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The Advantages of Planting a Windbreak

The Advantages of Planting a Windbreak

If you've ever visited the country, then you've seen windbreaks. That's what those closely-spaced rows of trees along fence rows are. The trees didn't just happen to grow there: they were deliberately planted as a protective measure, to help tame the wind and, in some regions, to block the drift of winter snow.

If you have a piece of property that you'd like to keep safe from erosion, or a road that you'd just like to keep clear of snow drifts, or even if you're just sick of the neighbors being nosy, then you may have need of your own windbreak. Let's take a closer look at the concept.

The Backstory

Windbreaks have a noble and ancient heritage. The concept of planting rows of trees to block the wind or manage snow stretches back to pre-Roman times in Europe.

When settlers started spreading across the Great Plains and other largely treeless areas of North America, they quickly put this concept to good use, planting shelterbelts to protect their homes and fields from the unremitting wind. It was a good idea... but somehow it went out of style.

Sadly, the need for windbreaks was largely forgotten during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Removal of trees and other poor conservation practices resulted in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, a harsh lesson that drove home the need for windbreaks.

How Windbreaks and Snow Fences Work

The principal that makes windbreaks so useful is simple: they force the winds up and over the treetops, causing them to lose energy, slow down, and drop anything they may be carrying. Snow, for example. This keeps it from drifting against any structures or other obstacles.

A snow fence literally blocks drifting snow from advancing farther. They're usually planted in single rows along roadways, fence lines, and irrigation ditches, to keep drifts from collecting in those features.

The Benefits

It takes years for windbreaks and their relatives to come to fruition, but they're worth the wait. Among other things, they can:

• Improve your property value
• Reduce soil erosion
• Limit damage to garden crops (thus improving yield)
• Protect livestock and pets
• Ensure your privacy
• Act as sound barriers
• Mitigate odors from neighboring properties
• Reduce energy use in a protected home by up to 10-30%
• Provide bird and small animal habitat
• Beautify the environment

All this is true whether you live on a farm or in the 'burbs.


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