As a gardener, it may often feel as if you’re left to the mercy of Mother Nature. Many things are seemingly out of your control such as blustering wind wreaking havoc on your plants. Thankfully though, a solution can be found in some innovative windbreak ideas. In this article, we’ll discuss how wind works as well as the best garden windbreak ideas to give your plants some much-needed respite.
Time to batten down the hatches.
How Wind Can Cause Havoc in Your Garden
Know thy adversary. Before looking at solutions, let’s first talk about wind. We’ll be focusing on two varieties:
- Turbulent wind
- Funnelling wind
Science Direct defines as turbulent wind as, “Rapid fluctuations in wind velocity.” These fluctuations come about as a result of two factors: frictional force and temperature. Frictional force occurs when air moves against the Earth’s surface. Different variations in the surrounding geography such as rolling hills, dense, forests, or even buildings cause turbulence or fluctuations in speed.
As for temperature, varying thermal gradients also contribute to fluctuations in both wind speed and force. For example, in warmer months, the temperature of the air above open water will be cooler than the air above land. Wind comes as a result of the temperatures and pressure levels converging and crashing together.
The Oxford Dictionary defines funnelling wind as, ”The constraining of airflow by valleys, leading to a higher wind speed, convergence, and uplift.” Essentially, the speed increases as the wind is forced through narrow spaces. Homes in mountainous or hilly areas experience significant amounts of funnelling. Funnelling also occurs at home in narrow areas such as in the gap between fencing and a wall.
It would be natural to assume that the goal of a windbreak is to stop the wind in its entirety. However, a solid obstacle like a traditional fence would just create turbulence and only exacerbate the problem. An effective windbreak is designed to diffuse wind through a series of permeable barriers. It’s suggested to try to filter about 50-60% of the wind and to allow the rest to pass on through. Windbreaks come in two forms: natural and artificial.
Natural Garden Windbreak Ideas
Perhaps one of the biggest selling points for natural windbreaks is that they blend in seamlessly and allow your pre-existing garden to remain the focal point. They’re also completely customisable due to the sheer number of plant combinations available.
Cost varies widely depending on factors such as the size of the area needing shelter as well as the price of foliage at your local gardening centre. Some nurseries offer a warranty at an additional cost covering any purchased plants for up to three years. If this option is available to you, we’d highly recommend taking advantage of it. With so many environmental factors and the high cost of plants, the added assurance of replacement should anything go wrong is well worth the price.
So now let’s take a look at some natural garden windbreak ideas.
1. Plant Layering
In order to have a completely effective windbreak, it’s best to have multiple rows of shrubs and trees and ideally a mix of deciduous and evergreen varieties. Deciduous plants are those that lose their leaves in the fall. Whereas evergreen plants retain their needle-shaped leaves all year round. Evergreens are also distinguished by the fact that they produce cones. Having a variety of both ensures coverage year-round.
In addition, a mixture of both shrubs and trees ensures there’s coverage from the ground up. As for both shrubs and trees, it’s best to see what grows naturally in the area because those native plants are likely fairly hearty and local weather resistant. Planting young plants is also best. This allows them to establish themselves and their root systems effectively.
Please note that this is all up to personal preference. If you’d prefer to have a windbreak solely made out of only shrubs or trees, then that’s quite alright.
Shrubs are ideal for protection lower to the ground. When planting them, it’s recommended to space them fairly close together with a distance of about 30-90cm between each. The following lists have been selected based on their heartiness and ability to thrive in a UK climate. However, please note that these lists are not fully comprehensive. There are many other varieties available that are also highly effective.
- hedgerow rose
- Evergreen Shrubs
- Shrubby Hare’s Ear
Trees are best for achieving the necessary height for a windbreak. Ideally, they should be planted about 2-4m apart. Newly planted trees are especially at risk for wind rock due to the fact their roots are not yet firmly grounded in the soil. Wind rock is a term for plants being blown over and their roots being ripped from the ground. When planting new trees, be sure to ground their roots as much as possible.
