Protecting plants from wind damage

Wind Injury To Plants – How To Fix Wind Damaged Plants

Strong winds can damage or kill landscape plants. Dealing with wind damage promptly and properly can improve a plant’s chances of survival, and in many cases, the plant will recover its former graceful glory. Find out about preventing and treating wind damage to plants and trees in this article.

How to Fix Wind Damaged Plants

Garden plants whipped by strong winds often develop torn leaves and broken stems. Prompt pruning helps prevent diseases that enter through ragged breaks and gives the plant a chance to regrow. Snip broken stems below the damage and remove tattered leaves by pinching. When you tackle these tasks right away, the plant recovers quickly and more completely.

Trees and woody shrubs with broken branches need special attention. Remove damaged twigs and side shoots back to the main branch. You can shorten main branches to just above a side branch, but shortened branches will never grow any longer. If the remaining branch isn’t long enough to add graceful shape and character to the tree, it’s best to remove it. Cut the branch back to the collar, or the thickened area next to the trunk.

Preventing Damage from Wind

Plants with a constant stream of wind blowing over them may develop wilted leaves and brown edges from desiccation. The plants may need water, but chances are good that the wind is simply drying the leaves faster than the roots can pull water from the soil. These plants need the protection of a fence or wind tolerant shrubs. Plan your protective barrier carefully to make sure that you block as much wind as possible without casting too much shade.

When it comes to trees, pruning is an effective method of preventing damage from the wind. Here are three proven pruning techniques:

  • Thin the canopy of the tree so that the wind passes through instead of pushing against the tree. You can accomplish this by removing some of the main branches.
  • Raise the crown by removing lower branches.
  • Lower the crown by shortening upright branches.

In addition to these methods of reducing the size and density of the crown, remember that branches with a tight crotch angle are more easily broken during periods of strong wind than those with wider angles.

Anytime you can anticipate a point of damage, you can prevent property damage and save a tree by taking steps to eliminate the problem.

Protect Plants From Wind, Rains and Frost in the Garden

The Right Gardening Site

Let’s start with the biggest-and primary—decision: where you put your garden. Location is one of the most important factors affecting a plot’s weather resistance. Buildings, slopes, bodies of water, and surrounding vegetation can alter weather patterns so much that you may have several different microclimates on your property-or even within your garden. It may actually be worthwhile to move an existing garden if doing so would dramatically decrease the energy you expend confronting the elements.

Consider slopes. Generally speaking, the crest of a hill is the windiest spot on it, and both water and cold air flow downhill and accumulate at the bottom. The hillside itself, then, is a better location than either the top or the bottom.

Of course, a southern slope is best. It gets more sun than most and is protected from cold north winds. A westerly exposure heats up later in the morning than a direct southern one, thawing frozen plants more slowly and reducing possible damage. It also reaches higher overall temperatures than an eastern exposure-which makes an east or southeast spot better suited to heat-sensitive plants in summer. Since northern slopes receive the least sunlight, many people use them to raise fruit trees; the postponed spring there retards early blooms that might get wiped out by a late frost.

Buildings create microclimates of their own. The south side of a home offers shelter from north winds, absorbs solar energy during the day, and slowly releases that warmth at night. So a permanent bed along the south wall is a great place for your earliest starts.

Lakes and ponds reflect heat and light to plants grown nearby, but they also allow an unobstructed pathway for winds.

Garden Walls and Fences

Once you’ve picked the best site, consider building fences to provide protection from the wind-an idea so old that the very word garden comes from the Middle English gardin, or “enclosure.” Remember: Wind increases cold damage (and dehydration in dry weather) as well as inflicting direct punishment. Reducing its effects is essential to early-season growing.

Use a fence with slats or an open weave—such as a picket, panel, woven wattle, or bamboo fence (even burlap stretched over chicken wire). It’ll allow some airflow and provide better wind protection than a solid wall. (An unbroken barrier creates extra turbulence in its wake—(see Figure 1 in the image gallery)—while a somewhat permeable one slows wind speed without creating extra currents.) A density of 50% is ideal.

Living Curtains

Shelterbelts consist of one or more rows of trees and shrubs arranged to offer wind protection, while tightly grown walls of shrubs alone are known as hedgerows. Both these “living curtains” (a literal translation of the Japanese term for hedgerows) offer erosion control, privacy, snowdrift protection, wildlife habitat, food, bee forage, and ornamental value, but their chief value is wind shelter.

