La Junta Field Office – Agroforestry
Windbreaks and living snow fences are extremely important in southeastern Colorado where the wind blows often and hard with not much deterrence through our relatively flat terrain.
Strategically placed windbreaks greatly reduce wind speed around a specific target. Targets can be homesteads, roads, barns, feedlots, corrals, crop fields or any other number of areas.
The benefits of reduced wind speed include blocking blowing snow, reducing heating and cooling costs, buffering sound and odor, providing cooler or warmer areas for livestock, and reducing soil erosion. Windbreaks also provide great habitat for many wildlife species, especially when a fruit-producing shrub row is added.
Planning is the first step toward planting a successful windbreak. In southeastern Colorado, windbreaks are most effective when located on the north, west or northwest sides of targets. In order to keep snow from piling on a target, the center of the inside row must be planted at least 150′-200′ from the target. Also, the ends of windbreaks need to be located at least 50′ from targets as snow will accumulate around the ends.
Planting two high-density (8′-10′ in-row spacing) rows of evergreens will provide the most benefit for blocking wind and snow. Due to our dry climate, we also recommend installing weed barrier fabric and a drip system for optimum survival and maintaining healthy trees. Weed barrier fabric must be checked annually for any girdling problems – simply cut the fabric away from the trunks.
Tree selection for your windbreak also is very important. For southeastern Colorado, we recommend a combination of eastern red cedar and Rocky Mountain juniper for your high-density evergreen rows. Austrian and ponderosa pine can also be used, but they may require more supplemental watering. Piñon pine is a good drought-tolerant choice as well, but keep in mind piñon pine grows much slower than juniper species.
Recommended shrubs for southeastern Colorado windbreaks include skunkbush sumac, lilac, native plum, Nanking cherry, European sage and four-wing saltbush. Recommended deciduous trees include hackberry, honey locust, lacebark elm and bur oak.
We strongly recommend installing a drip system if you plant any shrubs or deciduous trees since they come as bare root stock from the CSFS Nursery and require supplemental watering to become established. Other recommended deciduous trees include winterberry euonymus, Osage orange and white mulberry varieties.