Using Windbreaks to Protect Gardens
If you live in the Midwest like I do you you are familiar with a little thing called wind. Wind is what defines many aspects about our lives. It affects where we build homes, if we plant trees, gardens, snow management, what we drive and the list goes on and on. Someone who is not from the plains states may have a hard time understanding just how much wind impacts our lives. Sometime in the dead of winter with the wind howling along at 40 miles and hour with snow and ice flying through the air it sometime seems like the wind has it out for you.
In the war against the wind we fight here on the plains we have only one defense against it. We use windbreaks. It you are not familiar with the term windbreak it pretty much means what it sounds like. Windbreaks are something that that puts the brakes on the wind and stops it from exerting its full force on a people or objects.
Windbreaks can either be living using trees, shrubs, tall grasses or constructed like wood slate fences. Both types can be very effective but they have draw backs as well. When using a living windbreak they will need to be planted, water, fertilized and mulched in order for them to become effective. It can also take up to ten years depending on the species of plants for a living windbreak to become effective. A constructed windbreak on the other hand can be effective as soon as you are done building it but it will not last has long as well designed living windbreak.
There are many purposes that windbreaks can be designed for but for this post I want to discuss why it can be used in a garden. For any of you out there that garden you know that many of the species that are commonly grown in gardens are very fickle and sensitive. If things are not exactly what they need to grow they will give you no end of grief. Along with watering, nutrition and sunshine protecting your garden from wind can be crucial to good production.
Studies around the world have demonstrated that windbreaks can improve crop yields anywhere from 5-45 percent depending on the type of crop. Now most of these studies were conducted on traditional field crops like wheat, corn and soybeans but what holds true for those crops is also applicable to garden vegetables as well. As a gardener that deals with wind on a daily basis I cannot stress enough how important it is to have protection from it.
A perfect example of why windbreaks are important is a potted zucchini plant that I grew about a year ago. When I was growing the zucchini on my deck it was doing just fine. It had plenty of water and sun and was well on its ways to producing excellent zucchini. But by this point in the summer I had already been eating zucchini like crazy from my garden and I didn't want anymore. When my girlfriend found out she said she would take it since she loved zucchini and hadn't had any yet. To sum it up when it left the safety of my deck the wind got ahold of it and it was never the same zucchini plant again.
For the purposes of garden a constructed windbreak would probably be best. This type will go up quickly and can be moved and raised with relative ease when compared to planted windbreaks. They can be constructed in many ways including a slatted fence, greenhouse plastic over a wood frame or even metal sheeting like you see with cattle windbreaks.
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