and cover swamp coolers

Check the strength of you antifreeze in your vehicles and add winter washer wiper fluid

Wash and get out winter gear:  Carthart overalls, coats, gloves, hats, boots etc.

 Take inventory of your garden and orchard sprays and fertilizers.  Winter is a good time to purchase these.  Organic fertilizers are fine to store and do not good bad. 

Get a a supply of hay for the winter.  Don't run low on any feeds in case weather prevents you from traveling to the feed store.  Feed is so important to help your animals stay warm so be sure to always feed regularly and have a few extra bags on hand.

There are things I love about each of the four seasons.  I hope you find beauty even in the winter.