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A shelterbelt of trees should be perpendicular to the prevailing winds. In most areas, this would mean along the north and west borders. You may have different needs-for instance, you may want protection from hot southern summer winds. Whatever, be careful not to situate a windbreak below a sloping garden, or you’ll trap a pocket of cold air that would normally move on by.

Two or three rows of trees should make an adequate—and still somewhat permeable—shelterbelt (see Figure 2 in the image gallery). Evergreens are the most popular choices, since they provide year-round protection, but deciduous trees lose only 40% of their effectiveness when bare. Plant shrubs on the windward (upwind) side to protect young trees and to fill in the gaps below mature ones.

You might want to plant deciduous trees on the windward side of your evergreens. They generally mature faster and can be cut for lumber or firewood once the evergreens grow up. Windbreak trees should be planted fairly close together so the branches will just touch when mature to form a living canopy. Evergreens are commonly spaced from five to 15 feet apart, deciduous trees from five to 20 feet—but you can plant them more closely at first and thin them as they grow. (Your local soil conservation service or county extension agent should be able to give you specific species and spacing information for your area and soil type.)

Many shrubs provide beauty or food as well as shelter. Some good choices are Rosa rugosa (rose hips), high-bush cranberry, eastern sand cherry, lilac, Russian olive, autumn olive, filberts, holly, tree honeysuckle, forsythia, and rose of Sharon.

Diverting Run-off

Once you’ve done all you can to gardin your garden, it’s time to provide internal protection. If surface run-of from spring rains washes into your plot, dig a horseshoe-shaped or three-sided moat around the top and sides. Notice we said moat, not ditch. A narrow, steep ditch would deepen with time, washing much of its own soil away. A moat, on the other hand, is a wide trench with a gradual slope on its uphill (outer) side and a sharper one on the garden side (see Figure 3 in the image gallery). When planted with a thick sod, this moat will resist its own erosion as well as protect your garden.

Suppose your problem isn’t surface runoff, but groundwater that turns part of your plot swampy during wet spells. In this case, you’ll have to dig a trench, one foot wide and two to three feet deep, running from the morass to an area out below your plot. (If you have more than one wet spot, you can build a series of trenches that run into a main one like tributaries feeding into a river.) Put five inches of clean three-quarter-inch gravel in the trench. Lay a four-inch-diameter drainpipe (capped at its top) on this and cover with soil. The drainpipe can consist of either sections of unglazed clay tiles or corrugated black plastic pipe with precut drain slots.

If your trench-drained water doesn’t flow into a natural waterway, you should build a sump: a four-foot by four-foot pit that’s three feet deep (see Figure 4 in the image gallery). Line its bottom with a one-foot layer of fist-sized stones or brick pieces. Then give it another foot of clean three-quarter-inch gravel, and cover the area with topsoil.

Terracing

The basis of many ancient agricultural systems (and still in wide use today), terracing is the art of constructing strips of growing area that run horizontally along a slope, contoured to the natural curve of the land. Terraces make it possible to garden on a slope—even a very steep one—with little danger of erosion. The heat stored by the terrace wall above each strip can also provide some thermal protection for the crops below.

Permanent walls of stone (the best heat retainer), timber, or (if the slope is gradual enough) sod banks are all good for terraces. In all cases, never leave any of the garden soil bare and exposed to erosion. Replant or mulch an area as soon as it is harvested, grow cover crops in the off-seasons, and mulch between widely spaced plants.

Raised Beds

As our listing of weatherproofing methods moves from large scale to small, it also moves from landscaping techniques to gardening methods. Raised beds incorporate elements of both. The long, three- to four-foot-wide mounds warm more quickly and drain better than flat garden soil. If you use the close plant spacing most often recommended for raised beds—planting on hexagonal centers rather than in straight rows—much less of your garden space will be wasted on erodible pathways. The plants themselves will also form a continuous canopy of leaves as they mature, and this “living mulch” will hold warmth close to the soil surface, help block wind erosion, and buffer rainfall.

You’ll be better off if you prepare your early-spring growing beds the previous fall.

That way you won’t have to wait for the soil to dry out when mud month rolls around, but can plant when you like. (We know this advice comes too late to help this spring, but next time around ….)

