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Rows of trees and shrubs that protect areas from wind and provide food and cover for wildlife.

How it works

Multiple rows of coniferous trees or a combination of coniferous and deciduous trees are planted to protect a farmstead or feedlot from wind and snow. One or two rows of shrubs are also often planted. The established windbreak slows wind on the downwind side of the windbreak for a distance of 10 times the height of the trees. The tree rows also act as a snow fence, trapping snow within the windbreak. Field windbreaks can also be planted to reduce wind speed in open fields.

How it helps

  • Reduces soil erosion, conserves energy, reduces heating bills, and beautifies a farmstead
  • Can serve as a sound barrier
  • Reduces chemical drift, protecting air quality
  • Provides wildlife food and cover
  • Helps to improve livestock weight gains by protecting animals from wind and snow

Planning ahead

  • Will the mature windbreak cast shadows over driveways or roads, prolonging icy conditions?
  • Have you planned enough space for summer air circulation, travel lanes or gardens?
  • Will trees and shrubs in the windbreak attract the desired wildlife species?
  • Will the position of the mature windbreak cause a visibility hazard for drivers or divert snow where it is not wanted?

Technical notes

  • Preferred planting time is fall or early winter.
  • Plant trees on the windward side of the area to be protected; extend rows 50 feet beyond that area.
  • Do not plant where trees will cast a shadow and prolong icy road conditions.
  • Keep planting 20 to 30 feet away from phone or utility lines.
  • Plant according to spacing recommendations for selected species.


  • Control competing vegetation with tillage or herbicides before planting and for the first three years after planting.
  • Fence livestock out.
  • Inspect regularly for damage.