A successful windbreak planting depends on proper establishment and care during the first few years after planting. Time spent preparing the site, controlling weeds, and replanting is repaid many times during the lifetime of the windbreak.

Each windbreak system is unique and your windbreak should be designed for your site and your objectives. Our office can provide help in designing and installing your windbreak. Just call us at 303 218-2622, or e-mail us.

Why do you want a windbreak?

Generally, the primary reason for rural landowners is to protect themselves from wind. By planting a windbreak, you create your own “wind shadow” on the downward side.

Here is a diagram showing the windbreak area of protection:

Note the 100 feet of windbreak that extends beyond the house and barn. This is necessary to reduce the effect of “wind eddies.”

This protected area extends to a distance of 15 to 20 times the height of the windbreaks tallest trees; the most effective area is about 10 times the height of the windbreak as illustrated in the diagram below.

Considerations for Tree Location
  • The reason for your planting
  • Location
  • Elevation
  • Slope and aspect
  • Soil type
  • Prevailing wind direction
  • Weed control methods
  • Septic systems
  • Irrigation needs
  • Snow drifting
  • Power lines
  • Planting size and shape
  • Species selection
  • Site preparation method
  • Underground utilities
  • Past land uses
Site Preparation

Fall is the best time to till for a windbreak. This will allow freeze/thaw action to break up large clods through the winter. Furthermore, the soil will mellow and store moisture received during the winter months. If you have sandy soil that could blow during the winter, wait until spring to prepare your site.

Four to eight foot wide strips per row is a good rule of thumb for planting trees.

It’s best to have five to seven rows of trees, but a minimum of three will give you protection. Take into account the space you have available, the species you have planned, and the purpose of the planting. Do not plant a windbreak on the north side closer than 100 feet to the house. For a southern and eastern exposure windbreaks, deciduous trees can be planted closer. End rows at least 20 feet from roads and driveways.

If you only have room for three rows, use Rocky Mountain Juniper and Ponderosa Pine. Use shrubs on the outside rows if you have at least three rows already. These shrubs help the snow to drop within the windbreak, providing winter water to your windbreak.

Make sure any windbreak is at least 50 feet away from any septic system.

Managing your Windbreak

Your goal is to maintain the health and vigor of individual trees and shrubs while maintaining the overall structure of the windbreak as an effective wind barrier. To accomplish this goal, several practices must be included in your management plan, such as:

  • weed control,
  • protection from large animals and rodents,
  • corrective pruning,
  • insect and disease control, and
  • proper chemical use in nearby fields and other areas
Snow Management

In areas of high winds and blowing snow, windbreaks can reduce the amount of effort spent on snow management. They can be designed to spread snow across a large area or to confine it to a relatively small storage area. The design of your windbreak will depend on your objective.

Field windbreaks designed to distribute snow evenly across a field should be tall and porous.

In contrast, windbreaks designed to capture snow and control drifting should have multiple rows with high density.

Ranch or Farmstead Windbreak

Well designed windbreaks can cut energy costs as much as 40%. A ranch or farmstead windbreak is often a woodland island among large expanses of agricultural crops.

Drag the green slider, below, to view the problems and solutions of one hypothetical rural site.
Windbreaks for Wildlife

Windbreaks on a farm or acreage can become a focal point for outdoor family activities. They provide aesthetic beauty to enhance the home or farm; a quiet setting for walks, bird watching, or overnight camp-outs together; a route for hayrides; and a place for hunting or wildlife educational activities. Memories in your windbreak will long outlast the evening’s television program.

Windbreaks can be given a more naturalistic look and still provide excellent wildlife habitat and wind protection.

An example of one possible layout
Additional Resources:
Windbreak Species and Planting Workshop
Windbreak Design Workshop