Thursday, 10 January 2008


Shelterbelts protect your home from the chilling effect of wind so you may need less energy to heat your home and you’ll be able to grow a greater variety of plants.

As a garden designer pondering the effects of gardening in a changing climate, you may be suprised to learn that I fear wind more than drought. Strong winds are unpredictable and often appear without warning causing real - and often irreversable damage to plants.

You can't keep the wind out of your garden entirely - there is no magic solution - but you can slow it down with windbreaks and shelterbelts as well as trapping warm pockets of air through the introduction of Foundation Planting and Climbers.

If you live in an exposed area, check for the direction of the coldest winds and build your shelter belt across that direction. Don't make the common mistake of installing a solid barrier as these will increase the problem by creating eddies on both sides of the fence or barrier. Instead, choose a structure that is at least 50% wind permeable - such as a trellis, series of hedges or a group of trees underplanted with shrubs - and you will create a very effective windbreak.

Make sure that your windbreak is as wide as possible to prevent the wind simply sneaking around the side and increasing in speed and ferocity.

When planting your shelterbelt, try to choose wind tolerant plants and remember to include a good mix of evergreens in with your deciduous specimens.

Some good wind tolerant plants include:
  • Escallonia (Evergreen shrub that also makes a good hedge in full sun)
  • Olearia (Evergreen shrub with daisy like flowers - also makes a good hedge)
  • Tamarisk (deciduous but can withstand strong winds)
  • Beech (retains its dead leaves through winter so acts in the same way as an evergreen)
  • Prunus serotina (decidous tree - try planting as a multistem)
I would recommend planting small so that the root systems can develop to cope with heavy top growth without staking and to protect your new shelterbelt as it establishes by surrounding it with a temporary mesh or trellis windbreak.

Another good tip is to plant multistem specimens rather than standards as these help filter the wind in the same way as a trellis (if on a smaller scale!)

Close to the house, low planting such as lavender, santolina, box or even low hurdle fencing will have a suprisingly important effect despite its diminutive stature.

As your shelterbelt matures, it will help to:
  • Absorb noise
  • Protect plants from frost
  • Prevent Soil Erosion
  • Stop Snow drifts
  • Reduce energy costs
You will wonder what you ever did without it!

A shelterbelt can take a number of years to mature - so don't wait until the winds become even more problematic - start taking action today...

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