Multiple benefits of windbreaks


These 50- and 60-degree days make me think of spring and then I start daydreaming about growing green things — flowers, trees, herbs, vegetables, and lawns. Even though we all know the snow will fly again before spring officially arrives on March 20, now is a great time to make plans for spring tree and shrub plantings.

There are many outstanding reasons to plant trees:

• Beautify your surroundings

• Provide food and/or homes for wildlife

• Provide food such as nuts, fruits, and sap for humans

• Produce oxygen

• Reduce noise

• Create visual screens

• Absorb storm water

• Mitigate odors

• Prevent soil erosion

Another important reason to plant trees is to save energy. According to the US Forest Service, trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 to 50 percent in energy used for heating.

Windbreaks, also known as shelterbelts, are plantings of single or multiple rows of trees and/or shrubs that are useful in a variety of settings such as cropland, pasture, along roads, farmsteads, feedlots, and in urban areas. In Ohio, typically windbreaks are installed to reduce soil erosion from wind, manage snow deposition, and enhance wildlife habitat.

A windbreak should be oriented perpendicular to the prevailing wind or most troublesome wind directions. As wind blows against a windbreak, air pressure builds up on the windward side (the side towards the wind), and large quantities of air move up and over the top or around the ends of the windbreak.

This modifies the environmental conditions or microclimate in the sheltered area. Height, density, number of rows, species composition, length, orientation, and continuity all determine the windbreak’s effectiveness.

Single row windbreaks can be helpful, particularly in an urban setting or one with little space, but two, three, and four row systems provide many added benefits. While deciduous trees are only five to 20 percent as effective as conifers, they do provide diversity of form, color, and wildlife value. Mixing species is desirable — that way if one species should have a problem the windbreak will continue to function.

Try to use native species whenever possible as these are adapted to our soils and rainfall and are more likely to succeed. Avoid species such as autumn olive, Japanese and bush honeysuckles, Japanese barberry, buckthorn, or other invasive species. Consult the

Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ website at and search invasive species to access detailed information. Because windbreaks reduce wind speed they make it easier for bees and other pollinators to forage under windy conditions; honey bees can’t forage at wind speeds over 25 miles per hour. Windbreaks that include flowering shrubs and trees can provide shelter, pollen, and nectar for pollinators.

Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District is holding its annual tree and shrub seedling sale. These seedlings are well suited to urban, suburban, and rural settings, come in several packet sizes, and are bare root seedlings making them very easy to plant.

Several of the species can be integral components a windbreak planting. Anyone wishing to order large quantities for a windbreak should call the office at 740-368-1921 as soon as possible so that we can assure such quantities. The sale is ongoing, first come first served, and trees will be available for pick up at the District office in early April.

All of the species descriptions, packet sizes, and costs are available on the District’s website at or you may call the office and ask for the information to be mailed to you.

Windbreaks are an investment in the future so we encourage you to plan thoughtfully and carefully so you will reap the benefits for many years to come. We recommend the following publications if you want to learn more:

In addition to this year’s tree and shrub seedling sale material, the District’s website contains information on our many conservation programs such as the 2017 Agronomy Workshop, Composter Workshop, and Dick O’Keefe scholarship. Check it out today.

By Bonnie Dailey

[email protected]

Bonnie Dailey is Deputy Administrator for the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District.

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