How to Buffer the Wind

Last Monday at the School of Hard Rocks I briefly discussed Cochise County wind. This month I want to offer further suggestions on how to confuse the wind.

In Cochise County we have prevailing southerly winds in the summer and some strong northerly storm winds in the winter. If you are in a forest on a windy day, you will hear the wind whistling around and see the wind shaking the boughs of the trees. But the wind will not push you to the ground because the trees act as buffers and disperse the wind around the trunk and through the branches and leaves/needles. We can use this same idea to buffer winds around our homes.

When planning a home site, trees act as buffers and should be planted as soon as the well is in and water available. When placing your windbreak, three or more plants staggered in height will force the wind upwards and away from structures. They also add privacy and act as a dust barrier along a country road.

Evergreen trees-Arizona cypress, Aleppo pine, junipers and oak trees are a good selection. Evergreen trees are preferred as they remain full and will bow with the wind without breaking limbs. These trees may reach twenty feet high in about ten years if a drip system is installed with a steady water supply. The Heritage oak is a fairly good grower, also.

Cottonwood, elm, and eucalyptus trees can also be used, but they are not recommended for placement near the house. Winds can easily snap limbs causing them to fall onto the roof.

Orchards placed around your house will also break up the wind. Pecan trees grow successfully in our area and are relatively easy to plant and maintain. If you purchase a three or four year old tree, harvesting nuts in two years is possible and likely.

Oleanders are wonderful southern Arizona plants and will make terrific windbreaks and a great habitat for desert creatures. They are fast growing, bushy and full, evergreen, and flower at an almost constant rate. It is a lovely plant, but remember the leaves and seeds are poisonous. (See High on the Desert Newsletter, August 1996, Page 3)

Desert hackberry and pomegranate are perfect as windbreaks and also for the bird lovers. They have multiple small branches to protect the small nests. Pyracantha is used extensively in the urban setting and is a good evergreen selection. The red berries provide winter food for native bird species. Pyracantha can be trained as an espalier plant, a hedge, or even to look like a tree. Many other evergreen hedges can also be used as medium growth perimeter plants.

Clumps of fountain or other decorative grasses between the house and the initial windbreak will further disburse the force of the wind. Placing them near the house or patio is not recommended since the dense growth is a cool summer snake hideout.

Around the house vining plants make great wind buffers. Grapes grow well in Cochise County, giving shade in the summer with the added bonus of fruit. Passion vine, catclaw vine, and honeysuckles around a porch create a semi secluded area filled with fragrance and color.

Native plants can also be used to inhibit the force of the wind. Agave are formidable barriers when mature and there is nothing more southwestern than an ocotillo fence. The wind passes between the upright ocotillo limbs diminishing the force.

Barbara Kishbaugh
November, 1996