Garden Mulch

A thick layer of mulch-straw, leaves, wood chips, or other dead plant material laid on your garden-will definitely protect your plot from rain-caused erosion. But this insulating layer can also keep your soil from warming up quickly as well, so don’t mulch heavily where you want to grow super-early spring crops. Still, a light mulch over a seedbed will cushion the scattering force of pounding raindrops, and a medium-depth mulch can prevent soil splatter on seedlings.

Cover Cropping

Cover cropping-growing plants to cover idle soil-sharply reduces wind and water damage. It also improves soil tilth, increases organic matter in your plot, and helps the soil retain nutrients. Hardy, fall-planted species such as hairy vetch, winter rye, and fava beans will help spring plots the most. Such cover crops can even help dry an early-season garden by drawing excess moisture out of the ground. (For more information, see “Green Manure Crops” by John Jeavons and Bill Bruneau, MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 101.)

Individual Plant Protectors

Once you’ve done all you can to make your entire plot less vulnerable to nature’s attacks, you can turn your attention to protecting individual plants or beds. The portable aids we’ll talk about here all buffer wind, cold, and rain well enough to make a significant difference in how well your crops weather bad weather.

The highly successful French market gardeners of the early twentieth century used bell-shaped glass jars called cloches (the French word for “bell”) to protect their early crops. Nowadays, most people use plastic milk jugs for the job. Just cut off the containers’ bottoms and put one over each plant you want to shelter. The miniature hothouses are free, durable, and-equally important-easy to ventilate on sunny days (just unscrew the cap). If you live in a windy area, be sure to tie them to stakes.

You can also buy or construct cone-shaped plant protectors made of plastic or fiberglass. One such product, the Wall 0′ Water, has 18-inch-high, water-filled walls that absorb heat by day and release it at night. Old black tires can be used to shelter and warm seedlings-they work best with space-hungry vining crops like tomatoes and squash. And if you grow your tomato plants in welded wire cages, you can wrap those supports with clear polyethylene during the fickle-weather weeks. Anchor them well with stakes. You can also add fiberglass or scrap-wood “lids,” but remember to remove them on warm days to avoid overheating.

Garden Bed Protectors

Many times it’s easier to protect an entire garden bed than to shelter individual plants. While you can make whole-bed cloches out of glass plates or old windowpanes, such structures are heavy and fragile. Portable garden tents are now available that use lightweight polyethylene or fiberglass sheeting. (Or build your own: Just make a framework out of wood or PVC, and cover it.)

You can also take a large piece of fiberglass sheeting, bend it into an inverted U, and secure its shape by placing wire crosspieces across the bottom. (Cover the ends with scrap fiberglass or plywood.)

All these bed protectors are wide enough to cover a garden bed, but they’re not very long. Tunnel cloches made of six- or eight-mil polyethylene laid over a series of hoops (see Figure 5 in the image gallery) can easily be made any length you’d ever need. Make the support frames from eight- or nine-gauge wire, PVC (set on rebar stakes), reinforced wire mesh, spring steel, and even smooth, supple branches. For the covering, use hardware store polyethylene—or special pre-slit poly for better ventilation. Weight the material carefully at the sides and ends with soil, rocks, or lumber, and be sure to open it up as often as necessary to prevent overheating and dampness-induced plant diseases.

Since plastic is not a good insulator, tunnel cloches offer only a few degrees of direct frost protection. (You might want to throw some blankets over your cloche on extremely chilly nights.) But they block wind chilling and dehydration and—most especially—help warm the earth. This increases microorganism activity and nutrient availability, as well as helping plants get through cold spells. The cloches fend of invading birds and insects, too. And the poly can be replaced by a shading material in summer to cool heat sensitive crops.

There are other ways to warm spring soil, as well. You can lay black plastic on a bed and poke holes in it for individual transplants. (That mulch will eliminate a lot of weeding problems, too.) You can even try “polarization”: covering a future bed with clear plastic for a few weeks. (Seal the edges tightly.) Tests have shown that this dramatically prewarms soil and even kills some young weeds, yet does not damage most beneficial soil microorganisms.

The newest space-age bed cover is spunbond polyester or polypropylene. (Reemay is a popular brand.) Light and rain easily penetrate this white, porous fabric. And it’s so lightweight it can be laid loosely right on top of the plants it protects (the ends and sides weighted in place by soil) and then get pushed up by the crops as they grow (see Figure 6 in the image gallery). Like plastic, the “floating bed cover” doesn’t provide much direct frost protection. But the enhanced, sheltered environment it creates can extend either end of the gardening season by a few weeks.

