Need help with windbreak/privacy hedge for farm property

bookworm226(7)January 30, 2011

We have a 10 acre farm along a fairly busy road. Since town is moving out into the country, we would like a little more privacy than we have had in the past.

What we have are 2 large pastures divided by our driveway. The road goes along the front of both pastures. The road frontage is about 3000 feet. The road is up about 10 feet taller than the pastures because of a large hill. We plan to fence the property in eventually but right now, we would like to plant something along the road to form a type of windbreak or privacy screen. I have looked at the Leyland Cyprus trees. Many people around here have them bordering property but they seem a bit formal for a farm in a predominately farming area. What we are wanting is a tree or combination of trees that looks fairly natural, not like a commercial privacy hedge or imported specialty tree. We have a creek running along the back side of these pastures with maple, poplar, Black Walnut, and sycamore trees with underbrush below. We want something that would blend in with these surroundings and not stick out like a sore thumb.

Someone has suggested that we use a combination of hybrid willow and White Pine. The front of the property has ample moisture and there are no pipes to worry about large roots which I have heard is a problem with the willows. This is open fields. The pastures are basically a valley between two small mountains so we do get a fair amount of wind but it isn't unusually strong wind. I am hoping some forum members can offer suggestions about this. If it would help, I can upload a photo of the property. Thanks for your assistance!

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Are the pastures grazed by any livestock? If so, I'd research then eliminate those trees that pose toxicity issues. Horses are particularly sensitive to a number of different trees.

Evergeens - conifers - are going to provide both a more efficient privacy screen as well as a windbreak than a tree that loses its leaves for a good part of the year. And willows in particular tend to make rather poor windbreaks despite all the hype one reads online about hybrid willows being such ideal, fast growing windbreaks. Willows have quite weak wood and are very prone to wind damage, as well as ice and snow damage, if that is an issue in your area. They are also susceptible to alot of insect and disease issues and tend not to be very long lived. Wouldn't be my first choice.

FWIW, I live in a pretty rural area myself and a lot of farms around here use conifers for these purposes - both our native Western Redcedars and Douglas firs as well as the rather faster growing Thuja 'Green Giant' and Leyland cypress. These are often planted in staggered rows and don't look overly formal to me. But then, there's a lot of conifers around here anyway so any more just blend right in :-)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 7:47PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Hi, bookworm226. You've got a difficult situation with the road so much higher than your property. I think a photo would help.

I have some experience with Leylands, as my neighbor to the south has a closely-planted Leyland hedge about 40-50' tall. That means the Leylands shade my garden way more than I appreciate -- and the time may come when there won't be enough sun to grow veggies in my raised beds. So if the road is to your south, you'll want to take into consideration the height of whatever you plant. [The oldest Leylands (in England, I believe) are currently 130' tall -- and still growing.]

If I'm doing the math correctly, 10 acres with a 3000' frontage would mean your property averages about 145' deep. If that's the case, how much pasture can you afford to lose to this screen -- i.e., what width of tree is acceptable? Depending which trees you choose, you could be losing a lot of your pasture to non-productive vegetation. Would a narrow hedge be better than trees? I'm not a plant expert, but hawthorn and nannyberry are both good for tall hedges (deciduous, of course); in addition, they provide food for wildlife.

Speaking of food: since you're farming, have you thought of planting edibles for your screen? Maybe nuts or something that might not be so obvious that passers-by would stop to pilfer?

If you're going for the natural look, I think you should use a variety of trees and/or tall shrubs of varying heights, and not plant them in a regular pattern. Varying the width of the planting would also contribute to a more natural look.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 12:24AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

As missingtheobvious says, have you considered a mixed planting rather than a single species? It would do the job of wind break and privacy but would be of far greater value to wildlife and to you. You could use your local native species and add in some other things which look in keeping and give you berries/nuts/flowers/foliage.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 4:24AM
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We have a similar size farm, but less road frontage. When we moved in we had a well established wind break of spruce trees, planted in a natural staggered formation. On the house side of the spruces, I have both birch trees and red twig dogwood which provide 4 season contrast against the spruce. It has a very natural woodsy feeling. The spruce is an excellent wind break, I plan to add more in front of the house.

My biggest caution to you, regardless of what you plant is to use proper spacing. It is very difficult to do with what will turn out to be very very large trees; but it is extremely important for a healthy planting.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 7:58AM
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