Post category: Shelter Belts


Shelter belts fulfill the same functions as hedges or screens, but on a larger scale. Very many large gardens, rural houses and farmyards would benefit from more shelter planting. Trees can be planted in blocks in corners or in a narrow belt.




The best shelter belts are porous enough to allow the wind through, but reduce its speed. Dense conifers are better mixed with deciduous trees because mixed shelter belts are better to look at, especially in winter when coniferous shelter can be depressingly dull.

Plant shelter belts across the direction of the wind that is to be slowed down, which is not always the prevailing wind direction. Where possible, plant two or more lines in a shelter belt, mixing at random a number of types such as hazel, hawthorn, holly, poplar, alder, pine, spruce, cypress, beech, larch and birch, choosing size and type as appropriate to the space available and the soil.




In single rows, plant shelter trees about 1.5 metres apart. Space double rows about 1.2 metres apart and plant the trees about 2 metres apart in the rows. For multiple rows, space the rows about 1.5 metres apart and the trees 2.5 to 3 metres apart in the rows. Stagger the trees in each row.

Randomise the spacing of the trees in the rows and between the rows to achieve a more natural appearance. This is especially important when planting garden woodland blocks. The finished wood will look much more natural if the trees are not in exact rows.


Choosing trees


Choose deciduous native trees and Scots pine, which is given native status by some experts. Good trees for garden planting or close to house and buildings are the smaller ones, such as birch, hazel, holly and hawthorn. For damp ground, use willow and alder. Further from the house, the larger trees, such as oak and ash, can be used. Beech is not native but widely naturalized and Norway maple makes a fine tree for autumn colour. Sycamore is not native but very wind-resistant as is Scots pine and Monterey pine Wild cherry is a fine tree to include in small numbers for its fine spring flowering and rowan for autumn berries. Hornbeam is another non-native that is naturalized in places and very good on heavy land, where beech does badly. Small transplants of these species can be bought in forest nurseries.


After planting care of trees


Fence off shelter belts against grazing livestock, keeping trees at least 1.5 metres from the fence. Keep grass and weeds down for a few seasons with Roundup or similar. Give a little general fertiliser in the early years. If shelter becomes bare at the base as it gets older, try underplanting with common laurel.