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Considering Windbreaks

We’re finally getting some order out of chaos in our place. There’s still a load to do but at least we most of the boxes are emptied now. The renovation works are proving that golden rule of construction though, everything costs more and takes longer than you plan on!

Windbreaks

I’d planned on making a start on the vegetable plots by now, but I’m rather glad I haven’t in hindsight. The spot we’d picked out for them is right but I’ve realised we’re going to have to consider the winds we get more than I had.

We’re about 5 miles from the sea here and 200 metres high with a clear path across to Ireland which means that westerly winds howl in unimpeded. Twice now we’ve had the rain coming in horizontally!

So I’m going to have to think carefully about windbreaks for the vegetable beds. It’s not just that they’ll blow over – or even away – it’s the effect on temperature. Not an insurmountable problem but one I’ll have to address to get the best results.

Windbreaks around vines in Lanzarote

Windbreaks around vines in Lanzarote

When we had a holiday in Lanzarote where they have a problem with the trade winds blowing across the island, they coped by growing vines sheltered by semi-circular stone walls. Good idea but the volcanic rock is a lot lighter and easier to cut to size than Welsh granite and slate! Might take me a few hundred years to shelter the crops that way.

The thing with wind breaks is that solid walls cause eddies in the wind on the lee side, which can be more damaging than the wind. The ideal wind break is semi-permeable, like a hedge, allowing some wind through but reducing the force. On the other hand, I want to avoid shade as much as possible. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems!

The other thing for me to consider is where to site a greenhouse and polytunnel. Although a well constructed greenhouse or polytunnel will resist strong winds, it only takes a small flaw and the wind can give you big problems. I’ve seen a greenhouse lifted and dropped 3 plots away on the allotment because it had a couple of broken panes that allowed the wind in. So some shelter for them would be a good idea.

I’d hoped to at least have the greenhouse up and running this year we’re into November already so it’s pretty unlikely.

Gardening Website Shortlisted for Award

Back in the big wide world, my pals at growveg.com are up for an award for their website. It’s nice to see a gardening site short listed. You can vote for them until 12th November here.

I’ll be getting a little more regular with my online diary now things are settling down. Although I was late with November’s newsletter, hopefully December’s will be out on time.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
4 comments on “Considering Windbreaks
  1. paul hanley says:

    hi john hope alls going well would just like some advice if you can help me on applying gypsum to the ground instead of lime to achieve the same effect, ive got a limitless free suypply of the stuff …cheers paul

  2. P Storry says:

    I read recently that green bamboo grows rapidly and makes a good windbreak although that doesn’t answer the shade problem. It would be nice if you could employ a local dry stone waller or hedger to put in something.

  3. John says:

    The problem with walls is that, being solid, they cause eddies in the wind whereas a hedge or semi-permeable fence slows the wind without creating the eddies.

    Hedges, of course, take time to grow so the plan is to use a windbreak fence whilst the hedge slowly grows.

  4. Colin says:

    I remember seeing bamboo-like grass (cut, not live) being used near the sea in southern Crete and Sicily to shelter smallholdings from the (very strong) winds.
    The key, as you will guess, was that there was a gap between each cane.
    So it might be possible to experiment with cross-wind runner-bean supports that you only use for runners on the leeward side? This might work even better if the canes were arranged in a Vee (or a semi-circle as in your picture) with longer canes on the windward side.
    You might find that some tough climbers would survive the wind and protect the more tender runners? I grew a few ‘Trail of Tears’ beans this year (2010) and they were very robust and heavily yielding as well (about 2.5kg of beans from five seeds).

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