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.
La Junta Field Office – Agroforestry
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.
Site preparation is done to catch and store moisture, reduce grass and weed competition, and to prepare the soil for planting.
Medium to heavy (clay) soils can be summer fallowed the year prior to planting. Sites can be left rough over the winter and then disked, harrowed or roto-tilled just before planting. Sites can be left rough over the winter and then disked, harrowed or roto-tilled just before planting. Sandy soils are best cultivated just before planting.
Cultivating at a depth of 12″-18″ is ideal, especially when using implements for installation. If installing weed barrier, which is typically 6′ wide, cultivate to a width of 8′-10′. This allows for enough loose soil to back fill onto the edges of the weed barrier.
|Installing weed barrier fabric mulch||Cutting hole in fabric for seedling|
Proper Handling and Planting of Seedlings
Seedlings are delicate; mishandling them can lead to higher mortality.
Watering and Drip Irrigation
In southeastern Colorado seedling trees must be supplemental watered in order to survive.
Drip irrigation will ensure a much higher survival rate for seedlings and established trees in our semi-arid climate, which is subject to frequent drought cycles.
Mulching in southeastern Colorado’s semiarid climate greatly reduces seedling and tree mortality. It reduces water competition from weeds and grass, and also reduces water loss from the soil.
Fertilizer use on new seedlings is generally a poor idea. Avoid applying fresh manure at the time of planting – it contains high levels of nitrogen that will burn the tender seedlings. In most cases, your trees will not need to be fertilized. Over fertilization causes unnatural rapid growth, which leads to weak, large leaders and also reduces the plant’s density. It is best to have your soils tested first before applying fertilizer.
If you must apply fertilizer, let the seedlings grow for one or two seasons before applying a low nitrogen fertilizer. Apply nitrogen at a rate of three pounds per thousand square feet of area to be covered.
Maintaining your Windbreak
To ensure long-term survival and healthy trees, maintenance is very critical.
Supplemental watering, weed control, proper/timely pruning, protection from wildlife and livestock, monitoring for insect and diseases, replacing dead, and monitoring weed barrier fabric for girdling are all practices that will help your trees live long and healthy lives.