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How To Use Windbreaks for Farming


Even wind speeds of 20-25 miles per hour are enough to damage plants. A properly configured windbreak can protect your plants from wind damage, blown away seeds, a lower soil temperature, moisture, and harsh working conditions. You can also save on your energy consumption from heating costs.

A windbreak is typically a set of trees or shrubs, but it can be made out of any material that suits you. Windbreaks do two important things, block and redirect wind flow. There are many benefits to using a windbreak. One is that you can use a windbreak alongside irrigation to control the airflow around your farm. Let’s explore how to go about setting up an effective windbreak on a farm.

Planning Your Windbreak

The planning stage is important. You should know a few things first off. When you plan out your areas, make sure you know which way the prevailing  wind blows. This can be done with a weather vein or even a flag. You can make several windbreaks as needed, but always make sure to utilize as much wind power you can with either a turbine or a water pump.

How your property is set up is also important. The following tips are for planning and planting a windbreak.

Choosing Material

The idea is to create a harmonious balance. For a small shrub or vines, plant them 1 foot away from your home. This can help you avoid an ant invasion or two, not to mention things like termites. As we mentioned earlier, you can build your windbreak out of any suitable material or plant. Remember that trees will also compete with your other plants for nutrients. Despite this, trees are invaluable in a number of ways, they:

  • Provide firewood.
  • Give you some privacy.
  • Fight erosion.
  • Create a habitable place for animals.

The large roots will require lots of water, and probably won’t bear much fruit. One strategy is to choose two types of trees and/or shrubs that compliment each other. A fast growing species like bamboo can protect your plants while larger trees like pine grow up. 

For those living in coastal regions, find a species of trees with rough bark. Needly trees or trees with thick leaves are a good choice. The fastest and easiest way to find the right species is to find out what grows in your area.

Using a Trellis

Trellising is a great way to control a microclimate (area of your yard), and block wind. You can transform areas that are hot and sunny into shady, cool places for plants to grow that are protected from the wind. This also creates an attractive space, and can possibly provide you with something tasty to eat. There are also many beautiful floral vines that grow if you are looking for something stunning, rather than your typical grape vine.

Be picky when choosing the species of plant for your trellis’. Some vines can be invasive, covering anything and everything in their path. Some great vines for this include:

  • Morning Glory
  • Grapevines
  • Clematis
  • Hydrangea

Build a Shelter

For smaller scale protection from wind, you can build a small shelter around the plants for wind protection. You can use anything you have lying around, an old steel drum, bales of straw, a cold frame for a more traditional look. Even regular old dirt or snow pile can do the trick. This will keep your plants safe from wind damage.

What Makes a Good Tree Windbreak?

Let’s get down to brass tax. It’s recommended that trees forming a windbreak should be placed one to two tree lengths from the house. For snowy areas, more snow gathers on the downwind site of trees. Make sure to plant your windbreak one or two tree lengths from the driveway if possible. A successful windbreak:

  • Makes use of a pioneer plants that are easy to grow.
  • The stems of the plant should be fibrous like palms.
  • Plants should have needles (like pine).
  • Use a tall wall or solid fence for protection as they grow.

Ideally you’ll be able to plant an evergreen species of tree for a windbreak. In areas like Colorado check out: spruce, pines, and arborvitae. If you are having some doubts, ask a local landscaper for some recommendations. Using trees of varying heights is recommended. You want about 60% density of foliage for trees facing the wind to create a successful windbreak. Heavy windbreaks can cause a vacuum on the side downwind.

Two to three rows of shrubs or trees are enough to build a formidable windbreak. If you aren’t using evergreen plants you may need additional rows for cover during the winter months. If you are using a variety of plants, stagger them for a more natural feel. Depending on your region, you may need to add more rows of trees, which is also known as a shelter belt. 

Final Thoughts

Harnessing the power of the wind is an exciting thing, and it can save on energy costs. Bear in mind that many people run into problems with windbreaks. Respecting the space in all its natural glory is of the utmost importance! For example, If you are clearing trees out of an area, remember that you are weakening the trees around that area. You may have good coverage from the wind, but the trees around the clearing are prone to rot and fall over in time.

