How to Plant a Windbreak

The primary reason to plant a windbreak is to keep a house warmer by reducing the speed of winds that blow past it. A correctly planted windbreak can cut wind speed over a land distance equal to 30 times its height. Reduced cooling from high winds enables your home to be heated more efficiently, especially in flat, wide-open spaces.

Step 1: Choose the Location for the Windbreak

Find the direction of the most prevalent winds near the property. Locate the windbreak on this side of your house. Measure a distance 5 times the height of the tallest windbreak trees at maturity. With trees 50 feet high, plant the windbreak 250 feet from the house.

The windbreak should run the length of your property boundary on the windward side. To be most effective your windbreak must be L-shaped. Choose a location for the second windbreak arm that will be half the length of the main windbreak. It should cross the property so the house is between it and the driveway access, and must intersect the main arm.

At least 20 feet from the first windbreak, plant a low hedge to catch snow, and increase the windbreak's value as the trees grow taller.

Step 2: Select the Trees for the Windbreak

Pick more than one type of windbreak tree for strength and diversity. Where the winds are strongest, make these evergreen conifers, which keep their needles all winter. Spruces and pines can be mixed in the first windbreak. Choose from any species that are common to your area. Some deciduous trees can be added to the windbreak in widely spaced intervals, if your property gets its highest winds in spring or summer.
If your soil is too alkaline, with a pH of 7 or more, conifers will not grow. Use slow-growing deciduous trees for the main windbreak, including ash, oak or walnut.

Select dogwood, chokecherry, sumac, or lilac for the hedge.

Step 3: When to Plant the Windbreak

Prepare the windbreak site in the fall before first frost. Clear it of weeds, test the soil pH, aerate the earth and order the trees you want to plant. Begin planting in the spring after the frost has cleared the soil. If your trees have burlap sacks on the root balls, you can plant them earlier in the spring.

Step 4: How to Plant the Windbreak

Dig the placement holes for the trees up to 40 percent wider than the root balls to allow roots to spread and stabilize. Plant at most ½ inch deeper than in their nursery containers. Clear off all wrapping and twine, and as much of the burlap as possible from the roots. Pull gently on the roots to expand them, and cover all roots completely with the dirt you scooped out for each hole.

Water when all the soil has been packed in around the root bed. Add mulch to guard moisture, keep lawnmowers away, and control weeds. Maintain the windbreak with weekly watering, and crop away extra leader limbs as soon as they start to grow. Fertilize to keep the trees strong and prevent insect infestation and disease.