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Windbreaks and Shelterbelts

If your garden is battered by winds and you want to create an area of shelter, then planting a windbreak from a mix of trees is a great option because trees can be extremely effective at giving shelter from wind and they also look wonderful! When considering windbreaks, bigger really is better - the bigger space you plant, the more shelter you will get. But if you plan a windbreak poorly, you can actually increase the wind! Not so with our easy windbreak guide!
The first thing to understand about windbreaks is that you are trying to gradually slow the wind down through the trees. If you try to totally block the wind with a row of trees, then the speed of wind increases over the top of the trees and whiplashes down the other side - meaning the poor plants (or people) on the 'sheltered' side of the windbreak are actually getting battered by these 'whiplash' wind eddies. You also do not want to put too much wind pressure on any individual tree in the windbreak as wind can blow many trees over, so we try to share the wind's pressure between many trees.

Bigger Windbreaks are Better!

Wind has a nasty habit of finding its way around the edges of skimpy windbreaks, so when planning a windbreak, think generously! A well-planned windbreak will provide a shelter effect out to an area about 10 times its height. So if your windbreak is 5m tall, your will get decent shelter 50m back at a point in the middle of the hedge. The wider the windbreak, the larger the shelter 'triangle' will be. As a minimum, plant two staggered rows of deciduous trees on the windward side of the windbreak with 1 metre between trees and 1 metre between the rows. Then 2 metres back, plant conifer trees at 2 metre spacing. The thicker the windbreak is the better, so if you have space then plant some shrubs in front of the windbreak, add in another row or two of evergreen trees and plant some more rows of deciduous trees on the sheltered side of the windbreak.

Which trees should I choose for my windbreak?

The structure of the windbreak is more important than the tree choice, remembering that the idea is to slow the wind down gradually vertically and horizontally. Most people go for a 20% evergreen/80% deciduous mix because that works well for slowing the wind down and the windbreak tends to look quite natural. It is best to choose trees which are best suited to the site conditions and the tree finder can help you select for that. If you want keep with windfirm trees, then for deciduous trees you could choose beech trees, hornbeam trees, sycamore trees, birch trees, sweet chestnut trees, ash trees, oak trees and cherry trees. For conifer trees, try scots pine trees, larch trees and douglas fir trees.