You can safely avoid any other roadblocks by contacting a landscaping professional in your area.

All in all there are some pretty simple standards set in place when it comes to building a great windbreak, and all sorts of interesting ways to work with the wind. Proper research on your region is vital, along with the constant vigilance it takes to keep your plants happy and healthy. Also don’t forget to consult your neighbors if you plan to build a windbreak between two farms. Do you have any tips to share about windbreaks? Let us know and feel free to share.

9 Things To Know Before Building A Farm Shed


I’m sure you will agree with me when I say: building any new rural structure can often be overwhelming.

You want to make sure you get everything right the first time, so you don’t have headaches down the track.

In this article, we show you some of the more important things you need to think about when building a farm shed. By considering the following tips, it will make the whole shed building process a lot smoother.

Understand The Condition Of Your Building Site

No matter what you are building it is essential to determine where you want to build it and the condition of the site.

Take your time to survey the location where you plan to build your rural building.

You will need to take note of:

  • The slope of the side,
  • The type of soil,
  • And will the building fit in my desired location?

Knowing the details of where you plan to build is essential to determine the design and construction of your farm shed.

Know What You Want

This statement may seem obvious, however, having a clear understanding of what you want out of your structure is essential. Things you will need to ask yourself include:

  • How will it be used?
  • What are the dimensions of any machinery or produce that will be stored in the shed?
  • How large will your shed need to be?
  • How do you plan to access the building?
  • Will you need insulation and ventilation in your shed?
  • What kind of drainage will you need for the heavier rain periods?
  • What level of flexibility do you require of your shed?
  • Are acoustics important? If you are operating loud machinery or will have livestock, you will need to consider the acoustics of your shed.
  • Are there any load requirements? For example, will you be storing grain against the walls, or require a gantry crane in your shed?
  • Is your area prone to extreme weather conditions such as high winds in southern states or snow in the north?

By asking yourself these questions, you will gain an informed and clear picture of what you want.

Your Shed Is A Long-Term Investment

Will you building need to adapt to different requirements throughout the year? This will influence the size and design of your shed.

For example, many farmers store hay in their shed during the peak season, however during the quieter months will use the shed to store farm machinery. In this case, you will want to cater for both the amount of hay you want to store, as well as the size of the farm machinery.

What will you need your shed for in the next five years? If you have livestock, is it likely that the numbers will grow? Will you require further storage capacity in the next five years as your farm grows?

It is cheaper to cater for these changes now rather than in 5 years when you have outgrown your shed.

Appearance Matters

Will you want it painted on the inside? Will you need to include an internal fit-out such as a separate workshop or office area? You might also consider whether you want a mezzanine floor or not.

Think about it now, so you don’t have any unexpected headaches down the track.

Conduct A Soil Test

A soil test will determine the condition of the soil on your building site. It will assess factors such as the soil’s compaction rates and whether the ground contracts and expands considerably.

The results of this test will determine what is needed regarding your new sheds foundations and footings.

Building Restrictions Can Vary

This varies from location to location, so be sure to check.

Things you will want to double check include:

  • Are there any local building restrictions?
  • Do you need to have a set amount of space between the new building and existing buildings or property boundary?
  • What is your local zoning? Can you build what you want on your property?

Level And Compact Your Site

To have a solid foundation for your shed, the ground will need to be leveled out and adequately compacted.

If the ground has not been compacted correctly, the foundations can erode over time, or the shed footings will need to be considerably deeper.

Ideally, you want to have the shed on a flat block, so leveling the site is essential. Remove any trees, plants and any excess dirt. Ensure the site is correctly retained if it is on a sloping block.

If you do have a slope on your site, and you can’t level the site for whatever reason, you will need to take that into consideration in your shed’s design.

Prepare Your Site

Firstly, before construction, it is a good idea to have at least five meters of flat ground around your sheds site. This land should be cleared of any debris and allow for easy access for installers.

