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  


No comments:

Post a Comment