How to Plant Shelterbelts


Shelterbelts, also called windbreaks. are rows of strategically placed trees and shrubs that protect an area. Evergreen trees, deciduous trees and shrubs are used to create shelterbelts. They prevent the erosion of soil, offer wildlife habitats, guard property from wind damage, retain ground moisture and protect water quality. Shelterbelts also create micro-climates on the protected side. They offer cooling shade during the summer and snow protection during the winter.

Step 1

Plant a twin-row of high-density shrubs and trees at the farthest edge of your shelterbelt. This will be the start of the snow protection area and outer most rows. Place your plants with 5 feet between each tree and shrub and 5 feet between the two rows. Use green ash, eastern red cedar, Rocky Mountain juniper, Ponderosa pine and a variety of shrubs.

Step 2

Plant a row of shrubs 40 to 60 feet from the first row. The space between these two rows will catch most of the wind blown snow. Place the shrubs 3 to 13 feet apart in the row depending on the mature size of the shrub. Try caragana, common lilac, late lilac and cotoneaster for this row.

Step 3

Place another row of small conifers 16 to 20 feet from the row of shrubs. Use Rocky Mountain junipers or Eastern red cedars spaced 8 to 16 feet apart.

Step 4

Stagger small deciduous trees in the next row 14 to 20 feet from the small conifer row. Good choices for this row include Russian olive, Amur maple, Harbin pear and hawthorn trees planted 8 to 20 feet apart.

Step 5

Plant tall, deciduous trees in this innermost row set 14 to 20 feet from the small deciduous tree row. Use green ash, hackberry, cottonwood and bur oak spaced 8 to 20 feet apart for this row of the shelterbelt.

Step 6

Stagger large, tall conifers in this row 16 to 20 feet from the last row. Space the conifers 14 to 25 feet apart. Ponderosa pine and Scotch pine trees work well for this row.

Step 7

Plant the next row of medium conifers 16 to 20 feet away from the tall conifer row. Place trees like Colorado spruce and black hills spruce 12 to 18 feet apart in this row.

Step 8

Place a row of small trees 14 to 20 feet from the last row. Fill this row with Russian olive, apple, Amur maple, Harbin pear and hawthorn trees 8 to 20 feet apart.

Step 9

Plant the next row of shrubs 14 to 20 feet from the small tree row. Place shrubs like Nanking cherry, buffaloberry, chokecherry, currant, Russian almond and meadowlark forsythia 3 to 13 feet apart. The overall wave shape will push the wind upwards and over the shelterbelt. This will force the wind over the protected area.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not plant the shelterbelt too close to buildings or snow drifts will form around the buildings during the winter. Place the shelterbelt at least 30 feet away and not more than 300 feet from the area needing protection. Cut driveways and roads at an angle through the shelterbelt to prevent the wind funneling directly through the opening.

Things You'll Need

  • Shrubs
  • Small conifer trees
  • Small deciduous trees
  • Tall deciduous trees
  • Tall conifer trees
  • Medium conifer trees


  • Shelterbelts for Wildlife
  • Farmstead Windbreak
  • Farmstead Windbreaks: Planning
Keywords: shelterbelt, windbreak, planting trees and shrubs

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.