Since the material breathes well, you don’t need to ventilate the bed often. And spunbond covers make excellent insect barriers. (Want to be sure those flea beetles don’t get on your eggplants?) Indeed, some gardeners use the materials solely for this purpose. On the negative side, you can’t weed under a floating bed cover-you have to take it off. You also need to remove it when plants need wind- or insect-pollination.

The creative grower will experiment with all these garden-protecting tactics, or better yet, combine them. Cover a bed with both spunbond material and a poly tunnel cloche to get double frost protection. Lay black plastic as a mulch under your spunbond cover to eliminate that weeding problem. Put both black plastic and old tires out on your pumpkin patch and you can start long-season vines weeks earlier than normal. Build a tunnel cloche against a stone terraced bed, and trap the heat those rocks give off.

Change the Odds in Your Garden

You can’t make your garden invulnerable to the assaults of spring storms, gales, and frosts, but you’ll be pleased by how well the plot-protecting tactics we’ve mentioned do work. Let’s put it this way: Springtime gardening will always be a gamble—who would really want it any other way?—but you don’t have to just set out your plants and take your chances.

You can tilt the odds in your garden’s favor.

GARDEN SOURCES

Spunbond Row Cover

Gardeners Supply Co.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Mellinger’s

Natural Gardening Research Center

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Polyethylene

A.M. Leonard, Inc.

Mellinger’s

Pre-slit Polyethylene

Gardeners Supply Co.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Mellinger’s

Industrial Grade Plastic (for portable growing frames)

Mellinger’s

Windbreak Netting

Gardeners Supply Co.

Poly Tape (for use on garden plastics)

A.M. Leonard, Inc.

Bulk Burlap

Mellinger’s

Wall O’ Water

Henry Field and Co.

Gardeners Supply Co.

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Hotcaps

Burpee Seed Co.

Farmer’s Seed & Nursery

Harris Seeds

Mellinger’s

Portable Cold Frames

Burpee Seed Co.

Gardeners Supply Co.

Geo. W. Park Seed Co., Inc.

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply

When you put your plants outside in the garden, they will need protection from gusts of wind. Otherwise, they are more susceptible to damage from cold, dehydration, or the wind itself.

So, how do you protect your plants from wind and storms? Covering your smaller, younger plants with cloches (plastic or glass covers) is a quick and easy way to protect them from wind. You can protect taller, more established plants by tying them to stakes or other supports. You can also put up a wall of straw bales and weigh it down with stones to protect your plants from wind damage.

Let’s start off by looking at when your plants will need wind protection, along with how to provide it in the short and long term. Finally, we’ll look at the best location for a garden to mitigate the threat of wind damage.

When Do Your Plants Need Wind Protection?

Your plants won’t always need wind protection, and keeping them covered too often could harm them if they get too hot. So, when should you be wary of the danger of wind damage? Here are a few scenarios to look out for.

Early in the Growing Season (After Transplanting Seedlings)

Whether you buy seedlings or start your own from seed, young plants will be vulnerable to excessive cold or dry conditions. They will also be easily damaged by strong winds.

Seedlings need protection from wind, cold, and dry air as they develop.

Right after you transplant your seedlings into your garden, you might want to protect them from the elements, including wind, cold, and dry air.

Cold & Windy Nights

Depending on the last spring frost date for your area, a cold and windy night could spell the end for your seedlings, forcing you to plant all over again. You might be able to prevent this by protecting them from the worst of the wind and cold.

A late spring frost can spell disaster for seedlings that have been planted early.

For more information, check out my article on how to protect your plants from cold and frost, and this guide on spring and fall frost dates from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Dry & Windy Days

As mentioned above, seedlings are susceptible to drying out easily, since their roots are weak and they don’t have much water stored in their tissues. So, you must protect them from dry conditions early in their lives.

Watch the weather forecast for winds picking up – unless you have a wind sock handy!

If the weather forecast calls for dry and windy days (low humidity and sustained wind), then it is a good idea to take measures to protect your seedlings.

Strong Winds or Storms in the Weather Forecast

Finally, you should check the weather forecast at least every week (preferably daily) so that you are aware of incoming storms or high-speed winds. That way, you can protect your plants from harsh winds.

If the weather gets this bad, then worry about protecting yourself, not your plants!

