Planting a windbreak may seem like an old fashioned idea, but it’s not all that hard — and it can save you a lot of money in the long run
As we outlined in Part I of this article on the advantages of planting a windbreak, an old-fashioned windbreak has all kinds of money-saving benefits. Of course, by now you may be thinking, “Well, sure, a windbreak is a good idea. But it takes hours of backbreaking labor, and it’s hideously expensive.”
Admittedly, planting a big, long row of trees may in fact be hard work, and it’ll take some time. But that’s what teenagers are for. And it’s not all that expensive if you buy the saplings in bulk.
Intrigued? Read on.
Your First Task
Before you get down and dirty (literally), you’ll need to design your project, and select the right type of trees or shrubs. The best designs for windbreaks consist of multiple rows staggered so they catch the wind better, though many living snow fences consist of single rows of closely-spaced evergreens.
In any case, both should be dense close to the ground but porous rather than solid higher up, so high winds won’t damage the feature itself.
To hurry the process along, choose a fast-growing native species that’s already acclimated to the local conditions. It’s even better if the species is drought tolerant, so that you don’t have to water it much. In most of the western U.S., Rocky Mountain Juniper is a good choice; bois d’arc is great for the Plains.
The Planting Itself
It’s usually safer and easier to plant your trees using a machine. However, if you elect to plant by hand, here’s the basic procedure:
• Keep your saplings in a large container until you’re ready to plant them, with the roots covered by a wet material such as peat moss.
• Cut long roots back to 10 or 12 inches.
• Make the hole deep enough for all roots.
• Remove one tree at a time from the container, and only after its hole is ready.
• Keep foreign matter out of the hole.
• Place the tree in the center of the hole.
• Hold the treetop upright while working moist soil around the roots.
• Firm up the soil around the roots by hand, leaving no air spaces.
• Bring the soil level to the root collar above the first roots.
After planting is complete, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your saplings, especially for the first 3-5 years. Weed control is especially important, and irrigation may also be necessary in drought conditions.
Occasional applications of herbicide and fertilizer may also be beneficial. Also, be prepared to provide for protection against pests and livestock, and conduct periodic inspections for disease and structural damage.
Et viola — a few years later you have a snow fence, privacy hedge, or windbreak, simple as that!