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Updated: May 9, 2021

A windbreak is a strategic way of planting, usually made up of one or more rows of trees or shrubs planted in such a manner as to provide shelter from the wind. However, windbreaks can also be made from many items depending on your situation and what is possible. Some other ideas could be constructing a wall with rocks, building a fence, a wooden structure filled with branches and other organic materials, a caravan or a small building could even act as a windbreak. However, the best option is always a organic structure you can obtain a yield from!

Think multi-purpose! In a permaculture system, a windbreak is never just a windbreak there can be many benefits, It may provide:

  • Firewood or timber for building

  • A place to forage fruits or other edibles

  • A habitat and food source for a range of local wildlife (Many small mammals, birds and insects and pollinators)

  • Prey bird structures (in case of taller trees)

  • Forming Microclimates for plants, crops or people

  • Zone of natural fertility from organic matter breaking down

  • A vine support structure

  • Protection from soil erosion

How to create your windbreak with plants? Windbreaks should consist of a minimum of 2 rows. Rows should be space between 2-4m apart. The tallest trees should be in either the centre or windward row and be planted 3-6m apart. Smaller trees and larger shrubs should be planted on the outer rows, spaced 2-4m apart. The smallest shrubs should be planted on the outer edges 1-2m apart. A windbreak hedge should always be positioned at a right angle to the prevailing wind direction on site. Hedges are placed not with reference to the wind, but with reference to property boundaries. If your primary goal is wind breaking, try not to fall prey to this mistake.

Two requirements:

  1. ratio height - protected area:

The area protected by a windbreak is generally around 20 times the height of the tallest trees. So if you want the protected area to be around 40 meters, your hedge should be around 2 meters high.

2. ratio height - length: When positioning a new windbreak hedge, it is also important to consider the length of the hedge in relation to its height. As a general rule of thumb, the ratio of height to length should be around 1:10, so a windbreak hedge of 2m in height should ideally be no less than 20m long. While this is not always practicable, following this ratio will help to reduce turbulence around the ends of the windbreak.

How to create your “Composting windbreak” ? At Pomar dos Sabores, we also created a windbreak made of two rows of tall vertical wooden posts (between 3 to 4 meters) and on one side a wire mesh. We filled this “tunnel” with a variety of organic materials (branches, banana stems, leaves). The windbreak effect is achieved because the piled organic materials still let some wind to pass and therefore we can avoid turbulences. The wire mesh is used as a structure for vines (Passiflora Edulis, Sechium Edule) which will benefit from the shade and from the composting process.

This article was a collaboration by Jackson Knights and Miguel Cotton at Orchard of Flavours If you have any questions, suggestions or if you would like professional consultancy for your own project, do not hesitate to contact us.

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