How to Protect Plants From Wind (Short Term)

Now that you know when you need to protect your plants, it’s time to find out how. Here are some short-term measures to protect your plants from wind damage, just in case sudden winds or storms are approaching.

Use Cloches For Young Plants

A cloche is a time-honored way of protecting young plants from wind, cold, and pests. Originally made of glass, cloches are now more commonly made of plastic. The word is of French origin, and means bell, since the original cloches were shaped like bells.

Your cloches don’t need to be this fancy – but I guess they could be!

You can easily make your own cloche by cutting the bottom out of a plastic gallon jug, and then putting it over a young plant. You can even remove the cap on top to serve as a vent on hot days, if needed. You can also cut out the top of one or more jugs and stack them up as high as you need to, if you have taller plants to protect.

Another way to make a cloche is to use a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Simply tip it over and cover your plant with it. This method will protect wider and taller plants than a gallon jug. However, there are some drawbacks.

First, you will have to cut your own hole in the bottom of the bucket if you want ventilation. Second, a white plastic bucket won’t let much (if any) light through, so your plants won’t do well if they spend a long time under 5-gallon buckets.

As mentioned earlier, cloches will protect against wind and cold, but also pests. They can even increase the humidity near the plant, which will prevent seedlings from drying out and dying.

The only caution is that on a very hot, sunny day, the temperature under the cloche can get hot enough to kill your plants – think of it like a mini-greenhouse!

You can also use tunnel cloches to protect multiple plants at once. This is useful if you want to keep an entire row of seedlings protected for several days as they mature and strengthen.

Use Supports for Established Plants

Later in the season, your more established plants will not fit under cloches. Transplanting them is not a viable option, so your best bet is to use supports to help them withstand the wind.

Taller plants, such as tomatoes, are traditionally supported using stakes. These stakes, or tall poles, are driven into the ground near the tomato plant – but not so close as to disturb the roots.

Stakes can help your tomatoes to grow up straight and tall, and will protect them from wind damage.

Every so often, perhaps at 6-inch intervals as the plant grows, you will want to tie the plant’s main stem to the stake. This will help to prevent the plant from falling over under its own weight. It will also prevent the main stem from snapping during heavy winds and storms.

There are other support options besides stakes – for instance, you can also use:

  • cages
  • trellises
  • ropes
  • a-frames

For more information, check out my article on how to support tomato plants (you can apply the ideas to any tall plants that you want to protect from wind) and my article on why to use tomato cages.

Close Your Greenhouse or Cold Frame

If you started seedlings in a greenhouse or cold frame, now is the time to close the door and seal them up. (Hopefully, the wind won’t blow over the greenhouse!)

A greenhouse can protect plants from wind, as well as cold and pests. Just make sure to open the door on a hot day!

Just remember the same caution that I gave for cloches: after the danger of wind damage has passed, be sure to open up the greenhouse or cold frame to allow ventilation. Otherwise, it may get too hot for your plants, which can damage or kill them!

Bring Potted Plants Indoors

If you have potted plants outside, you can bring them indoors. Make sure you have a buddy to help you move heavy pots –a clay or stone pot, filled with wet soil, can add up to a lot of weight.

Build a Windbreak or Wall

If you are pressed for time, you can put up a quick windbreak (a wall to block the wind) with some cheap and simple materials you may already have lying around.

For instance, you can build a wall from straw bales, weighted down with rocks. You can stack the bales two or more levels high if you wish.

You can even grow some plants in straw bales. For more information, check out my article on growing potatoes in straw bales.

A wall of straw bales can help to prevent wind damage to your plants.

If you live in a windy area, you may want to do this every year at the start of the season. You will protect your plants from the wind, and as an added bonus, the pile can be composted at the end of the growing season for next year’s garden.

You can also create a short, makeshift wall out of plastic 5-gallon buckets. To prevent them from blowing away, simply fill them with water (this should provide about 40 pounds of weight). If the winds will be really strong, you can fill them with rocks, or some combination of rocks and water.

Another option is to build a wall made of wire and sticks, branches, or bamboo, with burlap or some other material stretched over the wire. The wall doesn’t have to be perfect; in fact, it shouldn’t be.

The reason is that a wall without any spaces can increase wind turbulence and cause worse damage than what you were trying to prevent.

