Although we had a mild winter this year, Ontario winters are typically cold and bring a lot of snow. Plan ahead and plant a windbreak before next winter – windbreaks are an effective way to trap snow and prevent snow build-up around driveways and laneways, buildings, farmyards and other high-use areas. For you, this means:
- potential savings in fuel costs
- a reduction in the wear and tear of your plowing equipment
- less money and time spent on clearing snow from your property
- easy access to your livestock
- safer travel along rural roads
- reduced heating costs of up to 30 per cent
Windbreaks have year-round benefits, too. When planted around field crops, feedlots, livestock buildings, pastures and calving areas, windbreaks reduce wind speeds and will:
- increase crop yields and reduce soil erosion
- lower animal stress and improve animal health
- increase feed efficiency
- protect the working environment in and around livestock areas
Windbreak maintenance tips
Trees are dormant in winter and early spring, so now is a great time to assess the health of your trees and to determine if maintenance is needed. Regular maintenance will increase the effectiveness of your windbreak, creating a more effective shelter zone on the downwind side of the windbreak. Thinning and pruning practices differ by windbreak type and tree species.
Planting a windbreak
Spring is the best time to plant a windbreak. Before planting:
- Determine your planting objectives
- Conduct a site visit with an expert
- Develop a planting plan that considers the information from the site visit and your planting objectives
- Prepare the planting site and order your trees
For help with planning and maintaining a windbreak, contact your local conservation authority. They may be able to visit your planned windbreak site and help you with your planting plan, site preparation, choices of tree species, and appropriate spacing and planting, as well as windbreak maintenance.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has many resources to help you with windbreak planning. Visit ontario.ca/ccjc to watch four windbreak videos on planning, planting, maintenance and farmer windbreak success stories. Our free Best Management Practices book, “Establishing Tree Cover,” provides a step-by-step guide for planning and planting a windbreak and includes maintenance tips. Contact OMAFRA’s Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Read more about windbreaks maintenance and planning on the OMAFRA ONturf blog.