Trees can receive support by being tethered to wooden stakes driven deeply into the ground. Here are our favourite picks for hearty options:
- Field Maple
- Box elder
- Evergreen Trees
- Incense Cedar
- Scots Pine
- Douglas fir
- Eastern Hemlock
If chosen wisely, the location can serve as a natural windbreak. For instance, if your garden resides on a hill, place your plants in the middle of the slope. This will act as a natural barrier since the wind will jump from the top of the hill down to the base.
Similarly, a sunken garden can be an effective windbreak as well. These are created by digging out an area and planting in the dugout space. It’s essentially like an inverted gardening bed and is protected by the natural walls of the ground surrounding it. Kensington Palace is home to a very famous sunken garden.
Artificial Garden Windbreak Ideas
Artificial windbreaks are typically lower maintenance and won’t require near the amount of upkeep as the natural options do. And better yet, if you’re on a tighter budget, they’re also typically more cost-effective as well.
1. Garden Screening
While perhaps not the prettiest, garden screening is a quick and effective option. Screening is typically made out of bamboo, reeds, brushwood, or willow and sold in a roll. It’s held up by attaching the ends to either a fence, wall, or wooden stake.
Garden screening can also be used as a temporary first line of defence when establishing a natural windbreak. The screens take the brunt of the force giving the newly planted trees and shrubs a chance to dig their roots firmly into the soil. As for costs, they range anywhere from £40 to £120 for a 1.8m section of screening depending on the material it’s made out of.
2. Permeable Fencing
Not to be confused with a traditional fence, the permeable fence is designed with space in between the slats to allow for air to pass through. Horizontal slatting is one of the most popular varieties. The cost for this will vary based on the type of wood chosen as well as the length of the land needing shelter.
Pergolas are a great example of garden furniture being used as a windbreak. It’s typically constructed out of four vertical posts with a roof made out of horizontal slatting. At first glance, the wooden structure doesn’t seem as if it would be able to diffuse much wind. However, when combined with climbing plants, pergolas are highly effective. Roses thrive quite nicely on pergolas. Not only is it a beautiful focal piece for your garden, but it also serves as a shady spot to sit and relax in.
As for cost, pergolas range pretty broadly from £350 to £4,000. The price is dependent upon the size of the shelter as well as the material it’s made out of. If you’re in the mood for manual labour, you could cut costs by constructing one yourself out of some lumber from the hardware shop
A trellis is arguably the prettier sister of garden screening. It’s very similar in the fact that it’s essentially a permeable wall, however, it’s more ornate and visually eye-catching with climbing plants weaving their way up it. Honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper, and Ivy all thrive really well on a trellis.
Costs for trellis range anywhere from £35 for 1.8m x 0.6m to £100 for 1.8m x 1.8m. When factoring in the cost of a trellis, keep in mind, that price doesn’t include the climbing plants, which
are necessary for wind mitigation. Trellis is designed with fairly large gaps to allow for plants to grow through it. Without plants, it would hardly filter any wind at all.
5. Repurposed Water Bottles
There are truly garden windbreak ideas for every budget. For teeny tiny plants in need of some shelter, you can utilize a plastic water bottle. Simply cut the bottom of the water bottle off to create a tube. Now place this tube over your plant and twist it firmly into the dirt. Be sure that the bottle is deep enough in the ground. Otherwise, it could blow away.
Wind doesn’t need to be a death sentence for your plants with so many effective garden windbreak ideas available. Choose the option that brings you the most joy, whether that be a pergola covered in blooming roses, a wall of artificial bamboo, or an evenly spaced row of Hawthorne’s. We wish you the best of luck with your wind mitigation efforts.
Sourceshttps://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/types/trees/deciduous https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/types/hedges/windbreaks-shelterbelts#section-4 https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/coniferous https://www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/whats-on/the-sunken-garden/ https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/wind-turbulence https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095838788
Ryan Jenkins is a professional gardener and has been working in the gardening industry for over 25 years. This has allowed Ryan to accumulate a vast wealth of gardening knowledge which he shares on the Sefton Meadows blog.