How to Protect Plants From Wind (Long Term)

Now that you have protected your plants from wind in the short term, it’s time to plan ahead and think about long term wind protection. Here are a few ways you can do that.

Plant Hedgerows Around Your Garden

A hedgerow is a “living wall” consisting of thick, bushy shrubs that will naturally break the wind and protect your plants. You can surround one or more sides of your garden with a hedgerow, but the effort and expense will increase as you add more shrubs.

Also, it will take some time for young shrubs to grow to the height and breadth that you will need to protect your plants from wind. Hedgerows are not a perfect solution, but together with some others, you can provide good protection for your plants against wind damage.

Build Raised Beds

You can make raised beds out of wood, bricks, cinder blocks, or even stones (if you have the patience to fit them together!) Essentially, all you do is build up walls above ground and fill them partially with soil, and then plant in the soil.

A raised bed protects plants from some pests (like rabbits!) and can provide wind protection as well.

Raised beds can protect your plants from wind, and will also protect them from some pests (such as rabbits), which cannot climb or jump the walls.

If you decide to go this route, you may also want to use raised bed liners. For more information, check out my article on raised bed liners.

Build a Semi-Permeable Wall

Instead of a hedgerow, you can build a wall of stone or brick on one or more sides of your garden. The wall should have some spaces in it, since you want to mitigate the wind while allowing some through.

Without some spaces in the wall, you can end up with even stronger winds going around or over the wall, which can cause even more damage.

Choose the Best Garden Location to Protect Plants From Wind

When choosing the location for your garden, keep a couple of things in mind.

First of all, if your yard is sloping, then put your garden on the hillside. The plants will be exposed to less extreme winds than if they were at the “top of the hill” or “bottom of the valley”.

Also, consider planting your garden on the south side of your home, garage, shed, barn, or another structure. This will protect your plants from harsh north winds. Just don’t plant so close that you block out the sun!

Conclusion

Now that you have some ideas on how to protect your plants from wind damage, it’s time to get out there and do the work.

I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions or advice of your own about protecting plants from wind damage, please leave a comment below.

Gardening FAQ

Wind greatly affects plants throughout their growth. When plants are seedlings, slight breezes help them grow more sturdy. Wind at gale force can damage or even break and blow down the strongest tree. Depending on where in the world you live, this storm damage can occur in winter, summer, fall or early spring. Winter wind is particularly damaging because plants are unable to replace the water they lose and become desiccated. The process is similar to an ice cube left in the freezer–although it doesn’t melt, it will gradually become smaller. In many areas, wind causes more winter plant desiccation than sun.

Persistent strong winds occur mainly in late winter. Temperatures then often begin to fluctuate between mild and severe. Mild days, especially several in succession, may lower the cold hardiness of some plants. When icy temperatures and strong winds follow, the damage may be especially severe. So even in late winter, it may be beneficial to place a wind screen on the south to northeast side of plants, or to mulch over low plants.

The “wind chill factor” heightens the effect of cold: 20°F with a 40-mph wind is as chilling as -10°F with a 5-mph wind. Plants located near the house, particularly on the east, get fairly good wind protection. Soil near the house usually does not freeze deeply and the east wall protects from late afternoon winter sun. The south side also offers wind protection, but excess warming of marginal plants in that location often causes damage. North sides of buildings allow some wind damage, but the protection from winter sun often enables certain plants to survive quite well there.

A burlap wind break supported with stakes provides protection from winter cold and wind. Or place a ring or wire mesh around each plant and fill it loosely with straw or oak leaves. Any materials placed around plants should be loose enough to allow some air movement. Antidessicants (wax emulsion spray), sold by nurseries, can also be used on some plants for winter protection. Apply anti-transpirants only when temperature is 40°F or higher.

Mulches as well as snow make good protection for plant roots. Mid-winter pruning of evergreen branches can provide mulch for any perennial plant that produces fall sprouts, for example chrysanthemums and oriental poppies. The branches will remain green most of the winter, making an attractive cover, and usually stay put in windy weather.

Plants vulnerable to wind include not only less hardy specimens, but also many hardy plants not adapted to open situations, including forest natives such as hemlock. Wind-whipped plants may suffer broken roots. Fruit trees do not bear when wind tears off the blossoms. Wind retards growth through increased cold, as seen in the “cold bands” on corn leaves when chilling temporarily halts growth, or through reduction of photosynthesis because less leaf surface is exposed to the sun. A 15-mph wind delays maturity of marigolds and reduces their flower size by 50 percent, according to the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station.

