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.