It's a shame to let an established windbreak fall into disrepair. Windbreaks are wildlife havens. They reduce wintry winds and keep heating bills down, they trap snow and prevent it from drifting, they stop soil from drying out and blowing away, and they protect buildings, gardens, and orchards. With a bit of work, you can coax a damaged windbreak back to peak performance.
Here's how to spruce up an old windbreak:
• Many windbreaks consist of coniferous trees and shrubs, which are easily established and give protection year-round. In chilly weather they shelter wildlife from the wind, but don't provide much nourishment for hungry animals. Why not add deciduous trees to a coniferous windbreak, or vice versa? Diversity is the key to providing year-round food and shelter for wildlife.
• Add plants to replace ones that die, but be sure to leave dead plants in place. They're important for fungi, insects, bats, and many other species.
• Leave mature snag trees standing as potential nesting sites for birds and small mammals. They can also act as perching sites for birds and homes for insects, which will attract even more feathered visitors.
• Prune and trim shrubs to make them thicker and bushier.
• Even in a windbreak with a single row, you can plant food-producing shrubs between tall established trees.
• You can add one or more rows of shrubs to the windward or leeward sides, but avoid two-row windbreaks. Wildlife can die of exposure or suffocation if snow is trapped in between rows.
• Plant only native species. Many wildlife areas are now choked with honeysuckle, buckthorn, and other alien invaders.
• Water new plants until they're well established, and then during dry spells.
• Patrol your windbreak regularly and replace any dead plants. Remember to leave mature snag trees standing as potential nesting sites for wildlife.
• See "Plant Project Maintenance Tips" for further suggestions.