You will need to consider how you plan to approach and access your shed during construction as well as throughout the life of your shed. The ground leading to your shed will need to allow for easy access.

When the shed is delivered, you will want to ensure the ground is not washed out due to heavy rain. The last thing you want is a bogged delivery vehicle, so plan construction during drier months. It is also a good idea to include some extra room for the shed after its components have been unloaded from the delivery truck.

By thinking “outside the box” you can make sure that the delivery and construction of your new farm building goes as smooth as possible.

A Larger Shed Project Can Be A Fulltime Job In Itself

By now, you may have guessed building a farm shed is a lot of work!

If you planning on overseeing the project yourself, prepared to set aside time to manage its construction.

Overseeing your own shed’s construction can save you a lot of money. However, you will need to spend a lot of time organizing and coordinating contractors and tradespeople.

The key is to plan ahead.

Get clear about what you want, then create a timeline and prepare for any breakdowns.

Get quotes from multiple contractors and find the best one for your needs. Keep in mind cheaper isn’t always better. Remember, your shed is a long-term investment and should be done right the first time.

Throughout this process have a clear budget in mind and agree to prices before work starts. It is always a good idea to have some extra money set aside for any unseen expenses.

By planning and following the above steps, you can be sure that there will be less chance of any unexpected headaches and expenses.

About The Author

Techspan specializes in the design and construction of quality structural steel farm sheds. They are passionate about creating long-lasting, strong and environmentally friendly rural storage solutions. You can find more information on building large farm sheds at TechspanBuilding.com.au


Stand Problems in Organic Corn

We received numerous calls these past few weeks from Organic growers reporting poor stands of organic corn. These growers all planted their organic corn around the 15th of May.

On its face this is frustrating but not terribly surprising given the spring weather we’ve had this year.

Climate summaries from the University of Minnesota confirm what you all have experienced. Our May was cooler than normal (from 1˚- 4˚F cooler) with excessive rainfall in most of the state (we had over 4.3’’ at the seedhouse alone) and a lack of sunlight (over 75% of the days were cloudy).  These cool, wet conditions are a perfect environment for fungal pathogens in the soil that kill seed & seedlings.

Fungal pathogens, like Pythium, Fusarium, and others, thrive in cool wet conditions where they infect the seed or seedling resulting in water-soaked discoloration of the mesocotyl and roots after emergence or rotting of the seed in the ground.

Not to mention, when soil temperatures are lower than 55˚F, corn emergence slows down greatly.  The longer the seed sits in the ground the greater the chance of seedling diseases.

This results in what you experienced in the field, poor or uneven germination of your corn stands.  These problems are further compounded under Organic management, as there is no approved seed coating currently that has efficacy on pythium & other root rots.  Conventional corn is routinely treated with multiple fungicides, which allows conventional growers to plant early into unfavorable soil conditions and still get a descent stand.

We are constantly evaluating available OMRI-approved coatings & products to use on our Organic seed corn and we will continue to partner with innovative companies in the industry to find a coating that will provide maximum seedling protection for our organic growers.

In addition to fungal pathogens, we also had Organic growers report poor stands of corn following spring-terminated cover crops.  Multiple producers who weren’t able to or didn’t terminate red clover in the fall of the year worked it up in the spring.

Seed corn maggots (among other pests that feed on corn seed) are favored by cover crops & cool, wet weather. These small larvae eat through the seed, meosocotyl & roots leading to poor germination & emergence.  Damage to seedlings is most severe under spring conditions like we experienced this year.

We recommend growers work up plowdown cover crops (like red clover) at least two weeks prior to planting crops in the spring or working it up in the fall depending on the soil type.

This article was written by Matt Leavitt, Albert Lea Seed Agronomist.

For more information on Albert Lea Seed, view their profile.

VIDEO: Organic Farming is the future of agriculture (by Happen Films)

Link to full video on YouTube, here.

Sample post about organic dairy farming

This is a sample post about organic dairy farming