Slopes present particular problems. A windbreak can be used to shut off the flow of cold air that occurs on even a slight slope, preventing its settling at the lowest point to injure plants there. An opening in plantings at the bottom of the slope is also helpful to allow cold air to drain out of the garden. Windbreak plantings can cut wind velocity by 75 percent or more, for a distance 10 times the height of the windbreak. The best windbreak plants are those that are densely branched to the ground, or multiple-stemmed with rough bark. A curving hedge on the north will turn aside wintry blasts, while in summer it catches and deflects through the garden much-needed cooling breezes. These breezes can also be accelerated by channeling them through openings in south and west plantings in.

Windbreak plants that grow tall and narrow or can be trimmed to narrow are highly useful in limited garden spaces. A few are suggested by Dr. Donald Wyman of the Arnold Arboretum (Jamaica Plain, MA): American arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis; Populus alba ‘Pyramidalis’; red cedar, Juniperus scopulorm and J. virginiana; common privet, Ligustrum vulgare; fastigiate European hornbeam, Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’; and “Tailhedge” buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula ‘Columnaris’.

Bebe Miles, in Organic Gardening (Emmaus, PA) makes this wise suggestion: where winter winds really rage, select windbreak plants which are hardy for several hundred miles north of your area. That cold-weather adaptation should really help garden plants in inclement weather.

In some older larger trees with large spread branches or many branches, proper pruning, cabling and the shaping by a tree arborist will help prevent damage by winds.

For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
– Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service

Effect of Wind on Crop Production

Wind direction and velocity have significant influence on crop growth.

Beneficial impact of wind

  1. Wind increases the turbulence in atmosphere, thus increasing the supply of carbon dioxide to the plants resulting in greater photosynthesis rates.
  2. Wind alters the balance of hormones.
  3. Wind increases the ethylene production in barley and rice.
  4. Wind decreases gibberillic acid content of roots and shoots in rice.
  5. Nitrogen concentration in both barley and rice increase with increase in wind speed

Wind influences crop production in two ways

(1) Physiological impact
(2) Mechanical impact

(1) Physiological impact:

  • Increases transpiration especially cuticular transpiration than stomatal transpiration.
  • Hot wind accelerates the drying of the plants by replacing humid air by dry air in the inter cellular spaces.
    For example, rice crop during June-July months shows tip drying.
  • Wind increases turbulence in the atmosphere and availability of CO2 and thereby increased photosynthesis.
  • Beyond a certain wind speed the rate of photosynthesis becomes constant.

(2) Mechanical impact on plants:

(i) Strong wind damages the shoots
(ii) Lodging (Paddy, Sugarcane, Banana etc.,)
(iii) Flower and fruit shedding
(iv) Crops and trees with shallow roots are uprooted.
(v) Cold wind causes chilling injuries
(vi) Causes soil erosion
(vii) Soil deposition causes poor aeration in root zone


Lodging due to strong winds

Uprooted tree due to strong wind

Protection of plants from wind damage:

  • Shelter belts and wind breaks: Refers to growing trees and tall crops across the direction of prevailing wind to reduce the physiological and mechanical damage to crops. Wind breaks reduces the wind velocity and creates favourable microclimate.
  • Adjusting the direction of planting.
  • Providing support to the tall crops (eg) Banana.


Providing support to the tall crops (eg) Banana


Wind breakers

Source:

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The focus of research conducted in my laboratory is the influence of wind and other mechanical loads on tree growth and development. An integrated approach including field observations, morphological, anatomical, biomechanical, biochemical and biomolecular techniques is applied to these studies. Recent research indicates that wind tolerant and intolerant genotypes exist within a population of trees. Trees capable of withstanding high levels of loading will respond to modify their structure. These modifications allow the tree to either avoid the load by sheading energy or by absorbing the force within its structure. The observed modifications result in an increased taper, the result of a reduction in height growth and/or an increase in stem radial growth. Increased radial growth, a product of altered cambial activity, increases the biomechanical parameter of flexural stiffness which maintains a tree’s vertical orientation in windy environments. A decrease in the elastic modulus provides the tree with

a means of absorbing greater amounts of energy induced by flexing of the stem. Differentially expressed genes have been isolated and are being identified to increase our knowledge of the molecular and physiological responses of trees to induced mechanical loads.

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