Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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 weed 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  


Monday, April 18, 2016

Organic Orchard Care: Monitoring for Pests and Disease in Early Spring

 A good time to do some monitoring and deal with early pests in the orchard is right after petal fall and as leaves emerge. 

Black cherry aphids


Aphids can infect all fruit trees.  Different species affect different trees.They feed on the juices of plants.  Their saliva is toxic and causes curled leaves and deformed fruits. 

Host:   Apples, pears, peaches, nectarine, plums, and cherries

What to do:

As soon as the leaves emerge examine the undersides for aphids.  Look for the tiny pests at the base of the leaf.  They usually appear in clusters. Using a magnifying lens is helpful.   It is important to treat your trees before aphid feedings starts to curl the leaves. Once the leaves curl the aphids are protected from the sprays and much harder to get rid of.

After examining leaves from different levels of the canopy, if you see aphids you have a couple organic options:
  •  Strong spay with a hose nozle to dislodge if infestation is light.  Repeat every 2-3 days
  • Prune heavily infested sections if aphids infestation is small
  •  Insecticidal soap 
  • 1% horticultural oil
  • Neem Oil
  • Pyrethrin
Be sure to thoroughly cover the tree with the spray focusing on the undersides of leaves.  Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps smoother the pest and must contact the aphid.

Types of Aphids

Apples are host to  rosy apple aphid and green apple aphid.  Green apple aphid is more common and populations begin to increase until the warmer summer months.  They remain in the orchard the entire season producing many generations.

The rosy apple aphid tends to be more of a problem in spring.  This aphid migrates out of the orchard to weed hosts in late June and July.

On peaches, green peach aphid is most common.  Their populations grow rapidly in the spring and cause distorted, twisted, and yellow foliage.  They eventually migrate out of the orchard in summer to weed hosts.

Plums and apricots suffer from mealy plum aphid and plum leaf curl aphid.

On cherries the black cherry aphid is the most common.  You can spot these on suckers at the base of the tree first. Black cherry aphids are easy to spot because of their color.

So I have had problems with aphids on cherries, peaches, and plums. Using a dormant spray when the sap begins to flow and buds start to swell is important in managing aphids.  This applications smothers overwintering eggs.  If you applied a dormant spray you should still check out your orchard early spring and look for aphids.

After leaves emerge I use the following mixture in one spray application:
  • Neem Oil
  • Horticulture Oil
  • Fish emulsion
  • Kelp
  • Repeat Neem or Horticulture oil if aphids are still a problem
For a heavy infestation if leaves have started to curl I use Pyrethrin.

Western Flower Thrips

Host:   peach, nectarine, apricot, and plum

If you had deformed fruit last year then you probably had thrips.  They are visible with a magnifying lens but easily overlooked with the naked eye.  Thrips feed on the developing fruit from bloom time til petal fall.

Organic option:
  • Spinosad

Spray in the evening.  When wet, Spinosad is toxic to bees but once dry it will not harm them.  One good application should work.

Apple Powdery Mildew

 Three conditions are necessary for a fungus to become active:  a proper host, specific weather conditions, and presence of the fungal spores.

The host for powdery mildew is apple and pears.  Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus that overwinters on twigs or a secondary infection when spores colonize a neighboring tree. New infections will reoccur if you had a previous infestation.  The fungal spores act as an inoculum and begin colonizing in early spring depending on weather conditions.  Powdery mildew can damage twigs, leaves, and fruit buds.

Begin monitoring for powdery mildew when buds are at tight cluster to open cluster or the pink stage. Look for mildew with a magnifying glass.  It is much easier to see.

If powdery mildew has been a problem treat 7-14 days after bloom with a sulfur spray.

Peach Tree Borers

The borer larvae overwinter in the tree canopy.  In early spring, they emerge and feed on new foliage.  Once the shoots start to expand and grow they bore into the shoots.  

It is important to treat while the larvae are feeding on foliage.  After petal fall apply Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). This bacteria must be ingested by the insect to be effective and is therefore is safe for bees.