Plant for Protection: Designing Natural Windbreaks


| 10/2/2017 8:56:00 AM


Mother Nature provides us with so many benefits. She feeds us, she gives us water and fresh air, and she protects us too. Unfortunately, she can also be a powerful and destructive force as we have seen with recent hurricanes in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the Southeastern United States. But this does not mean that we must suffer the full brunt of nature’s wrath.  If we follow her simple landscaping guidelines we can add additional protection to our home landscapes, lowering the risk of damage to our properties and destruction to our coastal cities.

I’m grateful for making it safely through Hurricane Irma. I give most of that credit to the biodiversity of the foliage and the windbreaks surrounding the area I live in.  It was in the aftermath of all the devastation that I realized that coastal communities may not be taking full advantage of nature’s landscaping guidelines and benefits.

Nature plants in biodiverse layers. This creates water and air filtration, helps control snow drifts, provides food and shelter for wildlife, reduces soil erosion, cools the environment and saves energy, and it creates wind protection.

layers of natural windbreak
Example of the layers in a natural windbreak at Savannas Preserve State Park.

Photo by Stephanie Montalvo

Our homes protect us from harsh weather conditions. The trend has been for developers to strip down the landscaping nature created and replace it with individual free-standing trees, minimal hedges, and sometimes if we are lucky, some low-lying ground covers. By doing this we leave ourselves open to severe damage from the sun, water, and winds.



A house standing alone with one large shade tree in the yard cannot withstand the powerful winds of a hurricane like a house surrounded with a biodiverse windbreak. 



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