Using plants to break wind from sweeping through your garden will provide many benefits. A windbreak will help the garden soil from cooling or warming too fast, thus allowing a longer growing season for plants. Sheltering you and your family from strong winds will help your experience in the backyard be more pleasant. A windbreak will prevent strong winds from knocking off and scattering the blooms on the flowers. And having plants that break the wind will reduce water evaporation and erosion from the soil.
Why use windbreak trees instead of a wall? In The Complete Planting Design Course, Hilary Thomas writes that a solid structure such as a wall will “cause eddies and turbulence on either side.” A semi-permeable wall—such as windbreak trees and hedges of shrubs—works better.
How to Create a Windbreak with Trees and Shrubs
Choose plants that are hardy and able to withstand strong, cold winds. Trees and shrubs native to your climate and area will work best. If possible, try Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), Leyland Cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii), and Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata).
Your windbreak needs a certain ratio of height and width in order to work the best. A windbreak that is too narrow could make the situation worse by gusts of wind deflecting on either side of the windbreak to come together in the center of the garden at an increased speed. Thomas writes that the best ratio is 12:1, which means that if your hedge is 6 feet high, then it should be 70 feet wide. Thomas further writes that a garden will be sheltered a distance of ten times the height of a hedge. Therefore a 6 foot hedge will provide shelter for 60 feet of garden space.
What if you have a small garden? You can enclose an entire garden space with a windbreak. Instead of having one hedge wall, you can create walls on two, three, and even four sides of a garden—preventing gusts of wind sweeping through openings or going around corners.
Plant the trees or shrubs close enough for the branches to grow together but far enough for the individual plant roots to have room to grow. You’ll clip the hedges to shape as the plants grow.
Other Options for Windbreaks
Depending on the location of a garden, an outdoor space enclosed with hedges could encourage a wind tunnel. According to The Reader’s Digest Ideas for Your Garden, some trees may be just as effective in reducing wind than a tall hedge. A tree with a “light head” such as European Birch can filter and reduce gusts of wind. You can also try a “tall line of open plants to lift and filter” an enclosed outdoor space.
Instead of windbreak trees and shrubs, you can use other types of structures and plants. In Practical Small Gardens, Peter McHoy writes that you can use black windbreak netting and attach it between two poles. Then attach lattice or a trellis and train vines to grow up and eventually hide the netting—all the while providing shelter and protection for an outdoor space.
Sheltering your outdoor space from strong gusts of wind may take some trial and error to get it just right. But having a windbreak will be very beneficial to you and your garden in the end.
By Shannon Mendez