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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Windbreaks and Screens in Desert Landscapes

Q. I was hoping to put up nice strong wind and sun block on the west and south west corner of our front yard, approximately 20 feet each way.  Could you give us some suggestions? I've talked to the neighbor on that side and we were thinking probably some kind of large bush.

A. Windbreaks and screens for sunlight in the desert are usually best if they are close to the affected area. The reason is that plants used for screening or deflecting wind have to be pretty big to do any good when they are far away.

Windbreak diagram but I cant remember where I got this from on the internet. sorry.
            Larger plants require more water. If you put a windbreak close to the area where wind is a problem, then you can use smaller windbreaks and smaller plants and achieve the same thing. If wind or sun is a problem all year long then you would select evergreen plants.
            If this problem is seasonal, you would select deciduous plants that drop their leaves in the fall and allow wind or sun through during winter months.
Bill Stillman pomegranate windbreak in Bullhead City, AZ
            General rule of thumb is that wind is affected on the downwind side of a windbreak from 5 to 8 times its height, depending on the type and direction of winds.
            To be effective, windbreaks made from plants should be at least two layers thick and not a single layer or a few plants planted in a straight line. The majority of wind will be diverted over the top, bottom and around the sides of windbreaks. Wind that does go through a porous windbreak will be slowed.
            How much it is slowed depends on how “porous” the windbreak is. Try to achieve about 20% porosity. In other words, about 20% of the windbreak has holes or pores in it. This lets wind through it, slows it and decreases the amount diverted up or around a windbreak.
            In the desert, think about structures to do this more than plants. These structures would be things like walls or trellises that can be covered with vines rather than large plants. A vine covering a wall or trellis will use far less water than plants the size and density needed to reduce wind speed and sunlight.

Great way to add screen and windbreak in a desert landscape
            Also, using a structure and vines or small shrubs in combination will achieve a more permanent solution to the problems and occupy less space in small residential landscapes. Avoid wood structures which crack and check in our dry heat. Instead use cement and metal options that are more resistant to our harsh environment.


  1. Try Bamboo
    10 years ago my neighbor down the street heard I was looking for a living privacy screen along my south property line so he thinned out his bamboo and I hauled it home. I planted one long line, approximately 125' and watered it. It has grown to 12-15 ft tall and about 4 ft wide. I only water it when the leaf blades start to curl. I have thinned it out and started a green fence in two other areas also. Would you like a picture?

    1. Sure. Send it to Extremehort@aol.com and I will post it.

  2. Western structures provide great shade in the late summer afternoon (starting about 3PM?), but southern trees provide little shade in the summer as the sun is 78 degrees overhead in the late morning-afternoon in Vegas. That means a 30 foot tree will cast about a 4 foot shadow to the north. Not much unless you grow (heavy) branches directly over the house.

    Wind is a different matter and any south and west structure(s) of sufficient height and density should work most of the time year-round in the Vegas area (prevailing winds).