100_4164This is the time of the year when we begin to become tired of the cold weather and being stuck in our homes all the time.  However, we will be here for a while longer.  One thing you can do in the winter to help reduce your cabin fever and help you begin to realize spring will be here before we know it is plan a windbreak for spring planting.

There have been a lot of problems in our windbreaks recently.

  1. There has been a lot of death in Scotch & Austrian Pines due to Pine Wilt Disease
  2. There has been damage & death in many of our Blue Spruces and Colorado Blue Spruces due to the drought of 2012, spruces still are recommended in windbreaks
  3. Plant diversity hasn’t always been practiced properly in windbreaks

I bring up windbreaks because it is at this time of the year when you can begin to place your orders for trees from the Natural Resources District, NRD.  I am not sponsoring the NRD tree sales, however it is a good choice for trees, especially if you need a lot of trees.  The trees are sold as a very small tree and will take a few years to get to a good size, but when planting trees it is best to start smaller anyway.  The larger trees take a longer time to overcome the transplant shock than the smaller trees so the smaller trees will catch up, if not surpass, the growth of the larger ones within a few years.  Smaller trees are also typically much less costly than larger trees, so for a windbreak they are a good choice.  Nurseries and Garden Centers are also very good locations to purchase trees and will have a large selection of trees that are good for Nebraska environments.

Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy & Horticulture
Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

The benefits of a windbreak include:

  • Heat energy savings of up to 40 percent for the home, according to the University of Missouri Extension
  • Serves as a snow barrier
  • Improves winter working conditions for outdoor winter chores on the acreage or property
  • Protects a garden in the summer from strong winds
  • Provides a wildlife habitat
  • Provides materials such as firewood, posts, nuts, fruits and decorative & craft items

I would recommend getting a tree tube or other protection for your trees, especially in a windbreak setting.  These trees are small and windbreaks are typically planted on acreage where there is a lot of wildlife around who like to feed on small trees.  The tree tubes will help protect these trees from deer and rabbit damage.  As the tree grows up, until it is it fairly good size, it will need protection from deer and rabbits, and a fence around the tree is the only effective method, but it needs to be 4 feet tall to protect from deer.

100_4162The NRD tree list is a fairly complete list with many good trees listed.  However, I would avoid Austrian Pines as they are susceptible to pine wilt and may not be a long-term tree for your windbreak.  One thing I always recommend for windbreaks is a row of cedars on the outside as they are a tough native tree.  Within the inside 2 or 3 rows, I would put a mixture of other conifer trees, such as firs, spruces, and other pines.  Deciduous trees, such as cottonwoods, different hickory trees, oaks, and maples can also be placed throughout the windbreak.  Diversity is the key any time to help save some of your windbreak trees left if another disease such as pine wilt comes through.  Do not plant your trees too close together as that can create an environment, as the trees grow, that allows for more disease and insect problems.  Conifer trees should be spaced 14-20 feet apart and deciduous trees should be spaced 16-24 feet apart for proper spacing.