University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

News Article


Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont


Although some winters arenít as cold and snowy as others, on the colder, windier days you may have wished you had a windbreak for added protection against the elements.

To be effective, a natural windbreak should be located on the west or northwest side of your property at right angles to the wind. Trees should be planted four to six times their mature height away from the area or building to be protected.

So, the first question to ask yourself is if you have enough space on your property to develop an effective windbreak. If the answer is "yes," here are some things to consider.

In areas of heavy, drifting snow, plantings should be located at least 50 feet from the house, drive, and walks. In addition, your plantings should extend about 50 feet beyond this area on either side so the wind does not enter around the ends of the planting.

An ideal windbreak has five rows of trees with lower growing plants around the edges. The outer rows of trees might contain white, Colorado, Serbian, or Norway spruce. Inner rows might consist of red, white, or Australian pine.

You can achieve additional density in a windbreak by planting shrubs on the outer edges of the trees. Some of our native viburnums, privet, mockorange, and lilac are all shrubs that work well with windbreaks.

The spacing of these plants is especially important. If you are planning to use one to three rows of trees, set plants six feet apart in the row and up to eight feet apart between rows. With a planting of four or more rows, space plants 10 to 12 feet apart between rows and six to eight feet apart in the row. All plants in a windbreak should be staggered to allow them to develop and mature properly.

Where space is limited, use double rows of dense shrubs in a border that is 10 to 12 feet wide. Plant shrubs three to four feet apart in rows six feet apart. Witch hazel, honeysuckle, privet, forsythia, and peashrub are all good choices. Your local nursery or garden center can recommend others.

If space is at a premium in your yard, and you can't afford to give up even 10 feet for a shrub border, you can obtain some relief from the wind by constructing a fence or screen. Check with local authorities first to make sure what you plan to build meets current zoning restrictions.

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